By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO
From Barangay RP
The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act – “An Act to Recognize, Protect and Promote the Rights of Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples creating a National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Establishing Implementing Mechanisms, appropriating funds therefor and for other purposes.”
Last May 23, 2008. President Gloria Macapagal – Arroyo signed Executive Order No. 726, that ordered the transfer of the NCIP from its “attachment with the Department of Agrarian Reform” (DAR) to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
On this development, one Igorot said, “After reforming the ancestral lands into Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) they will now take the domains’ natural resources? Itta nga na-iCLOA da ti ancestral land, i-mining claim da manen ti domains? Angsan! Ayshilay usok tan pastolan ni Igodot. Naitulshon shal’ma’y pipi-ig bengat i-tuo,” (Now that the ancestral lands were converted to CLOAs, these will be turned into mining claims. Gosh,! There will be no more native mines and pasture grounds for the Igorots. People will be driven further). Whether he meant it as a joke or not it sounded so true.
This transfer has only once more reaffirmed the policy of the national government on indigenous peoples. That they are just part of the state-owned natural resource, to be extracted and sold, just like their land, their gold and their forests.
It has just been less than a month after representatives of the national government practically showed off to the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting that they had the IPRA, “a local and better version of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” as proof that they are human rights defenders and not violators as pointed out by the local independent human rights monitoring group.
The proof of service may not and is not in the written document but in the implementation of the law to serve the people it draws its realization and mandate from. Many observers, — IP and human rights advocates, historians and documenters — see that instead of keeping the IP communities and resources intact, IPRA has contributed more to their deterioration and loss of identity and loss of cultural integrity. Could it be toward ethnocide?
It is discrimination against all Filipino indigenous peoples — man, woman or child — to take, and note, without their knowledge and participation; the national agency that is supposed to be protecting their rights and defending their rights as IPs; and then attach it to some national agency organized for the land distribution to landless peasants, or to an agency mandated to protect and manage the country’s natural resources!
Well, of course, these IPs are but “poor, noisy Filipino people” located in the fringes of society who in the Independence Day speeches are being called to unite their ranks and assert their rights as a freedom- loving community!