NCIP chides LGUs with no indigenous representative in legislatures
PAGADIAN CITY—National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) chair Allen Capuyan has chided local government leaders who fail to give a seat in their legislative councils to a representative of indigenous peoples (IP) in their areas.
Capuyan said that under Republic Act No. 8371, or the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997, it is mandatory for local legislatures to have an IP representative.
He added that he will coordinate with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to compel local governments nationwide to give legislative seats to IPs.
Capuyan visited tribal communities in the Zamboanga Peninsula starting last Monday (Sept. 21) to check on the conditions of IP communities and also push local government leaders to respect the law on IP representation in legislative councils.
In Dumingag town, Zamboanga del Sur, Mayor Joan Pacalioga-Abajuela said the local government suspended the selection of an IP representative in the municipal council for fear it would divide the town’s Subanen population.
Capuyan said the case in Dumingag is typical in other local governments where well-meaning officials are being held back from enforcing the law because of potential troubles it could create in IP communities.
In other areas, local leaders discourage the selection of an IP representative as some people believe it was akin to someone outside the tribe picking the tribe’s leader and trumping traditional leadership processes, said Capuyan.
But Capuyan said that when the selection process is handled well, disunity and conflict within the tribe can be avoided.
Lawyer Pinky Grace Pareja, director of the NCIP in the Zamboanga Peninsula, said that in Zamboanga del Sur’s 26 towns and one city, only 13 have IP representatives in lawmaking bodies. There is no IP representative in the provincial board.
In Zamboanga del Norte, which has 25 towns and two cities, 14 IP representatives sit in legislative bodies while one sits in a provincial board, Parejo said.
The most compliant is Zamboanga Sibugay province with all its 16 towns and the provincial council having IP representatives, Parejo said.
The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, which Capuyan also heads, seeks to harness IP communities in the counterinsurgency campaign.
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