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Natives Want Director of Indigenous People Commission Sacked Special

By Antonio Figueroa     Mar 1, 2010 in Politics
MANILA – Nearly 300 natives belonging to the Manobo and Matigsalug tribes have petitioned the government for the ouster of the regional director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in Davao Region, in Southern Philippines.
Focus of the petition is Roque Agton, a full-blooded Bagobo lawyer who first joined the NCIP during its inception in 1986 after the collapse of the Marcos dictatorship.
The petitioners, all members of the Federation of Matigsalug and Manobo Tribal Councils (FEMMATRICS), said “their strong opposition against Agton [was due to] his plan to subdivide the ancestral domain within the Bukidnon, Davao, and Cotabato boundaries.”
Agton, widely known for his pro-mining stance that has angered many tribes, earlier told the council that he would support the plan of Rep. Isidro Ungab, a congressman from Davao City, subdividing the ancestral domain, which covers an area of 102,324 hectares, at the boundary of Davao for distribution to its migrant occupants.
The IPs said the director’s assertion to apportion the tribal lands like political subdivisions of the government without respecting the historical rights of natives over the sprawling property is “anti-native” and contrary to the intent creating the NCIP.
The NCIP is the successor of the Marcos-era Presidential Assistance for National Minorities (PANAMIN), and later the Office of the Southern Cultural Communities (OSCC) and the Office of the Northern Cultural Communities (ONCC), which were merged under Republic Act No. 8371, which created the NCIP.
Under the law, the NCIP “is the primary government agency that formulates and implements policies, plans and programs for the recognition, promotion and protection of the rights and well-being of Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and the recognition of their ancestral domains and their rights.”
“The tribes of Matigsalug in Davao, Cotabato and Bukidnon,” Datu Roelito A. Gawilan, tribal chieftain and FEMMATRICS chair, said “are [opposing the] order to accommodate the interests of politicians and business entities… favored by Agton.”
He stressed that as NCIP regional director should recognize the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) that was awarded by the NCIP to the Matigsalugs and Manobos.
The natives also lamented that instead of helping them in their fight against politicians and businessmen who want to deprive the tribes of their precious assets, the regional director has moved against them by supporting the exploitation of their ancestral domain.
They also strongly opposed efforts to promote Agton to the NCIP as commissioner.
Earlier, the FEMMATRICS charged Vice Governor Emmanuel Pińol of North Cotabato for “unlawful intrusion and encroachment” into their tribal lands and for “willful disregard and open violation of their right to ‘Free and Prior Informed Consent’ (FPIC).”
Gawilan, scion of a respected Matigsalug leader, filed a complaint against Pinol on October 6, 2009 for alleged violation of the penal provisions of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997, the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
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