by Jimmy K. Laking
Benguet Rep. Ronald Cosalan told the council of elders and leaders of La Trinidad last week that the council was the proper authority to select who should sit as indigenous peoples mandatory representative (IPMR) in the municipal council.
“This cannot be settled in the courts as it would defeat the purpose of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act,” said Cosalan in a message to the general assembly of the La Trinidad Indigenous Peoples Organization (LTIPO).
Vice Mayor Romeo K. Salda clarified the municipal council has allowed Marcelo Abela to sit as observer and not as an ex-officio member of the legislative body.
Salda said the council was also wondering that while Abela appeared to have confirmation as IPMR by the regional office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, this was not accompanied by an official transmittal to the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
“He merely appeared on his own,” said Salda.
He said it was up to the council of leaders to resolve the issue on who should sit as IPMR in the municipal council.
The assembly, composed of council of elders from the 16 barangays of La Trinidad, finalized the guidelines for the selection of a rightful IPMR.
Pendon Thompson, president of the LTIPO, said Abela was invited to the assembly as well as the organization’s previous meetings but he did not appear.
Thompson said the selection of a new IPMR has been scheduled for the first week of February.
NCIP Provincial Legal Officer Severino Manuel Lumiqued said both national and local guidelines recognized the primacy of customary laws in resolving conflict such as who should sit as IPMR.
Lumiqued said any solution fashioned out by the council of elders and leaders to resolve a conflict is deemed final.
Abela, citing a certificate of affirmation signed by a regional NCIP official, took his oath as the town’s IPMR last year but the council of elders and leaders said his selection did not follow due process.
NCIP’s Abilene Cirilo told the council of elders and leaders in a meeting that the guidelines for the selection process that nominated Abela as IPMR was not ratified by the general assembly.