February 3, 2023

Indigenous peoples in Baguio fear they will be displaced in the selection of indigenous peoples mandatory representative (IPMR) after the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples released in 2018 the new guidelines in the election of an IPMR.

NCIP Administrative Order 3 s. 2018, mandates local government units that have ancestral domains to have an IP representation in their local councils.

The AO states that the IPMR should come from qualified owners or rights holders of the ancestral domain.

In a letter to the city council, the First Citizens of Baguio Organization said the AO will displace more IPs, especially in Baguio for not all live within an ancestral domain.

In Baguio, only a portion of Barangay Happy Hallow is declared an ancestral domain. There are six clans in the barangay but not all are in good terms, the group said.

The group said the NCIP guideline violates the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act for not all IPs will be given a chance to select an IPMR if they are not part of a duly-declared ancestral domain.

For other IPs to participate in the selection, the same AO states that indigenous cultural communities or IPs who are not co-owners of an ancestral domain may still choose an IPMR provided it is specifically allowed in the guidelines formulated by owners of the ancestral domain.

The group said this proviso in the AO is discriminatory to IPs of Baguio which has far bigger population compared to those within the Happy Hallow ancestral domain.

Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan, however, said that IPs of Baguio would not have encountered the issue if they settled their differences.

In the council’s Nov. 23 session, Olowan said there should already be an IPMR in Baguio had IPs agreed to allow Roger Sinot, Sr. to sit as an ex-officio member of the city council.

Sinot won as the first IPMR of Baguio in 2016. However, the city government and a group of IPs filed a petition in court questioning his qualification and their exclusion from the selection of IPMR.

In 2018, the court granted a writ of preliminary injunction that prevented Sinot from seating as IPMR. The case is pending in court.

Olowan said to end the impasse, the IPs should withdraw the case and come up with a compromise agreement.

“The case will drag on for years and no one will represent you in the city council,” Olowan said.

The city council is set to invite a representative of the NCIP to clarify issues regarding the assailed administrative order. – Rimaliza A. Opiña