June 24, 2024

National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Chairperson Allen Capuyan and Commissioner for Region 1 and Cordillera Gaspar Cayat are facing cases before the Ombudsman for the issuance of certificate of non-overlap to the Northern Cement Corporation (NCC) to renew and expand its operation in Barangay Labayug, Sison, Pangasinan.
In their complaint dated March 16, members of the Bago ethnic group and residents of Barangay Sison, Freddie Castillo and Jessica Doctolero accused the Capuyan and Cayat of grave misconduct, malfeasance and for violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. 
Members of the Bago ethnic group in the area also trace their roots to Benguet province. The NCC’s plant in Labayug borders Barangay Ansagan in Tuba, Benguet.
The case stemmed from Cayat’s concurrence to the certificate of non-overlap (CNO) issued May 7, 2021 by then NCIP Region 1 Director Manuel Jaramilla. The CNO certifies that the areas being applied by NCC in Labayug are outside any ancestral domain.
The CNO also stated the IP leaders and elders of Sison unanimously supported the issuance of the CNO during a consultation on April 30, 2021. But the complainants said the CNO was unnumbered, which was highly irregular.
The complainants said Free Prior and Informed Consent is mandatory before the issuance of the certificate of precondition and CNO. 
The complainants said the field-based investigation conducted in July 28, 2020 by the NCIP found that the affected area was within an ancestral domain.
“Hence, when the unnumbered CNO was issued on May 7, 2021, respondent Cayat and Jaramilla were already aware of the FBI results and the confirmation that the subject area is within the ancestral domain of the indigenous peoples’ in the area,” the complaint reads.
They said instead of conducting an FPIC as required by law, Cayat made clandestine consultations to obtain the consent of indigenous peoples in the area which is not the procedure set by law.
The complainants said the NCIP officials are liable for grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service for disregarding and violating due process which should be accorded to the IPs they swore to protect.
“It is clear as day of the illegal/irregular and biased acts of respondent Cayat just so he may please NCC/San Miguel Northern Cement Inc. (SMNCI). On the other hand, the toleration and inaction of respondent Capuyan is clearly an indication that despite this obvious irregularity and illegality he just sat on his chair and intentionally looked the other direction,” it stated.
The respondents are also accused of falsification and use of falsified documents by NCC/SMNCI.
The complainants said the NCIP executives are liable for violating RA 3019 for accepting unwarranted benefits to illegally and irregularly issue a CNO despite the presence of the FBI report, objections of the IPs in the affected areas, and absence of FPIC.
Also, Capuyan’s failure to act on such illegality despite his capacity as NCIP chairperson.
The complainants said Cayat should be held liable for the falsification by a public official under article 171 of the Revised Penal Code, including the corporate officials of the NCC/SMNCI for using falsified documents.
The complainants said Cayat took advantage of his position in concurring with the unnumbered CNO that has been certified as non-existent by the NCIP Region 1.
On May 23, 2022, NCIP Region 1 Director Harriet Abyadang sent a letter addressed to Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Socrates Gaerlan informing him their office has no record of any issuance of a CNO relative to NCC’s application for renewal of Mineral Production Sharing Agreement. 
The complainants said the NCC should also be held liable for using the falsified document and misleading the MGB-Region 1 in thinking the unnumbered CNO was legally issued.
The Sison Federated Tribal Council has previously issued a resolution assailing the CNO issued by the NCIP. – Ofelia C. Empian