May 23, 2024

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Buguias elder Benjamin G. Palbusa has garnered 43 votes to win as new Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) to the provincial board during election through secret balloting on March 6.

Palbusa will be the sectoral representative for all members of ethno-linguistic groups in the province such as the Ibaloys, Kankana-eys, Kalanguyas, Karaos, and Iwaks.

The other nominees and the corresponding votes they received were Dr. Peter M. Cosalan of Tublay with four votes, Franklin E. Cocoy of Atok and Romeo J. Pocding of Itogon with15 votes each. There were 77 selector-voters who cast their votes.

Before the secret balloting facilitated by officials of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, at least two rounds of tongtongan (dialogue based on customary law) were held by and between the nominees to thresh out means that could lead to a choice by consensus and avoid a divisive manner of electing an IPMR.  

NCIP Benguet Administrative Officer IV Rocky Ngalob said after two separate assemblies, the indigenous cultural communities have decided to forego the rotation scheme and moved to open the nomination to all five IP groups in Benguet. 

The rotation scheme, where each of the five IP groups will be given a chance to have their representatives as IPMR, was the guideline employed in the selection of the previous three IPMR chairpersons. 

Ibaloy Blas Dalus was the first to sit as IPMR, followed by Kankana-ey Sario Copas, then outgoing Recto Alawas of the Kalanguya group. Had the rotation process been upheld, it would have been the Karao group’s turn, followed by the Iwak.   

There were no nominees from Mankayan, Kibungan, Kapangan, Kabayan, Sablan, and Tuba, while the nominees of Bakun and Bokod withdrew their nominations and gave their support to other nominees.

Former La Trinidad councilor Arthur Shontogan was the nominee endorsed through a resolution by the La Trinidad Indigenous Peoples Organization (LTIPO) but withdrew his nomination when former IPMR Pendon Thomson nominated himself after the new selection guidelines was ratified on Feb. 22.

Thomson said there was no reason for nominating himself as he did not consult his move with Shontogan nor the other selectors.      

In their introductory speeches, the nominees talked about their experiences in public service and their plans for Benguet IPs.

Cocoy, a retired regional director of the Department of Agrarian Reform-Cordillera, said he wanted to remove politics in the selection of IPMRs as there were talks about a politician who was out to finance the expenses of a particular nominee.

Pocding said he wanted the IPMR selection guidelines revised at least six months before the selection day in order to avoid the rush and to make the selection process run smoothly. The assembly seemed to agree with the suggestions of the nominees.

The NCIP-Cordillera will soon issue the certification of affirmation to Palbusa for him to discharge his duties and responsibilities at the provincial board.

Meanwhile, responding to pressing issues affecting the LTIPO, present IP leaders and elders who are either ancestral land claimants, land owners, taxpayers or residents in any of the 16 barangays of the ancestral domain of La Trinidad elected their new set of officers on Feb. 29.

The new set of officers who took their oath officiated by Vice Mayor Roderick C. Awingan were Marcos L. Anod as president, Recto C. Alawas vice president, Benjamin P. Dulnuan, secretary, Mary Jo Karla T. Dulnuan, assistant secretary, Soriano F. Dogcio, treasurer, Joseph W. Mangiben, auditor and Marivic C. Puyao, Thomas A. Abodiles, Jr., and Andrea D. Fontanos, business managers. 

LTIPO advisers are Teodora H. Esteban, Arthur Shontogan, and Victoria Tumbaga.

The election was facilitated by election committee members Alice Menzi, Teresita G. Panagan, and Abodiles, Jr.

La Trinidad IPMR Richard Wacnisen who presided over the assembly witnessed the election process.  – Ofelia C. Empian and March Fianza