An election protest seeking to invalidate the selection of James Amid as the municipal Indigenous People’s Mandatory Representative (IPMR) to the legislative council was lodged before the regional office of the National Commission on Indigenous People here on May 11.
The protest filed by Isnag elder Roldan Apilit also sought for the inhibition of the entire NCIP Cordillera, especially Acting Regional Director Atty. Atanacio Addog, in the conduct of any fact-finding activities related to the protest.
Protestant raised irregularities in the conduct of the IPMR selection as well as the controversial approval of a local IPMR guideline, which was conducted with collusion of NCIP officials and staff.
“It is really disgusting that the seated NCIP personnel themselves are the ones disrespecting and curtailing the rights of the Indigenous people,” said lawyer Ryan James Solano, who is the counsel for Apilit.
Solano said they have gathered ample proof, even from the NCIP itself, to show that the questioned local IPMR guideline was never presented and approved by the Indigenous Isnag community.
Based on documents from the NCIP, an assembly of the Isnag community on April 4 agreed to reconcile two proposed local IPMR guidelines which was submitted to the NCIP. One was from the group of Apilit and the other came from Amid.
However, despite no schedule of assembly and pending the guidelines, NCIP Kabugao personnel Jezryl Inopia-de Peralta wrote Apilit about the selection of municipal IPMR on April 28.
During the April 28 event, NCIP announced that a local guideline listing “selectors” for the IPMR seat has been approved by the agency, referring to the questioned guidelines submitted by Amid’s group.
Attendees, including Mayor Bensmar Ligwang and the town’s lawmakers, all of whom are Isnag, objected to the guideline as they were not notified nor consulted. They even requested for a copy of the guidelines approved but the NCIP could not present one.
NCIP Apayao Provincial Officer Agnes Gabuat admitted that her office never received a copy of the local IPMR guidelines submitted by Amid’s group as the same was directly given to Addog.
Despite strong denial from the attendees, members of NCIP Apayao insisted that the identification of “selectors” was conducted during last April 4 assembly. Confusingly, NCIP Kabugao’s Carter Ayabo, in responding to a question, claimed that the “selectors” were validated in 2019.
With the NCIP insisting on pursuing the IPMR selection despite protest, the attendees, including Ligwang, all walked out of the event.
Addog, Amid, Inopia-de Peralta, Gabuat, Ayabo, as well as other NCIP staff and local officials are also accused in several criminal and administrative cases for falsification and corruption related to the Free Prior Informed Consent process conducted in Kabugao over proposed giant dams.
Amid is also the brother of Provincial IPMR John Anthony Amid and cousin of Provincial League of Barangay Captains president Eric Amid. – Karlston Lapniten