December 7, 2023

Former NCIP-CAR director was right all along

Lawyer Roland Calde, former regional director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Cordillera, has all the reason to celebrate following the latest decision of the Ombudsman reversing its previous ruling against him in June 2022 relative to the cases filed by one Roger Sinot.
The latest reversal of the Ombudsman, this time favoring Calde, sheds some light to some of the gray areas in the process of selecting the indigenous peoples mandatory representative, setting a precedent for the rest to follow.
I would like to think that Ombudsman Samuel Martires, before approving the reversal penned by his office’s Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer, might have witnessed the customary practice of “tabtaval” and have reflected on its great value for the indigenous peoples of Baguio. I won’t disclose the full merits but rather my personal reflection.
Five years preceding the filing of the case by Sinot, and after the adverse disposition by the Ombudsman, the issues sought to be resolved by Calde through the customary dispute resolution of “tabtaval” were laid to rest advent the selection of a new IPMR of Baguio in the person of Maximo Edwin Jr.
Unfortunately, one has to be crucified first just so the public may realize the value of prioritizing the IPs’ customary dispute resolution in settling disputes between and among IPs.
Calde’s persistence to allow the customary dispute resolution “tabtaval” to resolve the issues emanating from the IPMR selection was correct all along. He foresaw the significance of settling the crux of the issues through “tabtaval” to ward further divide between and among the IPs.
Calde was placed in a tight spot, where any of his actions, either for or against Sinot, would likely prejudice him regardless. But be that as it may, what can be vividly ascertained in the situation, Calde tiptoed his way by balancing on very thin line while consciously maintaining his impartiality, as it should be and expected for all NCIP agents.
If we were to accuse Calde of being partial, as he was portrayed before; it is not for siding either party, rather his partiality was tilted heavily to the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act and the national guidelines. His loyalty to the prevailing guidelines and his stance to uphold the same placed him in that situation.
The Ombudsman was correct to reverse its previous decision. It is only prudent and just to use the IPRA and guidelines to absolve Calde.
Succeeding amendments of NCIP national guidelines for IPMR selection drew lessons from the experiences of Calde, and now immortalized within its provisions. The full participation of IPs in the formulation and ratification of their local guidelines and the “primacy of customary practice” were further given premium in the provisions of the amended NCIP Administrative Order 1 s., 2021. Thus, the victory of Calde, though may be seen as personal to him, may be attributed to NCIP as well.
The victory of Calde is a manifestation that customary dispute resolution particularly to the IPs in Baguio – a highly urbanized area in Cordillera, still works and prevails over the usual rigors of settling grievances.
This victory gives hope that IPs, despite being heavily assimilated with the mainstream society,are still attached or conscious with their values and customs as IPs. To be sure, the current dispute resolution being undertaken by the IPs today are not purely traditional but still contain semblance thereof. — NAME WITHHELD, Baguio City