Court asked to interpret IPRA

BAGUIO CITY – Concerned indigenous peoples (IP) elders in the city petitioned the Regional Trial Court (RTC) to declare that IPs in the city are not marginalized or minority and that they are not entitled to an Indigenous Mandatory Peoples Representative (IPMR).

In a 7-page petition for declaratory relief, Aizalea A. Dinamling and Rebecca Dulawan also requested the city’s RTC to declare Section 16 of Republic Act (RA) 8371 otherwise known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 in relation to Section 41c of RA 7160 or the Local Government Code of the Philippines as not applicable to local governments where the IPs are not marginalized like in the city.

The court was further asked to permanent enjoin the private respondent, Roger Sinot, from assuming and exercising the authority of his office as the city’s IPMR and enjoining all public officials from doing any acts that directly or indirectly accepts or recognizes Sinot as IPMR or a member of the local legislative body.

Moreover, the court was requested by the petitioners to enjoin public officials from appropriating any public funds or budget for the salary of Sinot and the expenses for the IPMR office in the local government.

The petition explained that their action was a petition for declaratory relief under Rule 63 or the Rules of Court purposely initiated to secure an authoritative statement of the rights and obligations of all the parties under Section 16 of RA 8371 in relation to Section 41c of RA 7160 or the guidelines in compliance with the law that is whether IPMR representation is applicable in the local legislative council of the city owing to the fact that IPs in the city are not marginalized.

Based on the petition, Baguio City is populated by 3 major IP tribes such as Ivadoy, Kankana-ey and Kalanguya and Sinot was reportedly selected as the city’s IPMR.

However, Sinot’s selection was marred with controversy and despite the controversy, the Cordillera office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP-CAR) issued the confirmation of appointment to Sinot.

But before Sinot actually assumed the functions of his supposed office, he was made a defendant to a suit for injunction with prayer for issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order. Likewise, Sinot is also a defendant to a suit for inter-pleader with prayer for temporary restraining and writ of preliminary injunction.

Owing it to the said cases, Sinot was enjoined and restrained from assuming his position as the city’s IPMR.

The petitioners argued that the IPs in the city are not entitled to an IPMR because they are not considered marginalized or minority considering that there are already 7 IPs who are members of the local legislative body, namely, Arthur Alad-iw, Joel Alangsab, Michael L. Lee Lawana, Peter Fianza, Faustino A. Olowan, Benny Bomogao and Leandro B. Yangot, Jr..

Moreover, Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan himself as an IP and that clearly, the IPs in the city are not marginalized or considered as minority, thus, Sinot’s selection as an IPMR is not pursuant to the intent of the IPRA.

Once Sinot will be recognized by the public officials as member of the local legislative body, the petitioners asserted that the local government will be compelled to appropriate public money for the IPMR office and for Sinot’s salaries and benefits and such appropriation is illegal and a waste of public money of which they have the right to stop as taxpayers who have the indivertible rights to stop any unlawful use of public money.

The petitioners claimed that the said actions involve the validity of provisions of the Local government Code and the IPRA providing for IPs representations in the local legislative body of a local government unit and as such the Office of the Solicitor-General is made a party in the said action.

Under the present circumstances, the petitioners emphasized that the court must make a definitive or authoritative ruling of the rights and obligations of all the parties.

By HENT

 

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