The government formulated sufficient laws, rules and regulations for the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples over their ancestral domain which had been trampled upon by no less than the government and multinational corporations primarily to exploit, utilize and develop the State’s rich resources that are located within the said domains. For several decades now, there had been massive displacement of IPs from their ancestral domains, like in the case of the put up of the Ambuclao and Binga dams, and the operation of several mining companies have caused and is causing some environmental problems in host and neighboring communities.
Part of the supposed rights of IPs as enshrined in Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples rights Act (IPRA) is the selection of the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) by constituencies through customary processes of selection and decision-making. The IPMRs will then represent their constituencies in the relevant local legislative body of the bureaucracy to ensure that the welfare of the IPs are protected and recognized, especially in barangays, municipalities, cities and provinces where the IPs are the minorities. Indeed, the selection by the IPs of their IPMR is a laudable provision of the law wherein it speaks of the need for local governments to accommodate the IPMR in cases where the IPs are considered to be minorities.
Several schools of thought emerged with the application of the selection of the IPMR in areas dominated by IPs, like in the Cordillera where 92 percent of the region’s over 1.6 million population are considered to be IPs, thus, there should be no need for a mandatory representative in the bureaucracy and it should be the other indigenous peoples that are minorities in the said places that should have the IPMR.
In Baguio City, 8 of the 13 members of the local legislative body are indigenous peoples with most of them tracing their roots from Mountain Province. The question that lingers in the minds of the non-IPs is that “is there a need for the selection and appointment of an IPMR that will increase the number of IP officials to 9?” Or “is there a need for the other indigenous peoples from outside the region to be the ones to have the selection of their IPMR to be the one to seat in the local legislative body to balance the situation?”
Unfortunately, the issue on the appointment of a member of the Ibaloi tribe has caused so much division among the IPs in the city to the extent that the recent assembly called for the purpose of putting things in order went out of control . Enough is enough, the IPs in the city have already spoken that they want the tedious process to be repeated so that they can select their elders that will represent the IPs in the programs and projects of the local government through the position of IPMR. On the other hand, will it be better if the IPs in the city allow the other less represented indigenous peoples in the local legislative body to select their IPMR?
We believe that the best thing to be do in this obviously politically-manipulated situation is for everyone to go back to the drawing board and look into the real intention of the law. Everyone should give up their interests and assess the situation whether or not Cordillera-based IPs need added representations at the local legislative bodies that are already dominated by IPs or it is high time that considering that they are the minorities in the IP-dominated areas, the non-IPs will be the ones to select their mandatory representatives to the different local legislative bodies.
Let us defuse the high emotions by trying to ponder on the situation and not to use the IPRA to shield our obvious political and personal interests on the matter. Let us try to make an intelligent decision for the greater welfare of the populace instead of making a wrong decision that will trample upon the rights of non-IPs, thus, it is better to forget the IPMR in our legislative bodies.