LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – To do away from the usual speech-heavy commemoration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples – Benguet Provincial Office conducted a paralegal seminar for Benguet Elders/Leaders from the fifteen (15) Ancestral Domains focusing on documentation of Indigenous Political Structure (IPS) and the constitution and registration of Indigenous Peoples Organization (IPO).
Michael Umaming, NCIP-CAR’s Chief Technical Management and Services Division, graced the celebration as the resource speaker and facilitator for the IPS and IPO workshops. Umaming first centered on the value of the IPS for each Ancestral Domains (ADs). “Indigenous Political Structure or the IPS is the totality of customs and traditions of the IP Ancestral Domain holders which was established long before the arrival of the Spaniards. It also refers to organizational and cultural leadership systems, institutions, relationships, patterns and processes for decision-making and participation which are identified and accepted by ICCs/IPs. The IPS shall be recognized as the highest governing body with the IPO as its technical arm”, said Umaming.
IPS, as the fabric that weaves the IP community
For better appreciation of the participants, Umaming delved further into history by citing the evolution of an IP society in Cordillera; from a single IP family as its basic unit interrelating with multiple IP families, to constitute a clan mingling with another, to compose an IP village. This IP village according to Umaming retains internal customary laws to govern not only the harmony between and among the ICCs/IPs dwelling inside a certain territory or domain, but also values on resource management for their enjoyment and those yet unborn. Inter-village bonds through customary bilateral pacts are also forged when villages interact with its adjacent communities as currently manifested by the existence of “Bodong” and “Pagta” in Kalinga.
“ICCs and IPs in the Cordillera have established an uninterrupted customary governance long before the Spaniards came. Such have transcended then later was integrated in today’s modern society”, underscored Umaming.
The challenge according to Umaming is for the ICCs/IPs to dig deep within their repository of customs and traditions through their remaining cultural bearers and put the same into writing to constitute their IPS.
IPO as the implementing arm of the IPS
Umaming also disclosed the functions of an IPO. According to him, apart from being the technical arm of the IPS, the IPO performs as the juridical person of the AD. Such function is material in the management of the royalty shares within the Community Royalty Development Plan (CRDP) after due validation or affirmation by the AD holders.
He added that the IPO must stand for the interest of the AD and should be led by the IPS. An empowered IPO should also serve as the NCIP’s partner in the formulation of the Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development Protection Plan (ADSDPP) and in the facilitation of the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC), after due consultation and affirmation by the ICCs/IPs, to any development intervention within their AD.
Umaming added that the IPO, while conscious with the guidance of the IPS and the IP community, should also play a crucial role in the selection of an Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) in the legislative council of any government structure. “There can be no IPMR if the IPs do not desire it”, underscored by Umaming.
The IPMRs, being the creation of the IPS and the IP community, should cart with them the ADSDPP inside the legislative fora where they are seated.
In the current situation, an empowered IPO to one may not be an empowered IPO to another according to Umaming. “An IPO that cooperates with an extractive company so that an ICC gets royalty that will be used in the development of the community cannot be said to be less empowered than an IPO that rejects that company in the name of sustainable utilization of resources leaving something for the next generation. Whether a particular ICC is capable at fusing these two views through the IPS and teach the world would be interesting to watch”, ended Umaming.
As a general rule, there can be no IPO without first the due validation and affirmation of the IPS. Said rule was set, among others, to ward-off abuses wherein anyone can just claim to be an IPO of an AD for purposes of claiming royalty through the CRDP.
As of this writing, there are around five (5) newly formulated and duly validated CRDPs covering the province. All of which are awaiting for the endorsement for NCIP Commission En Banc’s confirmation. These CRDPs were formulated by the different host ICCs/IPs and were all based and/or made to supplement the different Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development Protection Plans (ADSDPPs).
Simultaneous to the Paralegal Training, NCIP-Benguet Provincial Office also turned-over school supplies to the District Coordinator of the Alternative Learning System (ALS) at Puguis Elementary School for the less-fortunate and out-of-school IP youths and students of Benguet wanting the complete their basic education. The turn-over was accompanied by basic Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) Information and Education Campaign facilitated by NCIP-Benguet personnel Mr. Seighfred Chanfing.