National minorities mark 24th year of IPRA Law with protest

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National minorities and progressive groups staged a protest action in front of the office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) on Thursday to mark the 24th anniversary of the enactment of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA Law). They demanded the abolition of the said law and the NCIP which only serve as instruments utilized by the reactionary state to massively grab the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples and take away their right to self-determination.

Instead of hearing their calls, NCIP employees mocked the farmers. One of them repeatedly struck a loud gong to drown the voices of protest speaker.

Katribu, an alliance of indigenous peoples’ organizations, said the agency is being used the state to evict minorities from their ancestral lands, and pave the way for the entry of destructive projects. This includes dam and energy projects, and mining operations. These projects are usually accompanied by security forces employed to harass, coerce, if not brazenly forge, the signing of free prior and informed consent (FPIC) by affected indigenous peoples. FPIC is a document required for opening projects in ancestral lands. An stark example of this is the continuing militarization and widespread attacks to suppress the resistance of indigenous peoples in areas surrounding the Kaliwa Dam (Southern Tagalog), Chico-River Dam Project and Apayao Dam (Ilocos-Cordillera).

The NCIP plays a key role in the Duterte regime’s counterinsurgency campaign and its bogus “mass surrender” program in rural communities. The agency is effectively subsumed to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in the name of the whole-of-nation approach. Its programs are designed to suppress the struggles of national minorities.

The agency is currently headed by retired Gen. Allen Capuyan who served key intelligence positions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Just last August, the Commission on Audit flagged the agency over its anomalous use of ₱1 million for a “workshop” of the NTF-ELCAC in Agusan del Norte in November 2020. It also flagged the agency over its anomalous use of funds amounting to ₱4.8 million for accomodation and food in expensive hotels and restaurants from 2018-2019.

AB: National minorities mark 24th year of IPRA Law with protest