By JEOFFREY MHAR LARUA
BAGUIO CITY — A National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) special review body for the Baguio Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) reaffirmed the appointment of the first IPMR to the City Council three months after Ibaloy, Kafagway, and Kalanguya Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs) made the selection.
In a memorandum issued to the NCIP’s regional director for the Cordilleras last February, the special review body found Ibaloy Roger Sinot, Sr.’s selection as the IPMR to the Baguio City Council to be “in order”.
Sinot, Sr.’s selection as the mandatory representative of indigenous peoples to the city council came into question after two members of the selection body claimed that Sinot, Sr. is not a registered voter of Baguio City due to his registration in Aritao in Nueva Vizcaya.
“Any question on Mr. Sinot being a registered voter in Baguio City, and Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya at the same time and as to where he voted in the May 9, 2016 elections … is a separate matter that should be ventilated by the protestants in the proper forum,” the special body said.
His counsel, Lauro Gacayan, disproved the claims of Joseph Sacley and Paul Pasigon, citing a Commission on Elections (COMELEC) resolution that states in the case of a “double registration”, the first registration is valid and the second, void ab initio (invalid from the beginning).
“Since there was a valid registration in Baguio City on October 2, 2014, the registration in Aritao on September 15, 2015 is void ab initio and without force and effect. In short, Mr. Sinot is a registered voter of Baguio City, pure and simple,” Sinot’s counsel said in a letter to the NCIP’s regional director.
Sinot, Sr, however, says that his assumption to his seat in the City Council is still being held back by the NCIP’s regional office, particularly Atty. Roland Calde, the commission’s regional director for Cordillera.
In a text message to this paper’s editors, the presumptive IPMR said that Calde’s conduct on the issue is “unbecoming.”
“He is entertaining the petitioners against me,” Sinot, Sr. said.
According to the local guidelines for the selection set by indigenous peoples (IPs) in the city November last year, a certificate of affirmation (COA) should be issued by the “concerned NCIP regional director” after the chosen IPMR has been endorsed by the ICCs and the NCIP Baguio City Community Service Center (CSC).
The COA remains unissued after Sacley and Pasigon filed their protests last January.
Meanwhile, the Baguio Ancestral Land Claimants Executive Council of Leaders (CoEl) asserted the appointment of Sinot, Sr. and urged Calde to immediately issue the presumptive IPMR’s COA.
In a resolution forwarded to the NCIP regional office last February, the CoEl stressed that the local guidelines in the selection of the IPMR were already promulgated and should be “respected, upheld, observed and applied in the instant case.”
“The Section VII of such guidelines expressly and clearly mandated that only a losing volunteer/nominee can file a protest,” the resolution read. According to the CoEl, the lone protest filed is a violation of the local guidelines and should have been dismissed outright.
The CoEl also reminded the NCIP regional office of its duty to not be suspected of “favoring” ICCs/IPs to which they or their spouses belong.
“Two months is really too long for this issue to drag on considering the importance and significance of such representation,” they said.
Grassroots organization Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) also expressed its support for the presumptive IPMR as a “historic and formal representation” of Ibaloys as the original inhabitants of then Kafagway.
“It is long overdue that the indigenous peoples are given a voice in the local government especially since they comprise a significant section, if not the majority of the City’s population,” said Jill K. Cariño, CPA’s vice chairperson. # nordis.net