By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — Responding to the Petition for Declaratory Relief filed by the City of Baguio, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) laid arguments backing the installation of the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative and for the selected individual to assume the office.
The OSG also echoed the prior pronouncement made by the regional office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) that indigenous peoples (IP) need not be marginalized to have a seat in the local legislative body.
The state lawyers said the city government’s allegations are “self-serving, gratuitous, and unwarranted conclusions of fact and law.”
On July 19, the city government filed the petition to the Regional Trial Court Branch 7 arguing that having an IPMR is “redundant and would result to reverse discrimination” because IPs are not marginalized and “Baguio City (is) exempt[ed] from the coverage of (the) IPRA.”
Implement the law
In the submission, the OSG noted marginalization, as a requirement, was not stipulated in the 1987 Constitution, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (RA 8371) and the Local Government Code (RA 7160), concluding that all concerned parties must “implement the law according to its letter.”
The document pointed out that denying the IP of representation is tantamount to depriving them of “Constitutional and statutory rights” to be engaged in all aspects and levels of governance.
It went on to discuss that city councilors who are indigenous “does not automatically” make him representative of the group nor make their concerns “his principal advocacy.”
The OSG also argued the petitioners “failed to established their legal standing” on the matter and the motion they forwarded to the court “is not the proper remedy” to contest the assumption of Roger Sinot, Sr., the selected IP mandatory representative (IPMR).
Counsels for the government added that issuance of temporary restraining order (TRO) and a writ of preliminary injunction, “is not warranted”.
They argued the city government, as petitioner, failed to prove the presence of “an urgent necessity” for the TRO and present evidence the IPMR’s entry to the city council will cause “unlawful use of public money” and “irreparable injury”.
The document was signed by assistant solicitor general Maria Hazel Valdez-Acantilado and associate solicitor Marivi Tumabing for the OSG.
Lift the injunction
The OSG, in the document, also urged the court to lift the order barring Sinot to perform his duty in the city council.
Explaining the selection and qualification for the IPMR were “regular and valid”, the state lawyers, in effect argued that the TRO issued in January 22 and the preliminary prohibitory injunction that followed on February 6 is “no longer warranted for lack of clear and urgent compelling reason.”
A week after taking his oath as IPMR, Sinot was barred from attending the session in the local council through a 72-hour TRO issued by Judge Maria Ligaya Itliong-Rivera. It was extended for another 17 days by Judge Cecilia Corazon Dulay-Archog.
“In the instant case, the court, in the exercise of its sound discretion, deems it best to issue a preliminary injunction in order not to render moot and academic, the issues on the qualifications and selection of Mr. Sinot which will yet be finally resolved by the NCIP,” reasoned Archog when she decided to grant the preliminary prohibitory injunction.
Complaints against the IPMR’s selection process and Sinot’s qualification were filed at the NCIP in November and December 2016. An addendum was also submitted to the office in January 2017.
By January 2018, Director Roland Calde of the NCIP Cordillera issued the Certificate of Affirmation to Sinot and upheld by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
A welcomed support
The OSG’s pleadings on the case was welcomed by Roger Sinot, Jr. saying most of the points laid by the state lawyers on IPRA and the IPMR have “always been our stand.”
He said the elders as well as the review bodies created championed the same position as the OSG has decided.
A review made by the body created by the NCIP in February 2017 to review the matter, reported that upon studying the issue, the group recommended that Sinot’s selection be affirmed.
Sinot also took special notice of Paragraph 50 of the document that articulated the “main focus of IPRA.” The section stated that IPRA aims to “correct injustice” committed since the Spanish colonial period and “empower” them by involving the indigenous peoples in governance.
Tyranny in Baguio
Progressive groups in the city has accused Mayor Mauricio Domogan and the city government of “tyranny” over the IPMR issues.
The head of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), Windel Bolinget, was quoted during the press conference for the Cordillera Day celebration that “the mayor’s refusal for the selected IPMR to assume his duty is tyranny.”
He said Domogan was “more of a bureaucrat, than an Igorot elder” otherwise, as an Igorot leader, the mayor “would have respected the process,” stressing that, “Domogan is the main obstacle to fully realize an IP representation in Baguio.”
Tongtongan ti Umili, CPA’s local formation views the city government’s actions as something that “works for the “furtherance of national oppression and “a shame and grave injustice to the Igorot identity (that the city mayor) ostensibly parades.”
Baguio City elders and the Cordillera Elders Alliance have also questioned Domogan’s motive for blocking Sinot to assume office, remarking the mayor is merely out to get back for the Asin property row.
The Supreme Court ruled in June 2013 that Asin Hot Spring Resort is owned by the City of Baguio and ordered Sinot, who operates the facility, to pay PhP5,000 monthly rental from December 1996 until he vacates the property.
But the 5th Municipal Trial Court, First Judicial Region of Tuba-Sablan in July 2017 ruled, the city’s survey plan must be submitted first before the writ of execution issued by the same court be implemented, that favor’s Sinot. # nordis.net