Caraga lumads demand ouster of NCIP head

Members and officials of the Caraga Regional Tribal Consultative Assembly (CRTCA) will hold "peaceful" lightning protest rallies at the regional office of the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) until Friday next week to demand, among others, the ouster of its regional director.

In an interview with GMANews.TV at the picket line, CRTCA regional chairman Datu Ebanta Evangelisto Morada, Jr. said the protest rallies, which began Tuesday, will last until February 5.

In their four-page demand, the indigenous people asked the Caraga regional offices of the NCIP and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to investigate and conduct ocular inspections of the alleged illegal logging and mining activities in Mount Agutayan, Calamba; in Brgy. Puting Bato in Cabadbaran City in Agusan del Norte; in Brgy. Padiay in Sibagat town, Agusan del Sur; and in Kitcharao town, Agusan del Norte.

Datu Ampo of Surigao del Sur demanded a congressional inquiry and the cancellation of Presidential Proclamation No. 1747, which declared watershed areas inside their ancestral domains in the towns of Carrascal, Cantilan, Madrid, in Surigao del Sur province and in Jabonga, Santiago and Cabadbaran towns in Agusan del Norte.

Resolve Ondo Perez issue

The CRTC also requested the resolution of the criminal cases against Datu Ondo Perez and 18 others who are now detained at the Agusan del Sur provincial jail in relation to the December 2009 hostage crisis in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur nd other murder and robbery incidents. [See: Raps filed vs Agusan hostage-takers

Supreme Datu Bagtikan told GMANews.TV that he is now being asked by Perez's group why the government failed to comply with its promise after the hostages were released that they would not be charged.

Bagtikan signed as witness in the agreement that compelled Perez 's group to release the hostages. Bagtikan claimed he is joining the picket rally to dramatize his protest of the non-fulfillment of the agreement.

In a one-page agreement written in Visayan dialect furnished to GMANews.TV, the Agusan del Sur Provincial Management Crisis Committee promised Perez and his group that they will help “free Ondo Perez and his group" from all criminal liabilities in exchange for the hostages' release.

The agreement was signed by Agusan del Sur Governor Maria Valentina Plaza, Agusan del Sur Police Director Senior Supt. Antonio Paguirigan, Vice Governor Santiago Cane, Jr., Provincial Social Welfare Officer Josefina Bajade, Roman Catholic Priest Fr. Lito Clase, NCIP-Caraga Regional Director Jose Jake Dumagan and Agusan del Sur PCL President Federick Mark Mellana.

Witnesses in the signing were Datu Bagtikan Roy Gallego, 402nd Army Brigade Commander Col. Emiliano Gupana II and Caraga Police Regional head Chief Superintendent Lino De Guzman Calingasan.

Other demands

Among the other demands of the Caraga tribes were the cancellation of all permits issued by the government against mining companies and, according to them, illegally installed mineral ore processing plants in the region who did not comply faithfully Free Prior Information and Consent (FPIC).

The indigenous groups claimed that mining companies like S.R Metals Inc., Taganito Mining Corporation and others have long overdue royalty payments.

But NCIP-Caraga regional director Jose Jake Dumagan in a separate interview quickly defended Taganito Mining Corporation, saying the mining firm had long paid the Taganito tribes.

The 2009 payment is still being processed, he said.

When asked why other groups of Mamanwa tribes complain that they were not paid by Taganito Mining, Dumagan said only those groups recognized by NCIP were paid.

The group of Mamanwa tribal leaders Raul Olorico and Emiliano Gede had filed complaints against Dumagan before the Office of the Ombudsman demanding why private funds paid by mining firms as royalty fees are being controlled and held by the NCIP.

Of the 21 cases filed against him, some have already been dismissed, Dumagan said.

According to Dumagan, some NCIP regional offices hold as trust funds the amount paid to the lumads by mining and logging companies.

"It is only here in Caraga Region were the NCIP share the lumads some percentages of the money, the NCIP as a whole had still no guidelines on how to do with the funds paid by mining and logging companies to lumads that is why I hope the next NCIP commissioners will issue guidelines on this," Dumagan said.

Dumagan said would be willing to step down from his post if the "entire" indigenous people in the region will call for his ouster. - with Johanna Camille Sisante/RSJ, GMANews.TV

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