MAC: Mines and Communities

On The Appointment Of Ncip Commissioner For Region Ix Legal Rights And Natural Resources Center

Published by MAC on 2007-03-14
Source: LRC-KSK/Friends of the Earth-Philippines ()

On the appointment of NCIP Commissioner for Region IX Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center- Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KSK/Friends of the Earth-Philippines)

14th March 2007

BERNARDO - A FATAL CHOICE FOR THE SUBANON PEOPLE

The National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) has been accused of favoring the mining companies over the indigenous peoples on the issue of ancestral lands and domains. This is a grave accusation that, unfortunately, the NCIP has been failing miserably to dispute. And if the Office of the President actually appoints Atty. Pablo S. Bernardo as a NCIP commissioner, then all accusations would be put to rest. The NCIP would definitely confirm that they are favoring the mining companies over the indigenous people whose rights they are supposed to protect and promote.

PABLO BERNARDO, a Subanon lawyer, is currently the legal counsel of a Subanon organization in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, created for the purpose of entering into an agreement with the TVI Resource Development, a Canadian Mining Company, as part of the NCIP process of obtaining a free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) from the affected communities. It was necessary for the TVI that this new organization be created as the existing organization of the traditional leaders of the communities within the Subanon ancestral domain has been consistently and strongly opposed to the encroachment of the TVI mines into their land.

With his statements and actions, however, one would wonder whether Bernardo is confused who his clients were the Subanon organisation or the TVI itself. "TVI has proven to be more responsible - more Filipino - than other Filipino companies in protecting the interests of the Indigenous Peoples," Attorney Pablo Bernardo told Canadian Members of Parliament (MPs) in Ottawa in 2005.

As he vigorously lauds the TVI mining company, Bernardo would discredit and lambast with the same passion the Subanon Timuays (council elders) who speak out their opposition to TVI, and expose the various deception and human rights violations of the company. "Members of this Honourable Committee, I am pointing, for the record, at Onsino Mato and Jose Boy Anoy and those who are using them as tools, as the culprits and responsible for these violations of human rights of the IP Subanons." Timuay Boy Anoy is the legitimate holder of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title, and a recognized member of the GUKOM, or the traditional Subanon Council of Leaders of the Seven Rivers of the Zamboanga Peninsula. Onsino Mato is currently the secretary of GUKOM. Both are in the forefront of the struggle against the mining company.

The 52 year old lawyer has been living away from the Subanon communities for more than half of his life now. This is according to the petition filed by the Apo Manglang Ancestral Domain Community to the NCIP in their opposition to Bernardo's appointment. However, Bernardo has been in and out of Siocon for the last few years. He is being frequently seen in the area.

As narrated in sworn affidavits, on October 13, 2006, Bernardo was in Canatuan as he informed Prescila Bernal, a resident of Canatuan, Siocon, that the TVI will conduct drilling operations within her area in 3 or 4 days. In response to Ms. Bernal's point that they have not settled with TVI yet on the cost of damages to their lands, houses and livelihood, Bernardo said that TVI has no more time for this.

On October 17, 2006, Bernardo led a group of some 100 laborers with bulldozer, backhoe and drilling machines. Prescila, along with 5 other women blocked the machines, clinging to them, but Bernardo ordered the men to proceed. "I, Elvira Guzman, was undressed by men during the scuffle and brought in front of Atty. Bernardo who enjoyed viewing me. Corazon Balingit pinned to the ground by several men and each of us knows the six of us all women were treated and mauled like animals." (Nov. 30, 2006 affidavit, Dipolog City).

These affidavits are the basis of a legal complaint against Atty. Pablo S. Bernardo and two other companions, for Malicious Mischief and Physical Injuries. What then, we ask, is the basis of the possible appointment of Bernardo as commissioner of NCIP for the Northern and Western Mindanao Ethnographic Region? There has to be other criteria than the candidate's ethnicity. The person has to know and recognize the people he represents. Bernardo, on the other hand, has been known to malign and discredit Subanon leaders opposing the mining companies. The person has to enjoy the confidence and trust of the people he is supposed to represent. Bernardo has been the subject of formal opposition filed with the NCIP by the Subanon communities. Even during the time that the NCIP sought to appoint him to the Provincial Consultative Body as its head, the Subanon peoples opposed his appointment.

The Office of the President then is now given a choice to help the NCIP save its flailing credibility by not appointing Bernardo, someone who does not enjoy the trust of the people he is supposed to represent; or by appointing Bernardo as its commissioner, which is equivalent to the final shove to the NCIP to its mediocrity and irrelevance.

For more information, please contact Carl Cesar Rebuta LRC-KSK / Cagayan de Oro Office

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