The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) admitted on Wednesday they were blindsided by the decision of the House of Representatives to slash their budget to a token P1,000 alongside the Commission on Human Rights and several other government agencies.
NCIP Regional Director for MIMAROPA Roberto Almonte told Palawan News they did not have an idea that there was such a plan by the Lower House to cut out their 2018 budget because there were no contentious issues raised against the agency during the budget hearing.
“Wala kaming na-sense na ganun ka grabe ang mangyayari kahapon (Tuesday). I thought na natural lang sa mga Congressman na tumayo sa plenary para klaruhin ang budget at ano pa mang accomplishment,” Almonte said.
Almonte said that they are “leaving the matter to the people” particularly to the indigenous peoples even as he said he remains optimistic that their budget will be restored in the bicameral committee or in the Senate.
“Ang soberenya naman ay sa mga tao. Hindi naman siguro natutulog ang civil society organization at ibang agencies na papayagan itong kapalastangan sa karapatan ng mga katutubo,” Almonte said.
Almonte said what happened in the budget voting was “a wake up call” for NCIP to prove itself. He noted that in the exercise of their mandate in empowering the marginalized sector, there are sectors of society who continued to oppose them.
“May diskriminasyon pa rin na nangyari. Kinawawa pa rin ang mga IP kasi may layunin silang iba,” Almonte said.
Almonte scored the House of Representatives, describing its vote as an “abuse of legislative prerogative”.
“Walang legal basis. Abuse of authority, abuse of power, abuse of legislative prerogative, lahat na ‘yun,” he said.
NCIP is an office under the Office of the President mandated under Republic Act 8371 (Indigenous Peoples Right Act) responsible for the formulation and implementation of policies, plans and programs to recognize, protect and promote the rights of indigenous cultural communities (ICCs). NCIP has proposed P1.188-billion budget for 2018 as compare to its budget for 2017 which is P1.21 billion.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, who supported the budget cuts, has accused the NCIP of failing to act on the killings of Lumad leaders and the land grabbing of ancestral lands.
Zarate said there were 60 Lumads killed during the Aquino Administration and 30 more Lumads killed in 2018, prompting the holding of a march protest by Lumads and their camping out in front of the University of the Philippines in Diliman.