Press Release
January 31, 2016


Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero urged President Aquino to appoint officials of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) who will genuinely defend and fight for the rights of the indigenous peoples (IPs) in the country.

Escudero made the call as the three-year term of the current batch of NCIP commissioners are set to expire on Feb. 20.

"The NCIP officials should be at the forefront of the fight for the rights of our indigenous peoples but I have yet to hear their indignation over the crimes being done against the lumads in Mindanao," said Escudero, the frontrunner in the vice-presidential race.

"Nakakalungkot na wala man lang tayong makitang papel na ginampanan ang NCIP pagdating sa problema mg mga lumad. Mabuti pa ang DepEd (Department of Education) atDSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), sila ay tumulong at nanghimasok sa isyu samantalang wala man lang tayong narinig sa NCIP laban sa pagyurak sa karapatan ng mga lumad sa iba't ibang parte ngMindanao," the independent candidate added.

Created under Republic Act 8371 or The Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act of 1997, the NCIP, which is an agency under the Office of the President (OP), is mandated "to protect and promote the interest and well-being of indigenous peoples with due regard to their beliefs, customs, traditions and institutions."

The veteran lawmaker said the next crop of officials of the primary government agency responsible for the formulation and implementation of pertinent and appropriate policies and programs set forth in the new law, should see to it that the R.A. 8371 is implemented in letter and spirit.

"We have a good law concerning the rights of our IPs. We just have to ensure the strict enforcement of Republic Act 8371," he said.

There have been 68 IPs killed under the Aquino administration, 53 of them were lumads in Caraga region.

Members of the 36th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and a paramilitary group have been accused of masterminding the harassment, killings and forced evacuation of the said IP group in Mindanao.

As chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, Escudero said he is also looking into the alleged involvement of some mining companies in the killings by hiring soldiers or paramilitary forces to drive the IPs away from their ancestral lands.

The NCIP is currently headed by chairperson Leonor T. Oralde-Quintayo (Commissioner for Southern and Eastern Mindanao); Zenaida Brigida H. Pawid (Region I and the Cordilleras); Percy A. Brawner (Region II); Bayani Sumaoang (Region III and the rest of Luzon); Dionesia O. Banua (Island Groups including Mindoro, Palawan, Romblon, Panay and the rest of the Visayas); Datu Cosme M. Lambayon (Northern and Western Mindanao); and Era Colmo España (Central Mindanao). They are all serving a three-year term which ends on Feb. 20.

According to the law, the commissioners shall be appointed by the President of the Philippines from a list of recommendees submitted by authentic ICCs/IPs.

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