By NITZ ARANCON
with FRED SORIANO
‘WHEN tribal chieftain Allan Mandokita took his oath of office as the province’s indigenous people’s representative to the provincial board in April, he was unaware that the same legislature “abolished” the very same office he was supposed to hold 15 days earlier.
Mandokita, also known as Datu Salagaan, was sworn into office by Gov. Yevgeny Vincente Emano in Initao town in April 26 where the province’s leader hailed the lumad leader’s rise as a “welcomed development in the struggle of our indigenous people for recogni-tion and at the same time, an affirmation of our commitment for a broad democratized representation in our Sangguniang Panlalawigan.”
The capitol’s information office quoted Emano as calling April 26 as a “historic day for our lumad brothers…” The governor said that on that day, “our indigenous people of the province ceases (sic) to be just bystanders but has (sic) actually become active participants to the development and progress of our communities.”
The emotion-filled oath-taking ceremony was attended by acknowledged IP leaders in the province, and a number of IP members even reportedly shed tears as Emano explained to them the significance of the occasion. Emano was quoted as telling them: “Let your children celebrate this day with songs and dances in the coming years… for today you have just claim (sic) your rightful place as active participants in shaping a brighter and productive generation of indigenous Filipinos.”
Emano’s decision to swear in Mandokita came after the two-day presentation of the province’s “indigenous people’s structure” in April 12 and April 13.
A resolution was reportedly passed to confirm the selection of Mandokita for the position. A “certificate of affirmation” was reportedly issued by by NCIP director Roberto Almonte.
But the oath-taking rites and all the rhetorics turned out to be meaningless because two weeks earlier, the provincial board passed Ordinance no. 1377-2016 that abolished the seven positions, including the office of the sectoral representative.
A copy of a document furnished to the Gold Star Daily shows the abolition of the positions in April 11 was meant to realign some P1.479 million in order to pay for the salaries and benefits of six staff members of the provincial board.
The document also shows that the ordinance was requested by Vice Gov. Jose Mari Pelaez.
Mandokita, who served as a councilor in Gingoog City, was reportedly furious when he learned about the April 11 ordinance. He served as IP representative to the Gingoog City council for nine years, and stepped down three months before last month’s elections.
Provincial board member Benedict Lagbas said the ordinance was approved by the provincial board. But he frowned over the move, saying that the position of IP representative is mandatory, and no capitol official can abolish it.
“Dili man mahimo nga wala-on na tungod kay mandatory man gyud kana,” said Lagbas.
Lagbas said the provincial board’s act of abolishing positions cannot supersede a national law being implemented by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
“Na-a man kana nga mga bala-od. Walay rason nga mo-ingon kita nga dili,” he said.
Lagbas said he would ask Pelaez and other members of the provincial board to discuss the matter, and ensure that the IP sector would be represented in Misamis Oriental’s legislature.
“Amo lang bisitahan si Vice Gov. Pelaez kay na-a tingali mga nalimtan or wala kaayo ma-arrange. Amo lang kining lingkoran within this week unsay among mahimo nga mga pagpa-agi,” said Lagbas.
He also pointed out that while Mandokita has taken his oath before Gov. Emano, the IP leader has not been formally accepted yet by the provincial board.
“Wala pa ma-formalize nato ang atong recognition and acceptance ana,” he said. (with a report from edwin iyo)