Tuesday, November 25, 2008

CADT holders wants Siocon Council of Elders disbanded

Chief of reporters

PAGADIAN CITY--Barely a few days after he sat as OIC, newly appointed National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) regional director Lista Cawanan Jr. is met with a new problem regarding an old issue involving the Subanen tribal council in Siocon.

Cawanan, who replaced the late Celestino Talpis, said his first action in office would be to tackle the request forwarded by Timuay Jose Anoy and Timuay Lino Tii.

The two Subanen leaders sent a petition letter to Cawanan last week and demanded that the NCIP stop recognizing the Siocon Council of the Elders “for seriously undermining traditional rights and authority.”

In their signed letter to Cawanan, both Anoy and Tii pushed for the disbandment of the Siocon Council of the Elders “as it is illegitimate and illegal.”

Anoy and Tii were the recognized recipients of and ancestral domain claim in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, claiming parts of the Seven Rivers (Pito Kololungan) territories.

“Our ancestral domain is beset with conflicts and disputes, and disharmony. Our community has been divided because other people who claim they are the traditional leaders when they know their blood do not carry that right to claim leadership, as customary laws and tradition dictate,” Anoy and Tii said in their letter.

“Our sacred mountains were destroyed because the Siocon Council of Elders gave consent when it did not have the right to give. This destruction of our sacred place is our greatest loss.”

It can be recalled that this Council of the Elders which Anoy and Tii refer to had been ruled by the Gukom Sog Pito Kodolungan, the highest traditional judicial authority of the Pito Lololungan.

Anoy and Tii claimed this claim is “illegitimate, illegal and an affront to the customs, traditions and practices of the Subanon of the Pito Kololungan.”

“We do not recognize this Council of Elders, more so in the authority it claims to have in the governance management of the ancestral domain,” they said.

Relative to this, the said tribal leaders reiterate their position that since the beginning they are opposing the operations of TVI Resource Development Inc. (TVIRD), a Canadian owned mining firm operating open pit mining in Siocon.

The concession of TVIRD in the said area is valid as it is under an agreement entered into by TVIRD and this Siocon Council of Elders

Anoy said that with the ongoing project not having their consent as legitimate holders of an ancestral domain claim, he demands that the NCIP and the DENR-MGB “should stop approving any application of development projects without our consent.”

“We [also] demand that NCIP perform its mandate to protect our rights, to respect our customary laws, our traditions and our institutions. We demand that the NCIP settle this issue by recognizing and respecting our rights to lead in our ancestral domain.”