Indigenous Peoples from Abra, Mt. Province Join Katribu

By Northern Dispatch
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CORDILLERA Region – The Katribu party list has been gaining the support of indigenous peoples from the Cordillera region. In the first two weeks of the month, the party list group held its conventions in Abra and Mountain Province.

Almost 220 participants representing 25 out of the 27 municipalities in the province attended the Abra provincial convention. Provincial and local officials led by Abra Provincial Governor Eustaquio “Takit” Bersamin and Bangued Municipal Mayor Dominic Valera supported the activity.

The Mt. Province provincial convention followed suit, the third held in the egion, after those in Tabuk, Kalinga and Bangued, Abra held earlier.

Some candidates for local positions expressed their support for Katribu partylist first nominee, Beverly Longid, who hails from Sagada, Mt. Province.

Atty. Leonard Mayaen of the NP who is running for governor and Tom Killip who is running for the lone congressional seat of Mt. Province as an independent candidate gave solidarity messages. Others included Glenn Manao, Boni Lacwasen and RB Talastas, all runing for the vice-gubernatorial seat.

At the Abra convention, Longid discussed the importance of the coming 2010 national elections, as well as the need for strengthening the voice of indigenous peoples in Congress.

Longid noted that indigenous peoples have long suffered from government neglect and lack of social services, and that it is time for the indigenous peoples to have a representative who will fight for their rights. She stated that “a true and genuine representation of our people should be placed in Congress to address the real issues we are facing, and resolutions should be made immediately to alleviate such sufferings.”

The specific programs and platform that Katribu is fighting for were discussed, including the indigenous peoples right to ancestral domain and self determination; genuine land reform and food security; sufficient and suitable social services including health care, education and livelihood; the fight against destructive projects like large dams, large scale mines and large plantations; the promotion of traditional ways of natural resource management; enhancing the capacity of disaster and climate change mitigation by indigenous communities; the respect of indigenous socio-political and economic systems; and standing up for justice, human rights, and equality.

An Electoral Training and Orientation was also given by Longid with focus on the automated elections system (AES). It was noted that a lot of indigenous peoples communities in the province were not familiar with the AES given that demonstrations were not held in hinterland areas of the province.

Longid also discussed the role of progressive partylists and candidates in the struggle for genuine change. She also said that it is also time for the people to vote for candidates that truly represent the interest of the people, including Makabayan senatorial candidates Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza.

The Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan ( Makabayan) is a coalition of progressive partylists, of which Katribu is a member.

Irene Timbreza of the Abra Human Rights was named the overall provincial coordinator. One coordinator per municipalilty and one each in the barangay was also appointed. Participants of the convention also participated in a caravan in the streets of Bangued in time for the provincial “Kawayan Festival”.

Military Pull-Out

Meanwhile, at the Katribu partylist provincial convention held in Sagada, Mt. Province on March 11, the participants called for the pull-out of government troops from their communities and the removal of cannons from Kin-iway and “their return to where they came from”.

As the local elections is fast approaching, people affected by the military build-up especially in the northern barrios of Sagada fear that they cannot campaign freely and openly because of the presence of the soldiers.

The soldiers have been holding symposia in the province where progressive partylists like Katribu and other people’s organizations have been branded as “enemies of the state”.

The resolution also called for the relevant government agencies to investigate allegations that the soldiers deliberately started a fire in some parts of the mountain areas supposedly to flush out the rebels from their mountain hide-outs.

“The overall effect of the presence of the army in our communities is not peace, but fear and hunger, for people already fear going to their swidden farms, pastures, and even in simply hiking in the mountains,” a resolution adopted by the convention stated.

During the convention itself, intelligence operatives of the military were seen in and around the venue with some of them taking pictures of the participants. (Sloan Ramos, Aldwin Quitazol and Vincent Pumay-o)

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