THE Baguio City Council, in a resolution, called on National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Commissioner Gaspar Cayat to cease connecting indigenous peoples (IP) communities with terrorism.
The resolution was brought about by Cayat’s earlier pronouncements on March 21, 2021 during the launching of the NCIP Epanaw Coffee Table Books at SM Baguio where he said “…I want to caution or refrain you, ladies and gentlemen, that these words, Igorot, Lumad, and Tumandok, are the very words used by the CPP-NPA-NDF or the communist terrorist groups.”
City councilors raised alarm over Cayat’s words as a form of red-tagging against IP communities, with Councilor Jose Molintas saying that declaring IP communities as communist terrorist groups is a judicial pronouncement beyond the authority of the NCIP. Councilor Arthur Allad-iw said Cayat’s statement is “worrisome” as it is a form of red-tagging.
The office should instead focus on its mandate which is to protect and promote the interest and well-being of the IPs in the country, Molintas added. Cayat was also urged to look into the grievances of the IP communities and provide them proper and adequate assistance.
Cayat claimed that his statements were only in reference to insurgent groups using the terms to stoke anti-government sentiments and organized rebellion. Cayat said he did not mean to red-tag Cordillerans. He claimed he was only denouncing certain groups who intend to exploit the IPs for “political intentions.”
“Igorot, in its present use, refers to people from the mountains. But for some people, this term refers to natives who are co-opted or used by some ideological groups in order to agitate, arose [sic], mobilize, and organize against the government,” Cayat explained during the council forum.
“Likewise, the Tumandok in Visayas. This term refers to the natives of the Visayan island and the warriors who can rise against the government [due to] the alleged prodding by some progressive groups who are identified with the left,” he continued.
The NCIP official explained that his statement regarding the term Igorot during the public event was brought up in light of the discussion of the Commission En Banc No. 08-009- 2021, Series of 2021 which condemns and denounces the use of the term “Lumad’ to refer to the ICC/IP groups, particularly the ICC/IPs of Mindanao.
Although admitting that his statement does not represent the position of the NCIP, he claimed that it is the mandate of their office to “fix these terminologies so that our identity will not be used or co-opted by interest groups.”
But the resolution passed by the council still urged Cayat to cease equating dissent with terrorism as is done by many government entities. The council resolution further urged Cayat to “exercise caution” in his language and public statements so as not to equate dissent with terrorism.
Councilor Arthur Allad-iw also pointed out that the word “Igorot” was used by lowlanders even prior to the Spanish colonization to refer to people from the mountains. He was addressing the earlier claim of Cayat that the word was used by Spaniards to describe the natives as “savage, backward, and uncivilized people.” – with reports from Jordan G. Habbiling