“We will never back down. We will defend our land at all cost!” – Romeo Castor
ILOILO City – In an attempt to finally get their signatures as go-signal for the construction of the Jalaur mega dam, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) threatened Panay anti-dam indigenous people of expropriation case last week.
Romeo Castor, whose ancestral land collectively owned by his family and clan members where the 102-meter high dam shall be erected, recalled that Nelson Cepeda, a NIA personnel, personally asked for his signature for the memorandum of agreement (MOA) to start the dam construction or else he will face charges.
“Sang Marso 2, nagkadto sa akon ulubrahan si Nelson “Boyet” Cepeda kag nagsiling nga makadto kuno kami sa opisina sang NCIP sa Marso 4 kay mastoryahanay kami sang taga-NIA..may palabtik ini nga kasuhan kami sang expropriation,” said Romeo.
(Last March 2, Nelson “Boyet” Cepeda came to where I work and told me to come to a meeting with the NIA at NCIP office on March 4 or else we will face expropriation charges.)
“Nagsabat ako nga indi kay may ubra ako. Nagbalik pa gid siya sang Marso 3 kag Marso 4 sa amon man guihapon nga rason asta magkasugot kami nga sa Marso 8 ang miting,” Romeo added.
(I said no. He returned on March 3 and March 4 for the same reason until we have reached a decision to meet with them on March 8.)
Under Section 1, Rule 67 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure:
The right of eminent domain shall be exercised by the filing of a verified complaint which shall state with certainty the right and purpose of expropriation, describe the real or personal property sought to be expropriated, and join as defendants all persons owning or claiming to own, or occupying, any part thereof or interest therein, showing, so far as practicable, the separate interest of each defendant. If the title to any property sought to be expropriated appears to be in the Republic of the Philippines, although occupied by private individuals, or if the title is otherwise obscure or doubtful so that the plaintiff cannot with accuracy or certainty specify who are the real owners, averment to that effect shall be made in the complaint.
“This shall be the first case in history where an ancestral land, already having a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) from the NCIP, will be expropriated,” said Atty. Cheryl Daytec-Yañgot in an interview, a prominent IP rights lawyer from Cordillera.
“All other cases occurred during Martial law,” she added.
But the issue of expropriation and building the mega dam is contrary to what the law has provided.
Under Chapter 3, Section 5 of the Republic Act No. 8371 entitled the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997: Indigenous Concept of Ownership – Indigenous concept of ownership sustains the view that ancestral domains and all resources found therein shall serve as the material bases of their cultural integrity. The indigenous concept of ownership generally holds that ancestral domains are the ICC’s/IP’s private but community property which belongs to all generations and therefore cannot be sold, disposed or destroyed. It likewise covers sustainable traditional resource rights.
Moreover, under Chapter 3, Section 11: Recognition of Ancestral Domain Rights – The rights of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains by virtue of Native Title shall be recognized and respected. Formal recognition, when solicited by ICCs/IPs concerned, shall be embodied in a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), which shall recognize the title of the concerned ICCs/IPs over the territories identified and delineated.
On December 16, 2004, the NCIP awarded the CADT to the Panay-Bukidnon or tumandok of 1,748 hectares comprising the communities of Barangays of Garangan, Masaroy, and portions of Agcalaga (GMA) in Calinog, Iloilo.
The area included the ancestral land of the Castor clan.
Years of threats
Not only Romeo are receiving threats from the NIA but his younger brother, Nestor, as well.
Since April 2013, Nestor has been receiving threats, harassment and intimidation varying from imprisonment charges, surveillance, death threats, and violation of their IP rights.
In his affidavit duly subscribed on November 17, 2015, several outstanding cases Nestor enumerated were:
i. April 2013 – Jimmy Lastrilla, head of the council of elders of Barangay Agcalaga, warned him that if he continues to oppose the project, he could be charged or imprisoned
ii. June 2014 – Agcalaga chieftain Joel Caballero also uttered the same.
iii. August 2014 – members of the PNP-RMG came to Nestor’s house to look for armed men
iv. September 2014 – his relative, a NIA employee, heard that RPA-ABB will kill him
v. January 2015 – Calinog Mayor Alex Centena met with him and convinced him to support the project. Mayor Centena also offered job to Nestor and his children. Mayor Centena however added that if continue to oppose the project he’ll face expropriation charges.
vi. February 2015 – his relative and daughter heard from Lastrilla family that he’ll be killed.
Since 2011, IPs in Calinog have expressed opposition to the Jalaur mega dam project because of fear of displacement, perpetual damage to their lands, livelihood and burial grounds, and the loss of their tribe due to ethnocide.
“Amon daya nga lupa. Indi kami mag-untat nga protektahan ini kay ini ang amon kabuhi,” said Romeo.
(This is our land and we will not stop defending it because our land is our life.)
The Korean Export-Import Bank, the dam’s funder of P8.9 billion, has not yet released funds due to cases of human rights violations by the NCIP and the NIA.
The Castor clan’s stand reverberates to the whole tumandok community and their voice holds the breath of every Panay-Bukidnon./PT
*Photo screenshot from GMA 7 Reel Time Pudong.