NCIP red-tags IP members

In August 2021, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) released a statement dismissing allegations of irregularities in securing the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the indigenous Isnag community for the 150-megawatt Gened-1 Hydroelectric Power Project in Apayao’s capital town of Kabugao. The dam is one of four projects of the San Miguel Corp.-controlled Pan Pacific Renewable Power Philippines Corp. (Pan Pacific).

The statement claimed that “some front organizations of the communist terrorist groups, the CPP-NPA-NDF” were intervening in the FPIC process.

That was not the first time those opposing the dam project were red-tagged, said Jann Alexis Lappas, a member of the Kabugao Youth.

NCIP Chairman Allen Capuyan is the executive director of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), while NCIP Regional Director Marlon Bosantog is the former spokesperson. NTF-ELCAC has been notorious for red-tagging activists.

Angered by the events, the community assembled in Kabugao on Oct. 23, 2021 and executed a resolution declaring Bosantog, FPIC Team Leader Atanacio Addog, and Pan Pacific “along with its agents” as personae non gratae.

The resolution, signed by community elders and leaders, enumerated the acts during the FPIC process, which led them to make Bosantog and Addog as unwelcome persons in the Kabugao ancestral domain. (See main story: Collusion, corruption allegations hound dam projects in last nature frontier of the Cordillera)

“The Isnag of Kabugao AD (ancestral domain) would rather let Apayao River flow freely and the same be inherited by the youth and those Isnag of Apayao yet unborn for their enjoyment and appreciation, rather [than] to pass on an AD buried beneath a reservoir coupled with kilometers [of] filth brought by sedimentation and siltation,” the resolution stated.

Six days later, Capuyan issued an order recalling the Certification Precondition “due to technical inadequacies.” (The Certification Precondition was later issued, indicating that the FPIC of the affected IP has been obtained and the project may proceed.)

But suspicions grew after IP members learned that the NCIP head in Kabugao, Geoffry Calderon, admitted to using the vehicle of Pan Pacific for FPIC activities, adding that this could be verified with the company’s lawyer, Noel Magalgalit.

NCIP records confirmed that Magalgalit had represented Pan Pacific as its lawyer on multiple occasions.

Later in November, Bosantog resigned from NCIP and replaced Magalgalit as second nominee of Ipeace Epanaw party-list group, registered with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as Mindanao Indigenous Conference for Peace and Development, as shown in Comelec’s list of party nominees.

Comelec earlier dismissed the Petition for Registration of Mindanao Indigenous Conference for Peace and Development as a party-list group, as shown in an order (SPP No. 21-200) dated Aug. 13, 2021.

Comelec denied the group’s motion for reconsideration, which it then appealed to the Supreme Court (GR No. 258129). Magalgalit was named counsel of the party-list group. –PCIJ, September 2022