By: Cheryl L. Daytec-Yangot and Mary Ann M. Bayang

Cordillera Indigenous Peoples Legal Center

In 2006, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines denounced the Arroyo administration’s Mining Revitalization Program. Reiterating its call for the repeal of the Mining Act, the CBCP said: “The right to life of people is inseparable from their right to sources of food and livelihood. Allowing the interests of big mining corporations to prevail over people’s right to these sources amounts to violating their right to life. The promised economic benefits of mining …are outweighed by the dislocation of communities especially among our indigenous brothers and sisters, and the risks to health and livelihood and massive environmental damage. Mining areas remain among the poorest areas in the country… The cultural fabric of indigenous peoples is also being destroyed by the entry of mining corporations.” A 2003 report of the Extractive Industries Review project commissioned by the World Bank warned of environmental degradation, social disruption, conflict, and uneven sharing of benefits with local communities that bear the negative social and environmental impact.

Glossing over the warnings, the Arroyo administration which aggressively adopted mining as the cornerstone of its economic development paradigm recently identified 24 major mining priority areas, eighteen of which are in indigenous territories. As if this is not alarming enough, it boasted in its report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) that the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) whose primary mandate is to protect indigenous peoples (IPs) has already issued a total of 127 Certificates of Precondition, 70 of which are for mining. A certificate of precondition removes the final obstacle to the national government’s issuance, renewal or grant of concession, lease or license over natural resources within ancestral domains. Under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), the free, prior and informed consent(FPIC) of affected IPs must be secured before NCIP issues the certificate.

Citing the issuance of the 127 Certificates of Precondition as an accomplishment is baffling for it indicates failure on the part of NCIP to fulfill its mandate. Announcing it to the international community is very upsetting considering the aftermath. Every certificate of precondition allowing large-scale mining perpetuates the oppression of IPs. Every such certification legitimizes displacement from their ancestral domains. Every displacement culminates in cultural genocide. It is hoped that the CERD will see the certificates for the license to exploit that they are and not for the accomplishments that they are not.

One may argue that NCIP would not have turned on the green light without the FPIC of the affected IP communities. But communities who labor under a state of internalized oppression are not capable of giving consent.

Internalized oppression is a construct pivotal to the understanding of IP’s psychology. It means simply that they have become co-authors of their own abuse. But more than being a cause of the escalation of marginalization, internalized oppression is the aftermath of lingering external oppression committed against them by a well-entrenched political system which has historically ignored their welfare while plundering their territories, endangering their very existence.

People who have long been oppressed are prone to eventually see their situation with the eyes of their oppressor. In neocolonial states, hunger may be defined as the need for a McDonalds hamburger, thirst is the need for Coke, illiteracy is the need for English proficiency, underdevelopment is the need for free trade and US intervention into their domestic affairs, a child’s loneliness is the need for Barbie dolls or Mickey Mouse stuffed toys, ugliness is the need for whitening products.

For so long, generations of IPs have been painfully excluded from enjoyment of the bounties within their ancestral territories which became protected areas, timberlands, national parks, government reservations, mines, or plantations of the oligarchy. Without letting up, the State has been trampling down IP rights for the sake of “national interest” translated into the interest of the ruling elite or oligarchy that dominates the political system. Because of drawn-out experiences of marginalization and underdevelopment, many IPs now view their abject state through the vision of their exploiters. So underdevelopment has become the need for an extractive industry even with its deleterious effects on their food security, culture and survival. There is nothing to see beyond the promised jobs and livelihood opportunities which have eluded them for long. They have come to accept that there are heavy costs to pay and sacrifices to make to be like the dominant groups.

The giving of FPIC’s to mining and other destructive industries is proof of the IP’s state of unenlightenment and internalized oppression. Consent to large-scale mining can never be free and informed. Communities especially indigenous ones whose culture has always championed intergenerational responsibility in resource management and who fully understand that mining deprives the future generations of resources loaned from them, will never agree to it. By giving their “FPIC,” they become unsuspecting co-conspirators in the bureaucratic process aimed at opening their natural wealth to limitless pillage by capitalist interests and their eventual dislocation from their cultural and economic base.

The recently-issued EO 726 putting the NCIP under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is, in the ultimate analysis, a premeditated move to subordinate IP rights to the Regalian Doctrine which is the latter’s raison d’etre. This is fairly obvious. Gloria Arroyo, principal author of the Mining Act of 1995, has began to sound like a destroyed compact disc with her oft-repeated declaration that mining will pave the road to national development, given that the economy is ailing. In areas where community opposition to mining is high, she put the military at the disposal of mining industries in the guise of counter-insurgency. Under the Investment Defense Force, the military has become the private army of what Romulo Neri called the “booty capitalists” who used the elections to gain policy favors and advantages from the political system. EO 726 should thus be viewed with suspicion and with suspicion comes vigilance.

The NCIP is put in a bind and its current position in the Arroyo administration might reduce it into a “fixer” to facilitate the obtainment of IP’s imprimatur to mining. But it needs to understand that its job is not to ensure FPIC; the pith and core of its existence is to protect IPs from abuse, and this means making sure that there is no “FPIC” to destructive, large-scale industries, for such “FPIC” is a weapon for auto-genocide. When NCIP issues no Certificate of Precondition to mining and other large-scale extractive industries, it becomes a measure of its zeal to pursue its mandate. It is a record that the Filipino nation can proudly announce to the international community. But when it signs 127 such certificates, it leaves a legacy of oppression –by the State, by itself and by the sector whose interest it should protect.

As the bureaucratic apparatus whose primary mandate is to protect IPs, NCIP has to break through the miserable state of unenlightenment that afflicts many IP communities. It should incorporate the construct of internalized oppression in implementing its mandate of advancing IP rights. But first, it must rise above its own internalized oppression. With that will come the courage and competence to throw its heavy weight nourished by IPRA and make the state rectify wrongs committed against the IPs. Otherwise it will metamorphose into a bureau to manage oligarchic interests in ancestral domains, if it is not so already.

Only when IPs conquer their internalized oppression can they be capable of giving FPIC. And only when NCIP conquers its internalized oppression can it liberate IPs from internalized oppression. The blind cannot lead the blind.

*Originally published by The Northern Dispatch


Today is the commemoration of National Heroes Day in the Philippines. I am reproducing my poem published by Bulatlat to honor Andres Bonifacio, Macliing Dulag, Marcelo del Pilar and other Filipinos -many unsung- who died for our freedom.


On this day, we remember the women and men
All too aware that death was their destiny certain
When in darkness and doom they scattered flames
A big number without faces, many without names
No pit of gloom too deep, no wall of might too high
Firm resolve knew no barrier- liberty was so nigh
Their blood was shed on the land cast in despair
They fell listening to small wings flapping in the air

It mattered not if the future would concede the cost
To brighten its direction, even their dreams were lost
They tore down all stones in the castle of oppression
Not one dream survived, none but their fiery vision
Of posterity marching outside the dungeons, so free
From the wickedness of brute power and tyranny
What, alone, counted –when our time would come
We would storm power chambers to rescue freedom

On this day, we remember their supreme sacrifice
The drops of their blood that for liberty was the price
There is nothing of meaning in those ceremonies
None in the accolades, none in the lavish wreaths
None in the costly fireworks, none in the cavalcades
We insult their martyrdom, we blaspheme their deaths
While we leisurely fold our arms as a tyrant reigns
While we snore as our freedom is shackled in chains

Truth sets us free, but we live in an ambience of lies
Evil is before us, but we are blind with open eyes
Truth is hoarded in our thoughts, whispered at night
Our world is plunged in darkness, desperate for light
The streets are now aimless, their voice stifled by fear
Our conscience murmurs low; we pretend not to hear
We are unworthy legatees of the heroes' sacrifice
Freedom is trampled down by the force of cowardice

Our mastered silence is our acquiescence to tyranny
Big onus we must accept for the requiem for liberty
But redemption is never late; from slumber we arise
With the valor of ghosts, we hoist truth, conquer lies
Like a mother guards her child, let us protect freedom
Our power as one nation honors the heroes' martyrdom
Not a moment we can waste; let truth precede our way
Until freedom returns with the unfussy light of day


(Statement of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers in the Philippines)
Reference: Atty Neri Javier-Colmenares (09178350459)
NUPL Secretary-General

Now it is very clear. The Solicitor General's motion informing the Supreme Court of the Arroyo government's decision not to sign the MOA with the MILF "due to changed circumstances" is one more proof that Pres. Gloria Arroyo only used the MOA as a means to launch her campaign for charter change. Now that Pres. Arroyo has skillfully shifted to federalism in justifying the opening up of the Constitution for amendments, she can officially withdraw from signing the MOA. From "MOA to achieve peace" Pres. Arroyo has now called for "federalism to achieve peace". Achieving peace, however, was never the aim of Pres. Arroyo. Her intention has been mainly to prolong her stay in power after 2010 by deleting in the Constitution that provision in Article VII, Section 4 that limits her to only one term.

But the cost of Pres. Arroyo's current adventurism is the breakout of war in Mindanao causing death and destruction in the region. Without condoning the abuses of MILF Commanders Umbra Kato and Abdulah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo, Pres. Arroyo is primarily accountable for the deaths of civilians in Mindanao for having triggered the ongoing conflict. The indiscriminate aerial and artillery bombings of villages by government forces pose as threats, at the very least, on the lives of civilians and constitutes a violation of Article 13 (2) of Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions that "civilian population shall not be the object of attack". Military objectives are limited by the Geneva Convention to "those which are by their nature, location or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction x x x offers a definite military advantage". Indiscriminate bombings of villages where MILF forces are possibly located cannot be clear military objectives. Since the AFP aerial and artillery bombings are indiscriminate it could cause death or injury on civilians who are forced to flee in fear.

Furthermore, the recent government action of arming civilians in barangays is not only an abdication of the government's duty to protect civilians, but will also open the civilians to attacks from well armed MILF forces. Arming civilians will take them out of the status of protected persons under international humanitarian law as specified in Article 13 of Protocol II of Geneva Conventions which states that: "Civilians shall enjoy the protection afforded by the (Conventions), unless and for such time as they take part in the hostilities.

The violations of international humanitarian law committed by the Arroyo government, however, does not justify the acts of atrocities committed by Commander Kato and Commander Bravo of the MILF. The killing of civilians and burning of villages are attacks on persons protected by the Geneva Conventions. Article 4 of Protocol II states that " persons who do not take a direct part in the hostilities x x x are entitled to respect for their person". Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions on the Protection of Civilians prohibit "violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture" of civilians. Commanders Kato and Bravo and others responsible for the violation of international humanitarian law must, therefore, be held accountable for their acts.

Now that Pres. Arroyo's objective, of using federalism as a means to take out constitutional restrictions to her term extension, is exposed, the battle against charter change must be fully engaged. Members of the legal profession must resist moves to amend the Constitution for the purpose of prolonging Pres. Arroyo in power. There will never be peace under Pres. Arroyo whose reign in office is marked by massive graft and corruption, human rights violations and electoral fraud. In fact, there will never be a federal government under Pres. Arroyo whose lust for power will in the end preempt any serious move to take away the powers of a powerful president in a unitary state. In the same way that she has withdrawn support for the MOA, Pres. Arroyo could withdraw support for federalism once she has achieved her aims. NUPL urges Sen. Aquilino Pimentel and other opposition senators to withdraw support for the Senate Resolution to amend the constitution to attain a federal state. The move of Rep. Rufus Rodriguez to withdraw his resolution calling for charter change is a good start and should be followed by all those who do not want to be used by Pres. Arroyo to perpetuate herself in power. We also call for an end to the ongoing hostilities between MILF forces and the AFP in Mindanao and the resumption of peace negotiations and the holding of all those who violated human rights and international humanitarian law to be held to account for their crimes.


By calling yourselves the 'people's lawyer,' you have made a remarkable choice. You decided not to remain in the sidelines. Where human rights are assaulted, you have chosen to sacrifice the comfort of the fence for the dangers of the battlefield. But only those who choose to fight on the battlefield live beyond irrelevance." Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, in his message to the NUPL Founding Congress,Sept. 15, 2007


In its August 4 issue, the Philippine Daily Inquirer published my letter criticizing The Queen for wearing a $3000 dollar dress while hordes of Filipinos queued up for a kilo of NFA rice. On that day, I was attending a human rights training in Nepal and could not read PDI. I only knew about the publication when I opened my mail this week and read a letter from Atty. James D. Lansang. He said to me:

Congrats on your pithy but seething Letter to the Editor published in the INQUIRER the other day. It was well-written and deservedly given prominence by the publisher. Am not sure if you are aware, but there were at least two (2) existing legal provisions which were brazenly disregarded/violated in the incident you adverted to, which, statutory mandates, sadly, are more honored in their breach than observance, to wit:

Art. 25, Civil Code:

“Thoughtless extravagance in expenses for pleasure or display during a period of acute public want or emergency may be stopped by order of the courts at the instance of the government or private charitable institutions.”

There is a similar legal standard mandated in a more recent legislation grandiosely known and referred to the “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees” (Rep. Act No. 6713), otherwise known as “The Saguisag Law,” which inter alia declares that:

"Simple Living. – Public officials and employees shall lead lives appropriate to their positions and income.. They shall not indulge in extravagant or ostentatious display of wealth in any form.”

So I surfed the net. Jane Abao reproduced my letter in The Philippines Forum. It elicited a somewhat heated discussion among its readers abroad and in this country. Some deviated from the issue. One alleged that Jane Abao (who was assumed by the reactor to be the letter writer) is suffering from inferiority complex and jealousy. One said I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder. I had fun reading the reactions, but at the same grew concerned that some people abroad who live in relative comfort could be so apathetic about what is happening here. It was also heartening to note that some overseas Filipinos are following the developments in their native land and are still very concerned with the prevailing situation. I also received via email reactions from various individuals.

Here are some of the unedited reactions published in The Philippines Forum:

RDT of Nottingham, MD: Inferiority Complex Jane is now jealous of GMA and Ruffa.

Go back 40 years before Marcos and the Philippines is the wealthiest Asian nation.

Accept it. The wealthy can afford the nicer things in life. The rest of the world just strives for tomorrow. That's life. Fair or not. Count ur blessings ur part of the wealthy and not worrying about tomorrow's meal.

Gloria Kawatan (Los Angeles, California): What blessing are you talking about while the rest of Filipino people are starving. Gloria Arroyo, Spend the taxespayer's money like water. She's wearing $3,000. Dollars worth of dress, Shame on her. Whats wrong with the dress she wear last year. She only wear it once! Oh, I forgot is not her money she spend on that dress but the taxespayer's money. How can she even slept at night knowing that most of filipino people are hungry while she spend the taxespayer's money on trips/dress among other things! What kind of a leader is she?! We don't need a leader who don't care about the Flipino people. We need a leader who do their job they suppose too. Not just to inrich themselves.

Oakland (San Francisco, California): Blessings to be breathing and eating 3 times a day for Filipinos.

Blessings for having Jane Abao calling the attention of the very unpopular President who wore $3,000.00 worth of dress. And to make them happy, she should have worn from the "ukay ukay" and use the money to feed the poor.

Definitely this topic would stir more controversies.

John Lee (Chicago, Illinois): We should go to next level, parang ang pakiramdam ko ay nasa isang cage tayong lahat at we are all screaming on top of our lungs at walang nakikiramdam.

Gloria Kawatan (Los Angeles, California): What next level are you talking about. The poor people can't even get out from the first level of hunger! I'll say, Kick the FAKE PRESIDENT OF CEBU GLORIA ARROYO, BECAUSE SHE'S THE PROBLEM. SHE DIDN'T STEAL HER TITLE TWICE FOR NOTHING.

Me: I was the one who wrote that letter to the Inquirer denouncing GMA for rubbing salt on the raw wound of a bleeding nation. RDT, when I wrote that letter, I was not driven by inferiority complex. I was just asking the unelected President to be sensitive to the situation of her people. The Philippine Civil Code itself provides that living an ostentatious lifestyle amidst a crisis is a ground for moral damages. Fortunately for GMA, she enjoys presidential immunity (assuming she was legitimately elected). Her wearing that dress demonstrates her utter lack of concern for the welfare of her people. She has worsened the situation of the poor. Must she add insult to the injury?

RDT, take note that in the Philippines, poverty is not a choice. It is an imposition. It is callous for anyone to say that it is fair that "some have, some have not" in this country where wealth is controlled by a few, and always at the expense of the masses.

Working Girl from Brooklyn (Bethpage, New York):
Ms. Daytec, My niece just got married and she wore a $4,500 Vera Wang wedding dress. And her father-my brother- is not even a rich man. He's an average earning physician. And this is a typical price for a higher-than-average wedding. And here we are talking about the president of the republic. Come on, let's be fair. I do not want my president to look "losyang".

Where you trying to create a dramatic effect when you said poverty in the Philippines is an imposition?

I was in a conference in Seattle last month and I had a chance to have dinner with some Filipino attendees. As we talk about the situation in the Philippines, one said that Philippines is a nation of "borderlines". He was referring to a serious condition called Borderline Personality Disorder. Its first diagnostic criteria is "a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationship characterized by alternating between the extremes of overidealization and devaluation". Simply stated, that person doesn't see gray area. It's either black or white, and in your case Arroyo will be totally bad forever. Until...("hi, cheryll. would you like to be my sss commissioner?")

If she committed a crime, then a lawyer that you are, should bring charges against her. Otherwise, it's all empty noise.

And BTW, BPD is a lot more difficult to treat than Inferiority Complex.

ChaCha (Manila, Philippines): Let's not argue whether it's appropriate or not for the president to wear an expensive dress like that. But does she have to boast in front of national press about the price of that dress? Isnt that insensitive?

Lapaz (San Francisco, CA): What I know is that Arroyo bragged about the dress as all materials came from local products. As economist, she has the ulterior motive of mass producing those materials that would ultimately help produce jobs and income for the local people.

The good news, she paid for this dress and not given for free.

Poverty is all over the world. To sensationalize poverty in PI that no President can wear expensive dress is ridiculuous. She was in the right occasion and everybody wore the best. For her to be different - wearing something from "ukay-Ukay" surely would had made her the laughing stock from those people who were against her wearing that expensive gown. Whatever GMA will do, she will never please everybody. As a president, popularity is not important, but making a tough decision that would not please everybody, but ultimately would bring positive results.

Some people in PI imposed on themselves to be poor. So many poor families have 6 or more children that they could not afford to sustain. Definitely not GMA imposed poverty to the Filipino people. She inhererited the economy crisis from the past presidents. That was the prediction that whoever will be the next President after Marcos would have a hard time. Aquino was not able to improve the economy; Ramos was able to stabilize the situation as there was no rally during his time; then followed by the ex felon Joseph Estrada. GMA would have a hard time eliminating corruption as almost everybody in her cabinet are corrupt, and now the Court of Appeals, who are supposed to protect the people; how about the Congress - they're all not doing their jobs to legislate bills that would help improve the lives of the poor.

So GMA is not only the root of evil but even you, ordinary citizen of PI. Try to question yourself too - how you can help even one hungry person. Instead of finger pointing, try doing your civic duty to help somebody from time to time. The good deeds you will do for your fellow men for sure -God will reward you.

Working Girl of Brooklyn (Bethpage, NY): Very sensible. Looks like a brain-drain of sensibly thinking men from PI to SF.

ChaCha (Manila, Philippines): Lol! We were talking about the dress and the taste with which it was shamelessly bragged about, then you came out screaming and smoking about corruption and poverty finger pointing at Marcos, Aquino, Ramos, Erap, Congress, Courts, and just about everybody except your idol Gloria, LOL!

You even ridiculed the lifestyle of the poor and the Filipinos in general, and said the everybody in her cabinet is corrupt except her?! LOL!

Funny but all the officials who have been involved in corruption were promoted, defended, and protected by GMA, the anti-corruptor, while the whistle-blowers are persecuted, and those who resisted corruption were removed from office by anti-corruption GMA.

Sorry I got distracted. Going back to the topic.

Expensive is expensive and bragging is bragging no matter what the materials are made of or where they came from. Wearing such expensive dress would have been fine and could not have been noticed if only she would have been not so shamelessly boastful bragging about its price in the midst of a serious crisis. Can you imagine watching the news depicting the sufferings of Filipinos from poor economic conditions and disasters, then all of a sudden a smiling Gloria brags about her expensive dress? Cant you get the picture?

Working Girl Of Brooklyn (Bethpage, NY): ChaCha must be another one of those multiple aliases. When someone overly emphasizes ethics, be watchful. You're talking to a socipathic mind.

Indeed, it's a nation of "borderlines".

ChaCha (Manila, Philippines): Let's stick with the issue and not the posters who discuss about the issue.

Wearing expensive dress is fine but to boast about the price in the face of the sufferings is shameless.

Working Girl of Brooklyn (Bethpage, NY): If the posters use too many aliases to make it appear that there are many who shares his ideas, then I have the right to question the integrity of the person I'm responding to. That's fair game. Don't set one-sided rules.

ChaCha (Manila, Philippines):Stick to the issue, not the poster about the issue. If you want, you can create a thread about multi-alias posters and criticize them there. Not here and not me.

Cheryl L. Daytec-Yangot, PDI via e-mail said: "The cost of her dress (P140,000.00) is nowhere near what most poor families make in a year!"

I say:

What?? That price is nowhere near what most families in an entire neighborhood combined wear in 5 years!

See? The issue became controversial because there was a boastful mention of the price. If Gloria wants to look good (perhaps she feels she doesnt look that good), she can wear an expensive dress, it may cost a million dollars for all i care, but she doesnt have to brag!(Hoy mga mare ko, tingnan niyo tong bago kong damit ohhh, made in the Philippine tohhhh, mura lang, ONE HUNDRED FORTY THOUSAND LANG!!!!) lol.

What can you say about my opinion that wearing expensive dress for GMA is fine, but not the bragging?

Lapaz (San Francisco, California): Thank you. You're getting emotional, better loosen up as your contradicting your concerns.

Me:To Working Girl of Brooklyn: I think I made it clear in my earlier post that you cannot sue a sitting President.(Hey, I am curious as to how you knew I am a lawyer. I hope it is not from GMA and her fans clubs' "intelligence" reports.)

You are a working girl from Brooklyn? Good for you. Here in the Philippines, many people cannot find jobs. The economic environment simply does not foster employment.That is why I say that poverty is an imposition. This imposition is responsible for the diaspora. I mean a lot of people leave the Philippines because they cannot find economic opportunities here. If there were, why leave the country? Of course, there are other reasons why people opt to settle or work abroad, but most do it in search for greener pastures. Probably, you are not one of the "most."

To Lapaz: Yes, the President wore the dress to campaign for land conversion. Virtually, her message was: "Convert those ricefields into pineapple plantations so we can harvest fibers to be made into expensive dresses like this one I am wearing." Land conversion is one culprit for the food shortage we are suffering from today. Is it sound to talk about land conversion when people are hungry? What should we produce first: staple for domestic consumption or produce for exports?

I do not know if GMA paid for the dress. I would feel less bad if it was a donation. I do not like to think of the head of state (elected or not) buying expensive dresses in times of want. And that dress is expensive, at least in the Philippines, where many families do not even earn $3000 dollars a year. The law demands that government officials observe austerity in their lifestyles. And whether or not a lifestyle is austere must be judged according to Philippine standards.

To ChaCha: I agree that GMA could wear an expensive dress but she did not have to announce its price. At least, not at a time of crisis.

So, there. What do you say? I stand to be corrected by ChaCha. He/She says that I was wrong when I said that $3000 is nowhere near what most Filipino families make in a year because that amount is nowhere near what most Filipino families in one block make in five years!