Manila, June 10 – Zenaida Brigida Hamada-Pawid, a Cordilleran and a staunch advocate of Indigenous People’s (IP) rights and current National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Commissioner representing the Cordilleras, on Tuesday took her oath of office as the new Chairperson of the Commission administered by Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles in a ceremony held at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) headquarters in Ortigas, Pasig City.
Present to witness the ceremony included relatives such as former communications director and chief peace negotiator Yong Afable; fellow NCIP Commissioners Dionisia Banua, Percy Brawner, and Conchita Calzado, Executive Director Basilio Wandag; and Viel Aquino-Dee, staunch IP advocate and sister of President Benigno Aquino III, among others.
Pawid, who is fondly called “Manang Briggs” by friends and fellow advocates, was first appointed as NCIP Commissioner in November last year. Her appointment was one of the first to be made by the President in the re-organization of the NCIP that became beleaguered with complaints from IP communities for allegedly facilitating entry of mining companies in ancestral domain areas over the communities’ protests.
A former member of the Cordillera People’s Forum (CPF), Pawid actively participated in the consensus building processes on the Social Reform Agenda that led to the crafting and passage of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA), the law that created the NCIP as an independent agency that will formulate and implement plans and programs to promote and protect the rights and well-being of IP communities and recognize their ancestral domain as well as their rights.
Also known as a peace advocate, Pawid became a member of the government peace panel negotiating with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines during the Ramos administration. And in 2005, she was one of the 27 Filipinas nominated for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize along with 1,000 women from different parts of the world.
Learning from Manang Briggs
Deles, who had worked with Pawid as civil society advocates in the early years, said that she felt “awed” by the occasion of administering the oath to someone who taught her about ancestral domain.
The peace adviser who also acts as the cabinet oversight official on the NCIP, recounted days when she studied and understood ancestral land issues with Pawid. They would trek the mountains and sit at the table after meals to talk lengthily about IP issues.
“There was constant learning, not only conceptual learning but the stories of the people who in this difficult terrain have made a home, have made a monument of these rice terraces. It was awesome for me as a lowlander to realize that there were in fact parts of the Philippines that have memory of what we were before the colonizers came,” she narrated.
In a message delivered after the simple oath-taking ceremony, the new Chair declared that one of the first things that NCIP will pursue is a legal audit of all the cases filed against the agency in relation to IPRA, as well as address the issues on CADTs or Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles.
“Over and above everything else, we’ll seriously look at the CADT as the beginning of resource ownership management. That, perhaps, is the biggest problem of the NCIP,” she stated, adding that there are IPs who hold CADTs and CALTs (Certificate of Ancestral Land Titles) over their ancestral lands but it is other people who continue to benefit from these.
Pawid also said that they will try to lay a firm foundation for the NCIP by setting up a “truly credible and responsible database for IPs with the interpretation and analysis of all the data,” and by building a human resource pool in the NCIP.
The agency, she declared, will work on helping manage conflict that has erupted in IP areas especially since these have been frequent battlefields of government and New People’s Army (NPA) forces. “Because of this, the IPs are tagged as “communists not as communalists.”
Deles, congratulating Pawid, stated that part of NCIP’s responsibility is “to make sure that everyone will know what the IPRA law is all about.”
“I know it will be hard work. There are so many things that need to be done. This is the moment she (Pawid) has been called for and I can only give her the trust and confidence that she will be able to live up to the responsibility,” she stated. “I believe that she will be able to deliver that at the end of her term, the next chair will not have to pick up the pieces.”
Viel Aquino- Dee in a short message delivered before the oath-taking likewise expressed her optimism that Pawid can deal with the challenges NCIP has been faced with. “Knowing how huge the concerns are in the NCIP, I know that Manang Briggs can overcome the hurdles.”
Pawid’s appointment as NCIP Chairperson was made to replace Atty. Roque Agton Jr. who was appointed in the said position by the previous administration. Atty Agton will still remain in NCIP and continue as Commissioner for Southern and Eastern Mindanao until his term expires.
According to law, the Chairperson of NCIP is appointed by the President from among the commissioners.#