BAGUIO CITY – Indigenous peoples of the Cordillera region slammed the Commission of Elections for disqualifying a tribal party list from participating in the 2016 elections.

In a show of indignation, members of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance staged a protest demonstration in front of the Comelec Cordillera offices here last Wednesday, condemning the disqualification of Sulong Katribu, a tribal group composed of major cultural communities in the country.

“It is a clear act of national oppression,” Abigail Bengwayan Anongos, CPA secretary-general said, referring to the en banc
resolution of the poll body last September 15 denying the party list registration and accreditation of the tribal group for not complying with the requirements including documentation under Comelec Resolution 9366.

Anongos explained that national oppression is the systematic and outright denial of indigenous peoples’ right of self-determination by the state instruments like the Supreme Court and the Comelec, and the
ruling classes.

“The Cordillera Peoples Alliance, along with the rest of indigenous peoples across the country, condemn this injustice,” Anongos said.“The SC and Comelec decision is unacceptable. It is an act that further marginalizes indigenous peoples.”

Anongos claimed that the disqualification has deprived historically marginalized and neglected indigenous communities the opportunity of being genuinely represented in Congress by genuine indigenous peoples
who could formulate national policies that will, she
said, truly uphold their interest.

She added that the track record of Sulong Katribu’s nominees, especially the organizations that established Sulong Katribu, are
exemplary in genuinely upholding indigenous peoples ancestral land rights and the inherent, inalienable right to self-determination.

“We criticize the SC and Comelec for making another decision in the interest of the ruling few,” Anongos said even as she pointed out that Sulong Katribu has complied with all the requirements and procedures.

“They should have allowed Sulong Katribu to participate in the elections and it will be up to the people to decide, instead of the
very few seven and 14 individuals in Comelec and SC who decided to disqualify Sulong Katribu,” the young Igorot leader said.

“The SC and Comelec (have become) instruments of uselessness, tools that further marginalize indigenous peoples. They are a court and a commission on elections in favor of the ruling few,” Anongos said.

“They have no intention of creating an enabling environment for genuine party lists to vie in electoral campaign, no matter how uneven the playing field, knowing that guns, goons and gold rule the electoral system in the Philippines,” she further said.

“But while Sulong Katribu’s disqualification pains indigenous peoples across the country, we will not be weary and disillusioned,” Anongops said.

“This only means for us to exert more effort in the forms we deem just to defend our ancestral lands, the well-spring of our identity,” she said.“Until our right to self-determination is recognized, the struggle
will not end!”

Last month, lawyers of the National Union of People’s Lawyers filed a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court to allow Sulong Katribu to run in this year’s election and declare as null and void the decision of the poll body banning it from taking part in the electoral process.

The tribal group, which the Comelec deemed was not nationwide in scope, failed to obtain a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court. THOM F. PICANA/