Rep. Nancy Alaan Catamco: Championing their First Provincial IP Congress
- Kat Sebastian () - June 26, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Before there were skyscrapers in the Metro, before there was knowledge about the modernization in other countries, and before there was influence from other cultures, the indigenous peoples (IPs) were the definition of civilization in our country. It is said that if you truly want to get to know a country’s culture, the way to do this is to get to know the IPs and learn from them. Modern cities have very little sense of history, culture and true identity due to the various influences that have infiltrated the country. And to keep moving forward, first, we have to know who we are so we can leverage on our strengths and succeed in future endeavors.

In the Philippines, there are a lot of indigenous ethnic groups who are descendants of the original in- habitants of the country. They are the ones who were able to resist the influences of the Japanese, Spanish and Americans and maintain their own traditions.

Nancy Alaan Catamco, from Bagobo–Manobo tribe from Mind- anao, is now a congresswoman who has vowed to do everything in her power to put forward the interest of Filipino IPs. She is the duly elected representative of the 2nd district of North Cotabato and is very new to the world of politics. A graduate of the Ateneo de Davao University, she was able to hone her skills in debating and public speaking and at the same time pursue her pas- sion for literature. She then became one of the most successful entrepre- neurs in North Cotabato as she ven- tured in both provincial and city business deals such as cable tele- vision operation, agriculture, real estate development, paint manu- facturing and importation and dis- tribution. She was already happy with what she had achieved in the private sector but persistent calls from her constituents convinced her to join the political race. During her campaign, almost 40,000 resi- dents from different municipalities in the 2nd district rallied their sup- port for her to be their representa- tive in congress.

Advocating a better future for the IP youth

Rep. Catamco attributes her suc- cess to her strong determination to provide a good life for her family. At the young age of 42, and barely one year into her term, she has al- ready shown her commitment to her position by authoring 11 bills, two resolutions and co-authoring 46 other house bills. A few of her priority pieces of legislation are: creation of a Central Mindanao campus of the Philippine Science High School; conversion of the University of Southern Mindanao Kidapawan City Campus - Col- lege of Industry and Technology in the City of Kidapawan into a state college; establishment of an indig- enous training center in the city of Kidapawan, North Cotabato; and mandating the inclusion of indig- enous culture education in the cur- ricula of schools in all levels in the country.

Aside from these priorities, Rep. Catamco has also kept her prom- ise of giving attention to the IPs by pushing for actual implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Reform Act (IPRA) for the mandatory mem- bership of IP representatives in all local legislative bodies. To make this possible, Rep. Catamco urges the government agencies such as the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Na- tional Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to make the neces- sary issuances. DILG has already responded by issuing a memoran- dum circular addressed to all LGU heads to comply with the IPRA. There is also a supplement to the 2009 implementation of the manda- tory representation of IPs provision being crafted. It will hopefully be ready by the next month.

Her biggest project yet, of course also has something to do with the IPs – the first ever North Cotabato Indigenous Peoples’ Congress held on June 18-19. This was the biggest IP event organized in North Co- tabato with attendees of over 5,000 members and leaders of indigenous communities in the province. Be- ing a passionate advocate and a member of the Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs) in her district, Rep. Catamco aims to promote the welfare, development and em- powerment of indigenous peoples.

Through this congress, Rep. Catam- co hopes that this will be a step for- ward so that the IPRA will be taken seriously and will also be imple- mented soon. Rep. Catamco cites the law, “ICCs shall have the right to select, in accordance with their customs and traditions, a repre- sentative who shall be entitled to a seat in their respective local legisla- tive councils (sanggunians) from the barangay up to the provincial level and shall be entitled to the same rights and privileges as regularly elected council members.”

The very successful two-day event, which was made possible in partnership with the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) and the Energy Develop- ment Corporation (EDC), began with a Cultural Night were IPs from all municipalities in the prov- ince showcased their dances and music while donning their colorful traditional clothing and accessories. “It is very overwhelming to see all of our IP brothers and sisters united and gathered in one place to cele- brate their unique identities,” said Rep. Catamco.

IP Congress participants

The substantive portion of the Provincial IP Congress was held on the second day, June 19. Getting down to business, leaders involved in issues relating to IPs in the Phil- ippines sat down in a panel discus- sion before all attendees to the con- gress to discuss the specific issue of mandatory representation. House committee on National Cultural Communities chair Rep. Teddy Baguilat, vice chair Rep. Catamco and member, Rep. Kaka Bag-ao led the legislators’ delegation to- gether with IP advocates Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, Dep. Speaker Erin Tañada, Rep. Jesus Sacdalan and Rep. Teddy Casiño. Commis- sioners from the NCIP likewise sat on the panel. After brief messages were delivered by the panelists, at- tendees from both the tribal leader- ship and the LGUs fired away their questions to the panelists, who, with much credibility, answered each one. Essentially, the manda- tory, rather than discretionary or optional nature of IP representa- tion in local legislative bodies was the center of the discussion. It was made clear that, as mandated in the IPRA, all LGUs must comply with the same. Rep. Catamco expressed her deep gratitude to her fellow leg- islators who have taken time from their busy schedule to come over to North Cotabato to take part in the congress, in spite of the inclement weather on that day.

The highlight of day two of the congress was the signing of the manifesto covenant between the IP communities and the respective heads of the LGUs in North Co- tabato wherein each side vowed to uphold the provisions of the IPRA including the provision on manda- tory representation.

Adoption of DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo as Datu Makauyag meaning “hope-giver”

The congress also commended DILG secretary Jesse Robredo, for his outstanding contribution to the IP community by his formal adoption as an honorary datu of the Dapan clan of the Bagobo- Manobo tribe and welcoming him into the IP community. After the adoption ceremony, attendees both from the IPs, from LGUs and even members of the media were given the opportunity to directly pose their questions to the DILG secretary in an open forum. In conclusion of the forum, the DILG pledged his support to the cause of IPs in the country and vowed to use everything in the Department’s resources and power in order to make certain that the IPRA provision on mandatory representation will be fully implemented.

Seemingly tireless, Rep. Catamco convened and hosted yet another first in North Cotabato. On June 20, an education summit was held in the City of Kidapawan in partnership with Synergeia Foundation, Inc., an organization that aims to improve the quality of basic education in collaboration with local governments, the DepEd, parents and the private sector. The education summit, which was conducted for the purpose of assessing the current situation of the educational systems in the City of Kidapawan and Municipality of Makilala, was attended by over 700 stakeholders including the school officials, DepEd officials, teachers, parents, and the heads of the LGUs of Kidapawan and Makilala. Synergeia’s Dr. Milwilda Guevara personally attended

the summit along with DILG secretary Robredo who is a member of the Board of Trustees of Synergeia. Rep. Catamco emphasized that with the success of the education summit, the LGUs of Kidapawan City and Makilala, in collaboration with the stakeholders themselves and with the assistance of Synergeia, will hopefully be able to implement systemic programs that will improve the processes, systems and structures of learning and teaching.

From being a political novice with no political family ties, Rep. Catamco won her votes through hard work and dedication in meeting with her constituents. She makes sure that her North Cotabato constituents see her regularly by visiting several barangays and consistently attending community gatherings. She says that her commitment to her position is

much like her dedication to her two sons and the future generation. Rep. Catamco, aside from her roles in the community, is also a hands-on mother to 11-year- old Patrick Nikolai and 12-year- old Nathaniel Philippe. Rep. Catamco will continue to serve the North Cotabateños with her other proposed bills to establish the Philippine High School in North Cotabato (HB02818), the creation of the North Cotabato State Polytechnic College (HB03463), and the establishment of an Indigenous Training Center (HB03455), with the aim of improving the lives of indigenous peoples of North Cotabato. To think that Rep Catamco has just began her public service.

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