Baguio City Council has passed a resolution calling on National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Commissioner Gaspar Cayat to refrain from linking any individual or group, particularly those from the Indigenous Peoples (IP) communities, to terrorism or insurgency. The council resolution further urged Cayat to “exercise caution” in his language and public statements so as not to equate dissent with terrorism.

Cayat was also urged to instead look into the grievances of the IP communities and provide them proper and adequate assistance. The resolution stemmed from a forum during the city council’s regular session last April 17 where Cayat was asked to explain his statement during the launching of the NCIP Epanaw Coffee Table Books at SM Baguio on March 21, 2021. During the said public
event, Cayat was quoted as saying: “…I want to caution or refrain you, ladies and gentlemen, that these words, Igorot, Lumad, and Tumandok, are the very words used by the CPP-NPA-NDF or the
communist terrorist groups.”

During the council session last April 17, Councilor Arthur Allad-iw said Cayat’s statement is “worrisome” as it is a form of red-tagging. Councilor Jose Molintas said declaring an organization a communist terrorist group is a “judicial pronouncement” and that the NCIP is not authorized to “brand” people as communists or terrorists. The office should instead focus on its mandate which is
to protect and promote the interest and well-being of the IPs in the country, Molintas added.

Cayat said he did not mean to red-tag Cordillerans. He claimed he was only denouncing certain groups who intend to exploit the IPs for “political intentions.” “Igorot, in its present use, refers to people from the mountains. But for some people, this term refers to natives who are co-opted or used by some ideological groups in order to agitate, arose [sic], mobilize, and organize against the
government,” Cayat explained during the council forum. “Likewise, the Tumandok in Visayas.

This term refers to the natives of the Visayan island and the warriors who can rise against the government [due to] the alleged prodding by some progressive groups who are identified with the left,” he continued. The NCIP official explained that his statement regarding the term Igorot during the public event was brought up in light of the discussion about Commission En Banc No. 08-009-
2021, Series of 2021 which condemns and denounces the use of the term “Lumad’ to refer to the ICC/IP groups, particularly the ICC/IPs of Mindanao.

Although admitting that his statement does not represent the positions of the NCIP, he claimed that it is the mandate of their office to “fix these terminologies so that our identity will not be used or co-opted by interest groups.” Meanwhile, Allad-iw also pointed out that the word “Igorot” was used by lowlanders even prior to the Spanish colonization to refer to people from the mountains. He was addressing the earlier claim of Cayat that the word was used by Spaniards to describe the
natives as “savage, backward, and uncivilized people.”

SP/Jordan G. Habbiling

Amianan Balita Ngayon