Dipolog city gov't defies NCIP, demolishes Subanens' houses

ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, Philippines – Workers from the city government of Dipolog came to Barangay Sta Isabel mid-morning Monday, July 13, and started destroying the shanties of indigenous families called the Subanens, despite a national commisison's order against an eviction.

The Subanens showed a copy of the resolution issued by the Regional Hearing Office IX of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) ordering the city government not to demolish any house or building of the IPs.

The demanded that Gaudencio Bagolboc, chief engineer of the Office of the Building Official (OBO), show any document that supersedes the NCIP resolution. 

Bagolboc said he had none. He insisted, however, that he had a written order for the demolition signed by City Legal Officer Arvin Bonbon, who “unfortunately went on an official travel to Manila.”

The building official said a building for the Department of Social Welfare and Development will be built in the area, indicating that the city government was bent on displacing the Subanens despite the NCIP resolution.

“Wala ko kabalo nga bungkagon among balay, wala ko kabalo asa mi paingon, wala nay paulian akong pito ka anak nga nangiskuwela, 42-year-old Dioscora Rubia, a Subanen mother of 8, told Rappler.

(I did not know that they would demolish our house, I don’t know where we are going. My 7 other children who are now in school will no longer see our home when they come for lunch.)

Teary eyed Rubia, who was holding the hand of her 3-year-old son, said she was not aware that a demolition would be carried, so she hurried to save belongings.

When demolition team was about to destroy the next house, agitated Subanens blocked the government demolition team.

Seeing his team retreating, Bagolboc asked for police reinforcement. Bagolboc said he wanted the police to drive the Subanens away so they could proceed with the demolition.

However, Police Inspector Ronald Allan Tingas they could only back up the demolition team in case the Subanens resorted to violence. “Hindi kami puwede ma-una d'yan. Kun may mga baril o itak 'yan, pwede na naming sugurin,” Tingas said. (We cannot strike first. We can only take action if they bring out guns or bolos.)

A Subanen shows a resolution issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples directing the city government of Dipolog not to demolish the IP's houses. Photo by Gualberto Laput/Rappler

A Subanen shows a resolution issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples directing the city government of Dipolog not to demolish the IP's houses.

Photo by Gualberto Laput/Rappler

The OBO chief said “we had a meeting last Friday (July 10) with Attorney Bonbon and other city officials to carry out the demolition today, but I’m surprised he did not appear here today.”

NCIP Resolution dated March 15, 2013, and signed by Sulipicio Gamosa Jr, Regional Hearing Officer for Region VI and VII based in Iloilo City and pairing Regional Hearing Officer for Region IX based in Pagadian City, said the city mayor and other local government officials “are hereby ordered to cease and desist from demolishing any house or building of the Subanens in the area.”

The resolution was in response to a complaint filed by Datu Rogelio Gumanas, leader of the Subanens in Barangay Sta Isabel, more than a decade ago. Then-Mayor Evelyn Uy ordered for the demolition of Gumanas’ house and several other Subanens' to give way to the construction of the Dipolog City Police Station building.

On May 28, 2004, NCIP Regional Hearing Officer (RHOr) Josefino Bael issued a permanent preliminary injunction against the demolition.

Four year later, NCIP passed a resolution to determine “just compensation” for the Subanens. However, the city government did not do anything. As the city officials abandoned interest in expropriating the place that is also claimed ancestral domain of the Subanens, NCIP was compelled to drop the “just compensation” issue.

“However, the permanent injunction issued by then RHOr Josefino Bael remains,” Gamosa said in his resolution. He added that the government cannot build another building or structure in the area while the Subanens cannot take over government buildings and structures already built in the area.

Last year, the NCIP and the Department of the Interior and Local Government held a dialogue with the Subanens of Barangay Sta Isabel, but the mayor snubbed the event.

As of now, only 62 Subanen houses in remain in Barangay Sta Isabel from almost 200 households a decade ago. – Rappler.com