Karapatan protests the appointment of former colonel Allen Capuyan as NCIP Chair

On May 27, 2019, former colonel Allen Capuyan was appointed as the Chairperson of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). He has been primarily involved in intelligence work, serving as Intelligence Service Unit chief in Davao from 1997 to 2000 and chief of operations of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) thereafter. In March 2019, Capuyan was likewise named as executive director of the National Secretariat of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF).

“The appointment of Capuyan will add to the more than 60 former police and military officials in Duterte’s Cabinet. The likes of Capuyan revel in the tradition of militarism and warmongering. He will operate NCIP as if it were still an intelligence-gathering unit – weaponizing the agency’s people and resources to co-opt, harass, displace, destroy, and deny indigenous communities of their right to development and self-determination. The NCIP has likewise never been the bastion for indigenous rights, but having Capuyan at its helm will completely steer the agency off course, at the expense of indigenous communities and in the interest of military operations and economic plunder,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

Palabay emphasized that the continued appointment of former military and police officials is in keeping with the Duterte government’s ‘whole-of-nation’ approach, implemented alongside counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan.

“Public office has not been only capitalized for private gain, but also for military operations. This is blurring the lines between civilian and military functions and serves only to normalize an emerging dictatorship masked in a different, indirect form. Appointments like this must not slip public scrutiny as this is indicative of the executive’s use of its powers to blatantly install an undemocratic and militarist government,” explained Palabay.  

Palabay raised that indigenous communities are already facing worsening attacks. The Save our Schools Network reported that on May 27-29, 2019, elements of the 67th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) encamped in civilian houses in Brgy. Mahan-ub and Brgy. Binondo, Baganga, Davao Oriental. Furthermore, teachers  from the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc. (MISFI) alleged that parents were being coerced and threatened to discourage the enrollment of their children in the said community school. The parents were further blackmailed of forfeiture from their 4Ps enrollment if their children will continue to study in MISFI.

“This kind of situation will be aggravated by Capuyan. He will support and exacerbate militarization in communities, attacks against indigenous schools and leaders, and red-tagging of indigenous organizations,” Palabay cautioned.

The Karapatan official also noted that Capuyan’s record has been plagued with irregularities. Particularly during the Duterte government, Capuyan’s name was tagged as among those involved in the smuggling of Php 6.4 billion worth of drugs into the country in May 2017, allegedly providing tariff codes to smugglers that enabled the latter to skip thorough inspection. Capuyan, who was then an official of the Manila International Airport Authority, resigned his post in March 2018. A month later, Duterte named Capuyan as the presidential adviser for indigenous people’s concerns under the Office of the President on April 18, 2018.

“Capuyan has powerful backers in the government’s top echelon, shielding him from accountability. Back during former Gloria Arroyo’s administration, he was allegedly involved in the wiretapping of those considered GMA’s opposition. This is again a manifestation of the ongoing militarization of the bureaucracy – an insidious pretext of a looming dictatorship,” Palabay concluded.