In Search of Indigenous People Consent Exploring the Free and Prior Consent Discourse

From Iskomunidad

M.A. Political Science (October 2012)
Maileentta A. Peñalba


The recognition of the indigenous peoples' (IPs) right to participate in decision-making embodied in the principle of free and prior informed consent (FPIC) is guaranteed under various international and national laws in place today. The concept of FPIC, however, is very complex and ambiguous that some scholars say it is very hard to implement faithfully. The failure of the process of securing FPIC in many IP communities around the world is usually attributed to this. This study offers a critical discourse analysis of FPIC with the primary aim of explicating the dominant discourse sets that are produced, consumed and reproduced in the actual practice of FPIC in Philippine indigenous communities. It takes off from the legal formulation of FPIC as free and prior informed consent, as stipulated in Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act (IPRA). FPIC, in principle, gives the IPs who have been historically marginalized an oppurtunity to become actively involved in the process of decision-making. In the process, of FPIC, IPs are supposed to be directly asked to approve or disapprove activities that will be implemented within their ancestral domain. The study focuses on the Cordillera Administrative Region, in general, and Ampucao, Itogon in Benguet, in particular. It describes and analyzes the IPs' interpretation of FPIC in these specific communities. It also presents the current 'social practice' on FPIC in the Philippines which shapes how the state and the IPs construct their respective accounts of the concept and construe the advantages and disadvantages they may derive from its application. The key findings of the study highlight three dominant discourses on FPIC namely, 1) FPIC as fundamental right of the IPs; 2) FPIC as tool or instrument for IPs' self-governance and empowerment; 3) FPIC as 'bureaucratic' requisite or requirement. An emerging discourse is also revealed, that is FPIC as a democratic practice. This emerging discourse is further explored within the framework of deliberative democracy with the hope of exposing how the process of seeking FPIC can become a genuine exercise of IP's self-determination.