NCIP's Jurisdiction

The NCIP does not have jurisdiction over all claims and disputes involving rights of ICCs/IPs to the exclusion of the regular courts. (G.R. No. 193964, December 02, 2015)

We first dispose of the primordial question on the nature and scope of the NCIP's jurisdiction as provided in the IPRA. Specifically, the definitive issue herein boils down to whether the NCIP's jurisdiction is limited to cases where both parties are ICCs/IPs or primary and concurrent with regular courts, and/or original and exclusive, to the exclusion of the regular courts, on all matters involving rights of ICCs/IPs.

We are thus impelled to discuss jurisdiction and the different classes thereof. Jurisdiction is the power and authority, conferred by the Constitution and by statute, to hear and decide a case. The authority to decide a cause at all is what makes up jurisdiction.
Section 66 of the IPRA, the law conferring jurisdiction on the NCIP, reads: Sec. 66. Jurisdiction of the NCIP. - The NCIP, through its regional offices, shall have jurisdiction over all claims and disputes involving rights of ICCs/IPs: Provided, however, That no such dispute shall be brought to the NCIP unless the parties have exhausted all remedies provided under their customary laws. For this purpose, a certification shall be issued by the Council of Elders/Leaders who participated in the attempt to settle the dispute that the same has not been resolved, which certification shall be a condition precedent to the filing of a petition with the NCIP.

The conferment of such jurisdiction is consistent with state policy averred in the IPRA which recognizes and promotes all the rights of ICCs/IPs within the framework of the constitution. Such is likewise reflected in the mandate of the NCIP to "protect and promote the interest and wellbeing of the ICCs/IPs with due regard to their beliefs, customs, traditions and[,] institutions".

Thus, despite the language that the NCIP shall have jurisdiction over all claims and disputes involving rights of ICCs/IPs, we cannot be confined to that first alone and therefrom deduce primary sole NCIP jurisdiction over all ICCs/IPs claims and disputes to the exclusion of the regular courts. If it were the intention of the legislative that: (1) the NCIP exercise primary jurisdiction over, and/or (2) the regular courts be excluded from taking cognizance of, claims and disputes involving rights of ICCs/IPs, the legislature could have easily done so as in other instances conferring primary, and original and exclusive jurisdiction to a specific administrative body. We will revert to this point shortly but find it pertinent to first discuss the classes of jurisdiction.

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