Egalitarian | When at the Indigenous Peoples Summit

The venue is full of colorful dresses with designs I have quite seen for a long time. The event is a convergence of Indigenous Peoples from the island of Mindanao. For all its worth, it is priming up and making a convergent call of the welfare, concerns, and expressions of the various Indigenous cultural communities and peoples. The gym is packed with estimated thousands of participants coming from the different regions. Here I see a familiar face, my good friend Datu Amarillo Marcelo, Alejo Jr. of the United Lumads of Mindanao for Peace and Development.

From June 25 to 27, the Lumads will discuss issues that affect their culture, their lives, their tradition, their very safety in their villages, the response, and treatment of the various agencies of their leaders and elders. This first Indigenous Peoples Mindanao Cluster Convergence hosted in Cagayan de Oro is a component activity to bring together the Indigenous Peoples through the initiative of the Office of the Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco. Other partner agencies include National Commission for Indigenous Peoples, Department of Interior and Local Government, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the National Economic Development Authority, the local governments, and the Mindanao Development Authority.

The Summit aims to address the persistent concerns on the formal recognition of the ancestral domains, the control of their ancestral domains, and in cases of overlapping claims, how must the claims be handled. Given these, the Lumads turn to National Commission of the Indigenous People (NCIP) albeit their sentiments of this office. For one, they observe that the NCIP need to upscale in the delivery of its mandate.

It is sad to note that although there are agencies created and mandated to take care of the concerns and needs of the Lumads, they still cry out that the services of the government are not felt. In fact, they face the threat of displacement from their ancestral domains. They also express that their rights are violated because of the non-compliance and even disregard of Free and Informed Prior Consent (FPIC). The FPIC is a standard protected by international human rights law where it clearly describes people as having the right to self-determination and as such the right of free pursuit of economic, social, and cultural development over their lands, resources, and participation.

Though with laws supporting them, the IP governance remains to be weak due to the elusiveness of peace and order in their places, this is brought by the formation of the “bagani’s” as paramilitary groups which weakens the authority of the tribal leaders and the cohesiveness of the IP governance system.

Given this complex reality and articulated sensitivity, MinDA by virtue of RA 9996 can provide strategic directions for Mindanao within a clear framework of peace and development as the agency goes functions beyond regional concerns thus can work for harmonization of regional efforts for a much bigger Mindanao-wide programmatic approach. These programs are expressed in more responsive and timely infrastructure development, financing, conducive and culture-sensitive policies and studies.

The best proof of that all these are done is the recently presented proposed Bangsamoro State Constitution (BSC) of the All Moro Convention (AMC) to President Rodrigo Duterte. The proposal articulates provisions that can be taken in part or whole in the crafting of the Federal Constitution of the Philippines. The said proposed State Constitution included the protection of the Indigenous Peoples within the Bangsamoro.

Therefore, in the development framework of MinDA under the tutelage of Datu Abul Khayr Alonto, the Lumads will have a special place. This is consistent with the expression of the President that the manner to resolve conflicts in Mindanao is through federalism. In the next months, MinDA will conduct consultations that will make the concerns of the Lumads and altogether concern of the country towards the efforts of creating the Federal Republic of the Philippines.

Posted in Opinion