Posted by: austronesia | August 26, 2008

Self-rule for Lumads

‘Lumad’ want self-rule, too

Tribal leaders seek autonomous region
By Ma. Cecilia Rodriguez
Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 02:31:00 08/26/2008

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—Fired up by the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) that would govern an expanded Bangsamoro homeland, the lumad (indigenous peoples in Mindanao) are seeking an autonomous region for themselves.

At a gathering here Monday of around 200 representatives of 13 indigenous peoples’ communities in Mindanao and Palawan, several tribal leaders called for the creation of an Autonomous Region for the Lumad of Mindanao.

The proponents are lumad leaders critical of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government.

The MOA, aimed at ending the Moro armed struggle in Mindanao, seeks to expand the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Sulu, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and Marawi City) as a Bangsamoro homeland with broad economic and political powers.

Timuay Nanding Mudai said the lumad should have been primarily consulted in the crafting of the MOA as many areas included in the BJE were their ancestral domain.

“Who gave the MILF the authority to represent all the people in Mindanao and propose the BJE? We have a claim to these lands. There are pending CADT [certificate of ancestral domain title] for these lands,” he said.

Mindanao hosts at least half the 11.8 million indigenous peoples in the country. A third of the 110 ethno-linguistic groups in the country are found in Mindanao.

Unified stand

The two-day Mindanao-Palawan Indigenous Peoples’ Consultation was called to consult the lumad leaders and come up with a unified position on the BJE.

Former North Cotabato Rep. Gregorio Andolana said there were enough bases for the indigenous peoples to ask for autonomy.

“The United Nations declaration and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) are enough bases for the lumad to call for autonomy. Why not ask the congressmen or senators to pass a law creating the Lumad Autonomous Region,” he said at the gathering.

Andolana said including the lumad in the consultations on ancestral domain based on the framework of coming up with a final peace agreement between the MILF and the government would be another option, which he described as a “shorter route.”

Besides the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the proposed Bangsamoro homeland would include the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in Lanao del Norte; and hundreds of barangays (villages) in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato, which voted to become part of the ARMM in 2001.

The MOA also provides for the inclusion of the Bangsamoro’s “ancestral domain” in Mindanao, Palawan and Sulu.

The proposed Bangsamoro homeland will be governed by the BJE, which will have authority to send trade missions to and enter into economic cooperation agreements with other countries, provided it does not include aggression against the Philippine government.

Protests from Christian communities in Mindanao and a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court scuttled the signing of the controversial MOA this month, prompting the MILF to stage attacks on several towns in Mindanao and triggering counterattacks by government forces.

Lumad in BJE

Andolana said that indigenous peoples should be made principal representatives in the BJE and not just as observers.

“The indigenous peoples are stakeholders in Mindanao. It is their land that is being discussed here. Historically and legally, they have a big role in juridical entity,” Andolana said.

He said the MOA would have serious implications on the IPRA of 1997.

“The IPRA gives the indigenous peoples the right to the land and their political rights. The BJE does not give due recognition to the ancestral domain claims of indigenous peoples with IPRA as basis,” the former lawmaker said.

Lumad leaders also urged the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to fast-track the delineation of territories and the processing of applications for certificates of ancestral domain title (CADTs).

“The NCIP should help us lobby the government to include us in the review of the BJE and in all consultations as principal members. Otherwise what are they for?” Mudai said.

As early as two years ago, the tribes have been worried that if their ancestral territories were included in the BJE, they would not be able to pursue their political and economic life consistent with their culture and traditions.

They lamented the non-consideration of their position in the Malaysia-brokered negotiations between the government and the MILF.

Lack of recognition

During the gathering of indigenous peoples in Davao City for the State of Indigenous Peoples Address last month, the different tribes in Mindanao conveyed their alarm over the Bangsamoro claim on ancestral domain.

In the State of the Indigenous People’s Address, they said the “the lack of recognition of our legitimate rights to our ancestral domains in the government-MILF peace process is a denial of our existence.”

This is a very “urgent concern,” said the convenors who included tribal leaders Timuay Fernando Mudai, a Subanen; Normal Capuyan, a Tagbanua; Datu Ompongan Sambili Jr., a Tagoloanon-Talaandig; and Bernardo Linikid, a Mansaka.

They stressed the importance of finding a viable way, this time, for “ensuring that (their) voices will also be heard.”

But beyond territorial questions, the lumad leaders also agreed to tackle equally important peace-enhancing concerns.

Carl Cesar Rebuta of the non-government group Legal Rights and Natural Resource Center (LRC), the secretariat of the meeting, said the lumad leaders identified, among others, seeking workable sociopolitical arrangements that ensure peaceful coexistence with the Bangsamoro people.

This is very much true for the Teduray tribe, which lives within the ARMM, the core area of the BJE.

Peaceful solution

The convenors said the meeting was held “in the spirit of finding a peaceful solution to the issue.”

The community representatives who participated in the meeting mostly came from the affected lumad territory identified under Categories A and B of the BJE area as stipulated in the MOA.

The participants included Subanen, Higaonon, Talaandig, Armunanen Manobo, Ubo Manobo, Manobo Pulangiyon, Dulangan Manobo, Teduray-Upi, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat, Lambangian, Blaan, Tboli, Tagakaolo, Bagobo, Banwaon, Mamanwa, Tagbanua, Mandaya, Mansaka, Ata-Manobo and Mangguangan.

Human rights activists have considered Mindanao a significant terrain for the indigenous peoples’ struggle for recognition and self-determination. With a report from Ryan Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao
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