The vanishing IP Tribes in Mindanao PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 09 August 2016 11:57

Table Talk

BY Mike S Apostol

Table Talk is a member of the executive committee of the Interreligious  Solidarity for Peace (ISP), a group coming from different religions to discuss its program of activities for this month until World Peace Day. Part of the discussion is President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s relentless fight against illegal drugs in the country and the backlash of alleged Human Rights violations and the President’s agenda on the planned Bangsamoro territory in a new government system of Federalism.

A public forum has been scheduled on August 18, 2016 at a local hotel, where the ISP was invited and to send some participants from all concerned sectors in the city.

One of those sectors invited are the Indigenous Peoples group in the city, its Council of Elders whose chairman is former Regional Assemblyman, Hadji Amilpasa “Caloy” Bandaying, an IP of the Banguingui Tribe and former member of the Regional Consultative Commission (RCC) tasked by the late President Corazon Aquino to draft the ARMM Law in aid of legislation by Congress of the Philippines in 1986. Atty. Manuel Mamauag,  former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Commissioner and Regional Director 9 of the CHR, will also be there to give his inputs. Fr. Angelo Calvo of the Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development assistance (ZABIDA) and Madame Grace Rebollos, former President of the Western Mindanao State University (MSU), are laying the groundwork for the Public forum on Federalism and the BBL.

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Hadji Caloy Bandaying informed the group what he gathered recently in the environmental conference in Davao City, where he was invited and the conference was graced by the President and DENR Secretary Gina Lopez. He informed that there are some IP tribes in Northern and Central Mindanao that are vanishing because of the incursion and brutality of lawless elements, and migrant businessmen who forcefully grabbed the ancestral lands of Indigenous Peoples, their only source of livelihood and which they owned since time immemorial. Many IP families are murdered while thousands flee their homes and lands for fear of their lives. Ancestral lands and domains of IPs are outside the scope of the “Doctrina Regalia” or the Regalian Doctrine, where all lands of the country belong to the Spanish Crown. King Philip of Spain recognized the ownership of IP Ancestral Domain and for centuries IPs were staying in their Ancestral Domain in peace and the Philippine Government has recognized that Ancestral Domain ownership of IP’s is a valid title following the concept of Customary Laws of IP’s as defined in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA Law).

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It is sad that IPs are driven to banishment from their own homeland by unscrupulous foreigner businessmen  and the Philippine Government tolerates the abuses. It is for this reason that IPs in the country, especially in Mindanao, are made part and parcel in the discussion of the BBL if Federalism is adopted in the country. There can no total peace if IPs are not included in peace talks and a new law for other tribes. One of the elements of a government is people and peaceful IPs are integral part of that element even if they don’t rattle their sabers in restlessness. The ISP that has been existing in the region for 18 years now has not stopped looking for solution for peace, even without government support and believes that fanaticism and radicalism of terrorists are all contrary to the beliefs of all religions in Mindanao. It is a phenomenon that can only be overcome with a united front and the equal respect afforded by the government to all tribes in Mindanao.

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Many believe that the forum on August 18, on the BBL and Federalism will open new avenues for peace and at he same time “stir a hornet’s nest” because this time the government will include all stakeholders and concerned tribes. The MNLF of Chairman Misuari is included and not only MILF of Chairman Murad. To top it all, Indigenous Peoples (IP) participation in the conference is included not only as observers but direct stakeholders as original settlers of the territory of Mindanao Islands. So all IP tribes in Mindanao must stand up to be recognized and be respected. Although many IPs are integrated with the mainstream of society but culture, customs and tradition can not be legislated and curtailed. It will be with all IPs till the end. Don’t be ashamed of your tribe and dialect, show it and be proud that is part of “Parens Patrae” or “Father of the Nation”.

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Scoop:  The Interreligious Solidarity for Peace whose members are committed to seek peace in our troubled region, will invite authorities on the subject to speak during the forum. Perhaps if Fr. Angelo Calvo and the rest can invite President Duterte to grace and speak during the forum, it will be the biggest boost for all concerned on the issue of Federalism and the BBL. Agree or disagree.