Prioritized schools for the IPs in Mindanao PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 05 September 2016 12:05

Table Talk

BY Mike S Apostol

President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement recently on the construction of  additional schools for Indigenous Peoples in the country is a welcome relief for neglected IPs.

But most neglected in almost all issues are the IPs in Mindanao. Priority must then be afforded to Mindanao IPs, especially those who are innocent victims of the bloody secessionist movements. Many hapless IPs have abandoned their homes and livelihoods and withdrew into isolation as a consequence of unstable peace and order situation coupled with unjust annexation of their ancestral domains by influential developers and bully businessmen. Many children of IPs because of this unfortunate situation remain ignorant. When the peace and order situation normalizes in Mindanao and IPs will again live in communities, schools should be made available in their communities by President Duterte’s government. Indigenous Peoples in the country compose 13 % of the total Philippine population as per latest national statistics data and of the total 13 % national population at least 35% of are found in Mindanao. There are at least over 110 different tribes and sub-tribes in the Philippines and at least 25 are found in Mindanao. But this 25 tribes and sub-tribes in Mindanao are the most neglected in terms of government assistance in education, health, livelihood opportunities and social justice and the deprivation and lack of protection from the government on their ancestral domains and since time immemorial properties. Mindanao therefore should be made a priority for assistance in any form from the Duterte government.

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IPs in Luzon and some parts of the Visayas are taken cared of by their local government and national officials, because in Luzon and Visayas concentration of public service is undivided, they do not have bloody skirmishes between government forces and lawless elements. It is a different story inMindanao where  bloody encounters are regular that disturb the very lives of the weak and the unprotected, like the IPs. In order for the IPs to be integrated into the mainstream of Philippine society and be partners in nation building, priority for their social upliftment must be adopted by the government now, that peace is almost to be achieved in Mindanao.

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One disparity that the government has adopted and perceived as Anti-IP  is the treatment of two government commissions, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) that takes care of the welfare of the entire IPs in the country and the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF). Speaking of government yearly budget, the NCIP only receives from the national government only a measly over P50 million a year for its national operation, and NCIP has been existing since 1987. The newly created NCMF receives from government a hefty yearly budget of P500 million a year for their operation. The NCIP is all over the country where there are IPs while the NCMF only caters to Muslim areas, cities and provinces. What is seemingly wrong is, IPs with Islam religion still falls under the NCIP in terms of privileges. This has to be corrected by the Duterte government, increase the budget of NCIP perhaps equal or more than the NCMF, so NCIP can take care of its neglected IPs in terms of health and education and protection issues.

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Zamboanga Peninsula which is home to the Subanen tribe, the biggest IP tribe because Subanens inhabited historically the Zamboanga Peninsula up to Misamis Occidental and some parts of Lanao Norte, but not a single political subdivision were ever honored the Subanens. Unlike other tribes like, the Yakans were given Basilan Province, Maguindanaos In Cotabato and Central Mindanao. Maranaos the Lanao Sur province. Tausugs, Sulu province and Samas Tawi-Tawi province. Subanens zero province or even municipality. But the truth is many names of barangays in Zamboanga City and the provinces of Zamboanga Del Sur and Del Norte even Misamis Occidental are Subanen terms. As an example in Zamboanga City, Cabaluay is white rock, Bolong is medicine, Talon-Talon is wild, Marangan (Merengen) is tamed,  Labuan is where to drop anchor, Guiwan (Geyuwan) is wooded area and many more. Dipolog (dipoleg) is where you can get lost. Pagadian (Pengedian) is where to study. These are only an example of Subanen influence in the Zamboanga Peninsula.

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Scoop: Indeed the Subanen tribe aborigines of the Zamboanga Peninsula, Misamis Occidental and Lanao Norte, are not only neglected but unrecognized even in the latest local history of Latin City Zamboanga. Are they ashamed that some pioneering families of Zamboanga are from stocks and roots of Subanen? Are they ashamed of their beginning? Or perhaps, Subanens created a grievous error in their lives by becoming and adopting Christian religion and western culture. We should have copied the American Indians or Red Necks, now they are given lands and livelihoods by the Americans, given reservations and opportunities by their big brother, although sometimes they abused their privileges. Same treatment is given to the aborigines of Australia. But Subanens in the peninsula are only made to entertain tourists and be participants in cultural programs, to show their costumes, dances and songs. This was the very reason why Che Guevara in Cuba joined the revolution because his tribe mates were just made laborers by sugar cane barons in South America. You may agree or disagree.