Non-Moro indigenous folks now back FAB PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 15 January 2013 14:32

Leaders of Maguindanao’s indigenous communities unanimously pledged support to the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) after having been assured that any final peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will not marginalize their customs and dominion over their centuries-old ancestral homelands.

Representatives of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, led by government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman, met last weekend with leaders of non-Moro Indigenous people in Maguindanao’s North Upi town and took turns clarifying misconceptions about the FAB.

The FAB dialogue was held at the municipal gymnasium of North Upi, a bastion of Central Mindanao’s non-Islamic Teduray and Lambingian groups, and whose incumbent mayor, Ramon Piang, is himself a Teduray timuay (chieftain) and a member of the GPH panel negotiating with the MILF.

The forum was meant to educate the area’s indigenous people (IPs) on the importance of the FAB, which the government and the MILF crafted October 15, 2012 in Malacañang.

Hataman, chairman of the ARMM’s regional peace and order council, said IPs in Maguindanao must not be fazed by speculations on the GPH-MILF peace talks owing to the presence of North Upi’s town mayor in the government’s peace panel.

Participants to the forum were also assured by Ferrer that the government panel listens attentively to the views and suggestions of all communities, regardless of their religious identities, on how negotiators of both sides can best address the Mindanao Moro issues.

Southern IP communities are key stakeholders to the Southern peace process, as indigenous groups thriving in areas which the MILF wants to group together as Bangsamoro region, even before the coming to Mindanao of foreign missionaries, Sheik Karimul Makdum and Shariff Mohammad Kabunsuan, in the 14th Century to preach Islam.

Assemblyman Deonato Mukudef, representative of IP communities to the Regional Legislative Assembly, touted as  “little Congress” of the autonomous Region, said his constituents were elated with the coming over to North Upi of Hataman, Ferrer and her companions in the GPH peace panel, Senen Bacani and Yasmin Busran-Lao, to explain to them the deeper intricacies and ramifications of the FAB and the Transition Commission (TransCom) which President Benigno Aquino III created last month through Executive Order 120.

Regional Speaker Rasol Mitmug, Jr., the ARMM’s third highest official, also attended the dialogue.

The TransCom, to be comprised of eight representatives from the MILF and seven from the national government, will oversee the implementation of the FAB and the drafting of the law creating the Bangsamoro region.

ARMM’s Teduray and Lambingan tribes are non-Muslims and have their own customary laws their leaders use as guides in managing the socio-economic, political and religious affairs of their communities.

Piang, Ferrer and Hataman took turns calling on the leaders of IP sectors present in the North Upi FAB dialogue to participate extensively in public consultations on the Mindanao peace process for their sentiments and positions on the on-going GPH-MILF negotiations be heard too.

Many participants to the FAB forum told reporters most IPs are apprehensive of possible dispossession of their ancestral lands if placed under an MILF-led Bangsamoro region.

Tedurays and Lambangians administer their centuries-old justice system and practice their religious rites in their “fusaka enged,” or ancestral homelands.

A Teduray farmer, Dondoh Pagulidan, 53, said he and members of his clan are now convinced that the on-going peace overture between the government and the MILF will never leave Maguindanao’s tribal non-Moro folks out.

“We are confident that the government and the MILF will focus attention on the plight of IPs in the proposed Bangsamoro area while negotiations for a final peace agreement are underway,” Paguilidan said in halting Filipino, in his heavy Teduray accent.

Piang said the FAB forum at the town proper of North Upi last weekend helped make his constituents realize that any final government-MILF peace deal will not fragment the culturally-diverse people in the proposed Bangsamoro area, but unite them as one community bound by common aspirations for peace and sustainable development through self-governance.