PEACETALK: Inclusive Peace includes the IPs

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(Sponsorship Speech of Rep. Nancy Catamco on proposed amendments that impact on the Rights of the Non-Moro Indigenous in the Bangsamoro Basic Law, delivered at the meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law at the Nograles Hall, House of Representatives, Quezon City, on May 11, 2015. Rep. Catamco is from the Manobo-Tagabawa tribe).


Mr Chairman, I think it would be logical for me to give my position in general to my amendments since all these amendments pertain to Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples Rights in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.  In opening, I would like to thank Speaker Belmonte for giving me the chance to be a member of this Ad Hoc Committee.

I would say, this is the best time of my life for I have been given the chance to expand my awareness and have navigated through this process from a very personal and intimate place. During this momentous process, I have learned to empathize with the struggles and aspirations not only with the Indigenous Peoples (IPs), but also of those our dear Muslim brothers and sisters in the core territory.

I also thank our Chairman whose devotion and commitment is beyond inspiring.  To all my colleagues, who painstakingly and joyously journeyed since the start of this process, if we can get this right, we are on the path to correcting a painful history.

Maybe, some of you are wondering where I am coming from and what I am fighting for. And my commitment to this cause is as strong as ever. This is beyond legacy.  This is beyond party affiliations. This is about people, their aspirations and the preservation of their future generations.  I am one amongst them, for I AM an IP, and this is where I am coming from. Now is the time for us to seize the moment, and make this elusive peace a reality.

Having said that Mr. Chair, May I reiterate what I have manifested during the Peace Council hearing, my position regarding the provisions of the BBL which impact on the rights of Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples. Ours may be a small voice in the wilderness, but I sincerely implore the patience and conscience of the members of this Committee to listen to the plea of the Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples.


“Sa wala pa ang gobyerno, sa wala pa ang Kristiyano, ug sa wala pa ang Islam, naa na ang Lumad, apil sa mga bitoon ug mga sapa….Naa na ang mga Manobo, ug mga Teduray, ug mga B’laan. . .”

            “In the beginning, when there was no government yet, no Christians, or Islam, the Lumads were already there, together with the stars and the rivers…There were already the Manobos, the Tedurays, the B’laans…”

This declaration embodies the sentiments of many Lumads—or the Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples—that we have heard during dialogues and consultations on the peace talks between the Philippine Government and the MILF.

Time and again, we are confronted with the same struggle for respect and recognition of the rights of the Lumads first, within the ARMM (Autonommous Region in Muslim Mindanao), and now, in the Bangsamoro. While indigenous people’s rights have already been recognized and encapsulated in the national sphere, through the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), this recognition failed to muster meaningful implementation in the ARMM, and similarly, in the present articulation of indigenous people’s rights in the Bangsamoro Basic Law.


  • Historical Antecedence

In the present core territory in the ARMM, the Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples comprise 122,914 individuals in 18,135 households residing in the eighty (80) barangays/villages.[1] They can be found in the Municipalities of Ampatuan, Datu Abdullah Sangki, Datu Blah Sinsuat, Datu Hoffer Ampatuan, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Unsay, Guindulungan, South Upi, Talayan, Upi, and the Municipality of Wao in Lanao del Sur.[2] Their ancestral domains span a total perimeter area of 215,941 hectares (plus 93,779 coastal waters).[3] They straddle over the present towns of Upi, South Upi, Datu Odin Sinsuat, and Datu Blah Sinsuat in the Province of Maguindanao and also include parts of Guindulungan, Talayan, Shariff Aguak, Ampatuan, and Cotabato City.[4]

Lumads and Moros represent two distinct types of indigenous minorities. Spanish anti-Muslim prejudices indicate that throughout the Spanish colonial period (1565–1898), Moros were treated very differently than the Lumads, despite the fact that both were native to Mindanao. American colonizers (1898–1946) initially administered the Muslim Moro groups separately and granted them a limited degree of autonomy; during this period, the Lumads and other small-scale groups were referred to as ‘Pagans,’ and later as the ‘non-Christian tribes’.[5] Since Philippine independence in 1946, the national government has carried over the administrative separation of Moros and IP’s from the mainstream Filipino groups, as well as from each other, with different generations of separate bureaucratic offices.

Yet even with the separate identities given in the expanded ARMM Organic Act, the cultural identity and rights to the ancestral domains of the Lumads/Non-Moro Indigenous People’s remained elusive in the ARMM, with the National Government’s acquiescence. These historical shortcomings to recognize meaningfully the rights of the Lumads within the ARMM therefore raised doubts against the National Government’s ability to protect their rights in the peace process. Incidentally, these fears are heightened with the omission of the full rights of the Lumads in the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, and the presumed position of the National Government which can be viewed as passing on its responsibility to the would be constituted Bangsamoro Government.

It may be recalled that in the case involving the MOA-AD (Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain), the Supreme Court reprimanded the OPAPP when it failed to conduct systematic consultations, and dishonoured one of the three underlying principles of the comprehensive peace process, that it “should be community-based, reflecting the sentiments, values and principles important to all Filipinos” and “shall be defined not by the government alone, nor by the different contending groups only, but by all Filipinos as one community”. In the same way, the Supreme Court therein declared that besides being irreconcilable with the Constitution, the MOA-AD is also inconsistent with the IPRA, among other national laws.[6]Thus, in keeping with the Supreme Court pronouncements and acknowledging the aspiration of the Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples, their rights as indigenous peoples should be given full recognition in the Bangsamoro. This also echoes the recommendation of the Peace Council as well as the position paper of the Lumad.

Now, this is a historic moment – and could be our last – to correct this historical injustice and decades of neglect against our Lumads.   Let us get to the heart of this problem. A radical transformation is imperative. My friends, it is not just about the percentage in their share of their natural resources. No, this goes beyond giving slots to them in the Parliament. This is about identity; this is about dignity; this is about respect; this is about lands and their spiritual relationship with their lands; this is about the meaning of their existence and their right to flourish as indigenous peoples. This is about justice that brings about peace.

My esteemed colleagues, we are all here to search for an inclusive peace, not PIECE-MEAL peace. I sincerely and passionately believe that INCLUSIVE peace includes the IPs.

  1. Rationale for the proposed revisions on Non-Moro Indigenous People’s rights in the BBL 

These proposed amendments are therefore vital, as they seek to give what is due them, pursuant to the Constitution, the national law for indigenous peoples, known as the IPRA, including their fundamental freedoms under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Ultimately, these proposals hope to address the fears and resolve the doubts of Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples manifested during the public consultations that we conducted.

As aptly presented in the Joint Position Paper of Timuay Justice and Governance, Gempa ne Kamal te Kelindaan ne Erumanen ne Menuvu (Kamal), et al, it was remonstrated that if BBL is illegally imposed upon the indigenous peoples, it is ethnocide and a violation of the law of nations embodied in UN Conventions. If they agree to the BBL as drafted, it is genocide.

Our proposed amendment to Section 2 of Article II provides a definition of Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples to establish clearly and unambiguously their ethnic identity. This definition also recognizes their diverse identities and distinct cultures, traditions and histories.

The responsibility over indigenous people’s protection and promotion of rights is explicitly mandated by the Constitution and should be the primary responsibility of the National Government. In the BBL, this Representation is recommending that the primary responsibility of the National Government over indigenous peoples be maintained, but concedes that for administration purposes, this responsibility would be exercised by the Ministry for Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples, to ensure that the State policies (existing or to be proposed) for indigenous peoples would be faithfully implemented.

This Representation also proposes that the requirement for judicial confirmation for the titling of ancestral domains be deleted. Essentially, this requirement is contrary to the existing policy on titling of indigenous people’s ancestral domains, which recognizes the applicability of customary laws in proving native title.[7] In a similar vein, it changes the private character of ancestral domains, and challenges therefore the native title of ancestral domains. As recognized in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, the rights to lands and domains under native title of indigenous peoples have never been public lands and have been the private ownership of indigenous peoples since before the Spanish Conquest. Thus, the process of securing title for ancestral domains should only be for purposes of formally recognizing these pre-conquest rights of indigenous peoples to their domains.[8]

The rest of the amendments, including the enumeration of the basic rights of Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples are mere replications of the rights already enshrined in our Constitution and national laws, including some of those found in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples where the Philippines is a signatory.

  1. Closing statement

            Section 5, Article XII of the Constitution reads –

Section 5. The State, subject to the provisions of this Constitution and national development policies and programs, shall protect the rights of indigenous cultural communities to their ancestral lands to ensure their economic, social, and cultural well-being.

The Congress may provide for the applicability of customary laws governing property rights or relations in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domain.

Despite this Constitutional guarantee that the rights of Filipino indigenous communities should be protected, this guarantee remains illusory for the Indigenous Peoples in the ARMM. The deliberations of the framers of the 1987 Constitution intended that this provision would apply primarily for all indigenous peoples, including those residing within our autonomous regions.[9]

These proposal for amendments in the BBL for Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples therefore honours this Constitutional guarantee. So moved, Mr Chairman.

[1]  IPDEV, 2013 Survey. In a 1993 NSO Census, the Mindanao Lumads account for 2.1 million out of the total 6.5 million indigenous people nationally.

[2]   ibid.

[3]  Source: Teduray-Lambangian Ancestral Domain Claimants Social Preparation Accomplishment Report (SPAR) submitted to the NCIP.

[4]  ibid.

[5]    The Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes was established under the Department of the Interior by virtue of Act No. 253 of the Commission on October 2, 1901; found in

[6]   Province of North Cotabato vs. Republic, G.R. Nos. 183591, 183752, 183893 and 183951.

[7]   Article XII, Section 5. The State, subject to the provisions of this Constitution and national development policies and programs, shall protect the rights of indigenous cultural communities to their ancestral lands to ensure their economic, social, and cultural wellbeing. The Congress may provide for the applicability of customary laws governing property rights or relations in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domain.

[8]   As affirmed by the Supreme Court, RA No. 8371 is a landmark legislation that seeks to correct the decades neglect and historical injustice committed against Filipino indigenous communities, which sadly, the Philippine government has been a party with the enactment of land laws that automatically converted their traditional territories into public lands without due process (Cruz vs. DENR, G.R. No. 135385.  December 6, 2000.

[9]   pp. 38, Volume 4, Deliberations of the Framers of the 1987 Constitution, August 28, 1986.

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  1. Petition Letter for the Inclusion of the Indigenous People (IP) Samal Bajau Communities in Bangsamoro Basic Law BBL

    We, the Claret Samal Foundation Inc. (CSFI) which does integral developmental programs for two decades with the Samal Bajau in Maluso Basilan province, the Care for the Nomads and Bajaus in the Philippines (CNBP) composed of different Bajau organizations particularly in Jolo, Basilan, Cebu, Tawi-tawi, Davao, Palawan and Zamboanga city headed by Bishop Angelito Lampon, D.D. of Jolo, the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) of the Claretian Missionaries and the Bajau People’s Organization (BPO) in Townsite Maluso Basilan, Province are dismayed upon the decision of the Bangsamoro working committee not to include explicitly the Bajaus as an indigenous people (IP) in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Thus we would like to appeal to review the drafted BBL that was passed to the congress and make it rather an inclusive law that will cater all the constituents of the Bangsamoro with the consideration to the marginalized indigenous people especially the Bajau communities in southern Mindanao.

    The name is spelled in various ways: “Badjao,” “Badyaw,” or “Bajau.” Apparently, “Bajau” has the closest phonemic affinity to the language group in the area where this people belong. They are also sometimes called by about a dozen other names like: “Sama Dilaut,” “Laut,” or “Orang Laut” (at the Malaysian side of the border).Sometimes called the “sea gypsies” these “once-boat-dwelling people” are traditionally to be found mainly in the southwestern Philippines (Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi areas), northwestern Malaysia and the northern parts of Indonesia down to Johore where a certain legend traces their origin. Driven to near extinction due to the exploitation by the neighboring dominant tribes like the Tausog, the Yakans and even the Christians, disease, starvation and apparent inability to cope with the social changes, they are sometimes referred to also as a “vanishing tribe.” At present, unofficial estimates place their number to about a 40 thousands in the Philippines. The Bajaus are peace-loving people, oftentimes to a fault. They would endure all forms of hardship, inconvenience and lost opportunities if only to avoid getting into trouble, especially with people not of their own tribe. Hence, they prefer to live in peace by themselves at the coastal fringes of population centers, mangrove areas, coves and islets. With the huge logs which they use to carve into houseboats having gone very scarce (and expensive), their mobile dwellings have evolved into shanties on stilts – literally a ramshackle ensemble of poles, palm fronds, and if the family is better off, some pieces of miss-cut planks.

    Most Bajaus are fishermen (traditionally, all of them were!) and they live on the bounties of the sea or on what is left of it. Having lost their traditional fishing grounds (even gears, lives and all!) to pirates and poachers, they are left with meager means of livelihood. Extreme poverty has driven many of them to work as porters at the wharf and many have taken resort to begging. Wherever they live, they are considered citizens of the lowest class: ignorant, dirty, stench-smelling and deprived. Many people have very low regard for them. In different parts in Mindanao, their situation is a picture of complete neglect that has driven whole families to flock to the big cities of Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao to beg in the streets. The Bajaus are at the receiving end of all the consequences of the systemic on-going insecurities and violence beyond reach of government services.

    Thus continuing this kind of neglect and indifference coming from other tribes and even from the government, it will eventually perpetuate the present dreadful situation of the Samal Bajau communities even in the new Bangsamoro government. Consequently degrading them more and more and pushing them to migrate to big cities to beg. Given the drafted BBL and the different ascription of the indigenous people, we can see that this is another act of neglect and discrimination of the existence of the Bajau communities. We have faith in the government and the people who are working for it. We believe that they have the capability and the responsibility to liberate the Bajau communities in their unfortunate situation. However in the drafted BBL it is the contrary. Given the chance that the drafted BBL will be passed without modification, it will continue the century old discrimination of the Samal Bajau communities. Thus we would like to push the revision of the present drafted BBL.
    Here are the following implications of the drafted BBL that we would like to protest and would like to amend:

    1. The definition of the BBL in terms of Indigenous people is erroneous. It does not mean that one’s a group or person evangelized or converted to Muslim or Christian, they will cease to become indigenous people. There are Christian indigenous people and Muslim indigenous people too. The flaws can be seen in the excerpts of the drafted BBL, under Intergovernmental Relations in Article VI, Section 5 under the Council Leaders line 9 to 15.

    2. Not all Samal Bajaus are Muslims. There are Christians, Animists and other Bajuas practice folk religiosity. But even though they practice different religions at present, they have common tradition, culture, language and history. They have their distinct roots as a tribe that has unique traditions that differ from other mainstream tribes in the Philippines.

    3. Consequently, removing Bajaus as indigenous people is the most erroneous. It does not follow the international description of indigenous people according to the United Nation (UN), International Labor Organization ILO and even the definition of IP in RA 8371: The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) law that says “Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines refers to a group of people or homogenous societies, identified by self-ascription and ascription by others, who have continuously lived as an organized community on communally bounded and defined territory, and who have, under claims of ownership since time immemorial, occupied, possessed and used such territories, sharing common bonds of language, customs, traditions and other distinctive cultural traits, or who have, through inroads of colonization, non-indigenous religions, and cultures, become historically differentiated from the majority of the Filipinos.”

    4. In the section for reserve seats in the Bangsamoro parliament, the Bajaus are not included. It can be seen in drafted BBL Article VII under the Bangsamoro Parliament section 5, Classification and Allocation of Seats line 23 to 26. And section 6 in the Election for the Reserved Seats for non-Moro Indigenous People line 1 to 5, Samal Bajau is not included as indigenous people. As we can see even the present government, there is no representation of the group of Bajaus. But in IPRA law in section 16 it says “ Right to Participate in Decision Making ICCs/IPs have the right to participate fully, if they so choose, at all levels of decision making in matters which may affect their rights, lives and destinies through procedures determined by them as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous political structures. Consequently, the State shall ensure that the ICCs/IPs shall be given mandatory representation in policymaking bodies and other local legislative councils.”

    5. In BBL it tackles also about the IP basic rights but it tackles only about the rights of the indigenous people residing in the land. It does not include the rights of the IP living in coastal waters. Ancestral waters are not mentioned. It is evident in Article IX under the tittle Basic Rights in section 5 line 4 to 12. This implies that there will be no rights of the Samal Bajaus on ancestral waters and other tribes living in coastal areas. This deprivation of rights is connected to Article XIII Economy and Patrimony, section 12 Rights of Indigenous Peoples Over Natural Resources, and line 15 to 23. This section does not include ancestral waters and domains in connection with Article IX.

    Thus in reflection on the things that we want to amend, we would like to propose the following:

    1. The definition of the IP must be changed and the definition must reflect the international standards. BBL must consider the definition of IP in UN and ILO. It must also ground its definition of Indigenous People IP in R.A. 8371 IPRA law.

    2. The Bajau communities that will be affected by BBL must be considered as indigenous people IP. And there rights must be respected and their culture be preserved through BBL.

    3. The Samal Bajau has no capacity to represent itself to the Bangsamoro parliament because they are considered minority groups. Thus, they must have reserve seats in the parliament. With this we can consider BBL as inclusive.

    4. In terms of basic rights for the IP, the working committee must include ancestral waters and domains for the IP communities living in coastal areas. This includes the revenue and shares for the respective IP communities.

    We are with the government and the different parties who work for peace in southern Mindanao. We are with them also for the advocacy of total inclusion of all the marginalized people. We also adhere what is stated in the BBL’s preamble “aspiring to establish an enduring peace on the basis of justice in our communities and a justly balanced society”. But we hope that through the BBL it will try to implement really the objective behind the law which is peace and inclusive development. We hope that it will safe guard the rights of indigenous people (IP) especially the most marginalized group in the country, the Bajau communities. We hope that the BBL will be an instrument for total liberation and development of these communities.

    We strongly appeal to the general public especially to the law makers in the Philippines to support this petition for we believe that the collective security and progress can only be achieve through the security and progress of our multicultural constituents.

    Bro. Nicer O. Natulla,CMF
    CSFI Project in charge
    JPIC commission Head of the Claretian Missionaries

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