Bukidnon Lumad leaders on SONA: Silent again on indigenous peoples

MALAYBALAY CITY  (MindaNew/23 July) —   “Silent again on indigenous peoples.”

This was the reaction of Lumad (indigenous peoples) leaders here to President Aquino’s nearly 90-minute State of the Nation Address Monday afternoon.

Datu Mayda Pandian, a provincial board member representing the indigenous peoples said Aquino forgot about the IPs. “There was zero mention of his plans or the development of his visi on for us,” Pandian, the IP’s mandatory representative to the provincial board, said.

He said there was even no mention about the Lumads when he cited his position on mining in the country.

Last Wednesday, Pandian told the provincial board the government must harmonize its local and national mining policy with the real interests of the IPs.

“Are the Lumads really benefiting from the mining propositions in their ancestral domains?,” he added.

He watched the SONA from his house in Panadtalan, Maramag town and was disappointed. But he declined to comment on the content of the President’s speech.

Bae Alma Binayao of the Manobog-Talaandig tribe of Maramag Bukidnon, said the IPs are among the most vulnerable sectors in the country yet the President did not include his plans and programs for them.

“We expected something but there was no mention on update on land tenure for Lumad ancestral domains,” she said.

Binayao’s tribe is struggling with a land conflict with Central Mindanao University.

In a recent dialogue between Lumads and a proponent of a hydropower project here, Bukidnon Lumad leaders blamed the lack of budget for the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for the slow processing of Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles.

Datu Dungkuan Rio Besto, head of the Miarayon Lapok Lirongan Tala-andig Tribal Association (Milalitra) in northern Bukidnon’s Talakag region said the President gave no hope to the Lumads  even if he promised a lot to the agrarian reform claimants.

Datu Migketay Victorino Saway, of the Talaandig tribe in Songco, Lantapan, Bukidnon and one of the leaders of Panagtagbo-Mindanao said the President showed he has tried to address the problems of the country but just like in his past SONAs he did not mention the situation of the Lumad.

The President did not listen to the development the Lumads have asked for themselves.

“This is a serious challenge to the indigenous peoples, especially to their mandatory representatives,” he added.

In 2010, Aquino in his first State of the Nation Address was silent on his program for the indigenous peoples, Lumad leaders, who were holding their State of Indigenous People’s Address (SIPA), said then.

“Where is his policy for the assertion of the rights of indigenous peoples? None!” said a number of participants of the State of the Indigenous Peoples Address (SIPA) held at the Talaandig Tribal Hall in Saway’s Songco.

About a hundred tribal leaders from all over the country joined the SIPA, intentionally scheduled in time for the SONA.

“With Aquino stating nothing on his programs for the IP, we have nothing to account him for,” lamented Higaonon Datu Tony Lumandog of Misamis Oriental.

Two participants spoke from their seats that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did better by promising to issue 100 certificates of ancestral domain titles (CADTs) every year even if she was not able to accomplish it.

The only time President Aquino talked of the Lumads in 2010 was when he committed to include them in the Mindanao peace process.

In 2011, delegates to an assembly of indigenous peoples expressed dismay at their being not mentioned in the second SONA of the Presidetn.

They also lamented that Aquino did not say a thing about the peace process with rebel groups.

Jennifa Bat-ao of Cantilan, Surigao del Sur said the omission meant that they were still discriminated against and marginalized. Bat-ao, speaking to 129 delegates to the SIPA  at the Christ the King Retreat Center in Koronadal City, said she voted for Aquino because she thought he represented changed.

Teresa dela Cruz, an Aeta from Zambales said it was an insult to see lawmakers applaud the pantawid gutom (conditional cash transfer) program because the indigenous peoples did not benefit from it.

Datu Tabunan from Agusan del Sur said Aquino should relate the issue of environment protection to the lives of indigenous peoples and their rights to their territories. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)