Political, economic rights on top of Malaybalay Lumads’ 8-point agenda

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/19 Sept) – Political and economic rights are on top of the eight-point legislative agenda of the indigenous peoples in Malaybalay City, according to a lumad leader.

Umayamnon Datu Benjamin “Otto” Omao, mandatory representative of the indigenous peoples to the city council, said the eight points are “equally important” but the most crucial at the moment is for the IPs to build a strong indigenous political structure.

The IP mandatory representatives to the local legislative bodies have consulted IP leaders in their areas, including the academe and IPs who have become professionals, for their legislative agenda.

Omao is scheduled to present the fourth and final draft of his agenda to the city council on Sept. 25.

But he said he does not need the city councilors to debate on it as it is the IPs’ agenda.

“They just need to approve its appropriations,” he added.

Omao said the political agenda covers the capability building needed for the tribal elders and leaders of the indigenous political structures and indigenous people’s organizations in accordance with those provided by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

He said strengthening the IPs’ political systems is important specially that they are subjected to exploitation by political leaders.

“They divide the IP communities by choosing their own pet tribal leaders without recognizing those selected through traditional means,” Omao added.

He said the timing is ripe because of the upcoming 2013 elections.

According to a copy of his legislative agenda, the political issues also include strengthening of the IP tribunal system in customary process of conflict transformation, enforcement of tribal jurisprudence and customary laws.

The pigsaligans, or the mandatory representatives to the local councils, have to go through capacity-building, too, he added. The IP also pointed out the need to create a grievance council to help address IP concerns.

Among the basic component of the political agenda is to strengthen IP family relations through solemnization of tribal marriages, he added.

Omao said the promotion of welfare and well-being of IP communities is also a paramount agenda for IP leaders to push in local governance.

He cited nine target interventions in the agenda, including capability-building for entrepreneurial management, livelihood and development, promotions and marketing of IP products. The other interventions include indigenous crafts development, promotions and marketing; communal livelihood program; and livelihood programs for IP women.

Omao also included community-based eco-tourism program; sustainable and responsible use or extraction of natural resources in accordance with existing laws and guidelines of the state, and customs, traditions and policies of the Lumads.

The economic interventions cited agricultural practices such as promotion of natural farming techniques in agricultural production, sustainable propagation and production of indigenous crops, and establishment of farm and other vegetable products “landing area,” or what is called locally as “bagsakan.”

Omao said the bagsakan is foremost because local farmers are exploited as to the pricing of their produce in Cagayan de Oro, where their products are brought from the farms.

His legislative agenda also covered integrity of the IP culture, access to quality education that does not endanger the integrity of the IP culture; the protection, conservation and rehabilitation of the environment for a balanced ecology; secured ownership of ancestral domains and lands; access to basic services that are responsive to the needs and sensitive to the culture of the Lumads; and maintenance of peace and security in IP territories and communities.

The Bukidnon IP mandatory representatives will harmonize the IP legislative agenda of their leaders from the barangay to the provincial level in a congress and dialogue with local government executives in October. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)