ANGAY-ANGAY LANG: Comments on the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (3)

3rd of a series

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/14 October) — I see at least five items in the Framework Agreement that may unmistakably be applicable to the affected Lumad communities  or Indigenous Peoples.  And all of them are embodiment of the principles in the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.  A stroke of genius in social engineering.

The first is No. 5, under the Establishment of Bangsamoro, or more particularly with respect to Bangsamoro identity. It has two paragraphs, the first of which says, in part:  “Those who at the time of conquest and colonization were considered natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and its adjacent islands including Palawan, and their descendants whether of mixed or of full blood shall have the right to identify themselves as Bangsamoro by ascription or self-ascription.” The second paragraph ends with this: “The freedom of choice of other Indigenous peoples shall be respected.”   This is admirable statesmanship for focusing mainly  on “native or original inhabitants” of the Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan region and making no reference to religious affiliation.  While this is inclusive in this sense, it is also exclusive with respect to the migrant population.  Further, the element of free choice is also stressed, a fundamental element under the principle of consent of the governed.

The second is No. 6,  under Powers, which states:  “The customary rights and traditions of indigenous peoples shall be taken into consideration in the formation of the Bangsamoro’s  justice system. This may include the recognition of indigenous processes as alternative modes of dispute resolution.”  This is very good; it institutionalizes the exercise and use of customary laws as part of the law of the land.  What can be more affirmative.

The third is the line immediately before this in connection with justice institutions: “Alternative dispute resolution systems.” Long overdue.

The fourth is No. 2 under Basic Rights, which says:  “Vested property rights shall be recognized and respected.” My question: Is collective ownership of ancestral domain regarded as vested property right?

And fifth is No. 3, also under Basic Rights, which states: “Indigenous peoples’ rights shall be respected.” This is self-explanatory.

These are all positive recognition of the distinctness of the Lumad population and their acceptance within the broader Bangsamoro community. It will surely contribute to the creation and nurturing  of the climate of  mutual respect and recognition among different culture groups.

Which Lumad communities are covered by these?  At least two, the Manobos in North Cotabato and the Teduray-Lambangian-Dulangan Manobo group in Maguindanao.

The Manobos are traditional inhabitants of that portion of Cotabato from Pigcawayan to Mt. Apo.This includes the six towns of Aleosan, Carmen, Kabacan, Midsayap, Pigkawayan and Pikit.  These towns are part of the traditional territories of both the Manobo and the Maguindanao Moros, both of whom affirm common ancestry in brothers Tabunaway and Mamalu.  They have been there since time immemorial.  But by a twist of historical events, they have become the minorities in these towns, a direct consequence of government-sponsored resettlement programs from the American colonial period to the subsequent influx of migrants from Luzon and the Visayas under the Republic.

How many Manobos are affected?

According to the 2000 census, although Aleosan reports 463 Lumad inhabitants, Barangays Dunguan, L. Mingading and Tapodoc do not have a single one of them.

Barangays  Manarahan and Nasapian, too, of Carmen have reported zero Lumad population.

Barangay Simbuhay of Kabacan has 192 Lumad inhabitants or 12.93 percent of the population, and coming next is Sanggadong with merely six persons.

The third, Nanga-an, has zero Lumad population.

In Midsayap only Barangay Tugal has 10 Lumad population, another barangay has two, another still has one.  All the rest have zero Lumad population.

Pigkawayan  has barangay Kadingilan with six Lumad persons, Buricain has one, the rest has zero population.

Pikit has barangay Balatican with only one person and all the rest zero.

In sum, it seems that only barangay Simbuhay of Kabacan will benefit more meaningfully from the new order of things. But what happens to the early assertion of the Lumad since 1986, the Manobo community being one of the loudest voices, that they, too, have their right to self-determination, their distinct identity, their distinct ancestral domain and they would like to run their lives in accordance with their  customary laws.  How much of this consciousness has seeped down to the Manobos of Simbuhay?    If visualized structurally, a self-determined Manobo community will look like  autonomy within autonomy.  This is something to watch in the formulation of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The Tedurays are traditional inhabitants of that vast territory that used to be labeled in earlier maps as the “Tiruray Highlands”, south of Cotabato City. They along with their blood relatives, the Lambangian and Dulangan Manobo, are wedged right in the midst of the Maguindanao world.  More than 80 percent of their total population  in Mindanao  of 71,154   is found in the province of Maguindanao (57,296), mostly in the towns of Upi (24,650) and South Upi (17,559); populations of more than five thousand each are also living in Datu Odin Sinsuat (6,846) and Shariff Aguak (5,801).

They have long wanted to file their ancestral domain claim like their brothers elsewhere in Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon,  but the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act does not apply in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Neither has the ARMM Legislative Assembly enacted an ancestral domain law. In short, there was no law in the country that could help them secure their ancestral domain claim.  It is a good time to ask at this point: Can they pursue their ancestral domain claim within the Bangsamoro?  They have also worked very hard to document their customary laws and strengthen their traditional structures so that in time they can properly govern themselves.  Another question: Can they do this now under the new order? And how much participation will they have in the formulation of the Basic Law of the Bangsamoro? (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Prof. Rudy Rodil was a member of the government peace panel negotiating with the Moro National Liberation Front and later with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front).