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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