ANGAY-ANGAY LANG: Pamalandong sa Ancestral Domain; Land to Their Owners

[Sponsorship speech by Commissioner Rudy B. Rodil, Member, Committee on Ancestral Land and Agrarian Reform, September 21, 1988]

Unang official speech ko bilang miyembro ng Regional Commission in Muslim Mindanao, isa ako sa dalawang representante ng First Congressional District ng Lanao del Norte. Si Pafs Mejia colleague ko. Nakalahad dito ang mga batas sa kasaysayan na nagtakda kung paano ipinamigay ang mga lupa sa buong bansa. Ang mga batas na ito ang nagbunga ng National Cultural Minorities. Yong tinukoy na katutubo ng bansa.

Tatlong magagandang batas ang sumulpot pagkatalbog ng Martial Law: Una ang Konstitusyon ng Pilipinas (1987), sumunod ang ARMM o Autonomous Regional in Muslim Mindanao (1988 at 2001); sumunod ang IPRA o Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (1997), ang sumunod ang BARMM o Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (2019).

Magandang sagot ito sa batas ng Kano, Act No. 718 on April 4, 1903 “making void land grants from Moro sultans or dattos or from chiefs of non-Christian tribes when made without governmental authority or consent.”

Nandito na ang BARMM. Tumatakbo na.

Sa mga Lumad sa Mindanao, isinulong nila ang paggigiit ng kanilang sariling self-determination sa loob ng kanilang ancestral domain. Ayon sa report ng NCIP o ang National Commission in Indigenous Peoples, as of March 31, 2018, 221 ng mga komunidad sa buong bansa ang nabigyan ng titulo sa kanilang ancestral domain claim, officially ito ang Certification of Ancestral Domain Title. Sa Mindanao, 117 ang komunidad na nakakuha ng CADT. Ang breakdown nito ay ganito: Rehiyon 9 – 208,825.2774 ektarya; Rehiyon 10 – 355,892.8723 ektarya; Rehiyon 11 – 1,091,577.042 ektarya; Rehiyon 12 – 590,098.6499 ektarya, at Rehiyon 13 – 509,059.6843 ektarya. Ang bilang ng populasyon ay pumapalo sa 692,506 katao, na nakapaloob sa ancestral domain ng 2,755,453.526 na ektarya ng lupain.


Good Morning, Mr. Chairman, Colleagues, Friends. I greet you a good and bright morning today which is the 16th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law. We are gathered here partly to correct the ravages of the martial law regime.

I have entitled my sponsorship speech as “Land to Their Owners.” In the past when we talk about giving lands, we say “land to the landless.” But in the case of the natives of Mindanao, it is a case of historic right, we must speak of land to their owners.

There is only one reason why I want so see embodied in our draft organic act a full article on Ancestral Domain, and that is to check by legal means, and once and for all, the institutionalized and legalized displacement of the indigenous peoples of the proposed autonomous region in the land of their ancestors, and to secure for the same peoples what little is left of their ancestral lands.

There was a time when all of Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago and Palawan belonged without question to their native inhabitants – those people who enjoyed the right of “prior and uninterrupted occupancy.”

But history and the forces of colonialism have intervened, and the result is what we have now. First, the Spanish colonizers tried to conquer Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan but they only succeeded in colonizing the northern and eastern portions of Mindanao and converted to Christianity those people whom we loosely refer to as the Dapitanon, the Misamisnon, the Iliganon, the Cagayanon, the Butuanon, the Surigaonon, the Davaweño, the Zamboangueño, and so forth. The rest, although subjected to continued aggression, remained basically intact in their ancestral lands.

The arrival of the American aggressors brought about a radical change in the political configuration of the country and of the region.

First, through the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898, the United States government bought the entire Philippine territory as we know it today from Spain who by that time did not own a portion of it except possibly the insides of Intramuros. In any case, this treaty formally started the loss of our ancestral lands all over the country and not just Mindanao.

Second, the U.S. Congress passed the so-called Philippine Bill of 1902, the first organic act implemented in this country. As provided for in this law, all lands were classified into categories as we know them today. Public lands or private lands. Not a single word on ancestral lands. Not a single word on ancestral domain or customary laws. The relevant provisions were soon to be embodied in all the land laws operative in the country up to this time.

Third, almost two months before the passage of the act creating the Moro Province on June 1, 1903 the Philippine Commission, the governing body of the Philippines until 1914, passed Act No. 718 on April 4, 1903 “making void land grants from Moro sultans or dattos or from chiefs of non-Christian tribes when made without governmental authority or consent.” You will notice that this was the coup de grâce to finish off what little claim the natives of Mindanao and Sulu had over their ancestral lands.

Fourth, the U.S. colonial government undertook from 1913 the systematic migration of settlers from Luzon and the Visayas into Mindanao. How did these affect the local native population? I would like to cite the case here, Mr. Chairman, of Cotabato, now the four provinces of North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat.

In 1918, Cotabato had a total of 171,978 inhabitants distributed in 36 municipalities and municipal districts. Of these, 59.51% were Muslims, 25.04% were tribals, and only 2.5% were Christians. More specifically, the Muslims were dominant in 20 towns, the tribals in 5 towns and the Christians in none.

In 1939, the census showed marked changes in population and its distribution. Of the total 298,935 inhabitants, 54.52% were Muslims, 24.80% were tribals and 20.04% were Christians. The last have increased considerably. The Muslims continued to be dominant in 20 towns, the tribals in 9 towns and the Christians were now dominant in three towns. Let me jump to 1970.

The 1970 census showed a reversal in the trends. Of the total population of 1,602,117, the Muslims now were down to 27.75%, the tribals to 6.68%, and the Christians were way up with 67.19%.

What facilitated this massive displacement of the native population? I would like to show here, Mr.. Chairman, that the very land laws which were passed, first by the American colonial government and later continued to be implemented by the Philippine government were largely discriminatory to the native population. Allow me to give you a very brief summary.

Philippine Commission Act No. 926, dated October 7, 1903, provided for the grant of free patents and homesteads of 16 hectares and for the sale of public lands not exceeding 16 hectares to individuals.

Act No. 2874, dated November 24, 1919, increased the homestead size to 24 hectares, and the sale of public agricultural lands to individuals to 100 hectares. This provision was amended on January 12, 1924 and individuals were now permitted to acquire more than one parcel under the item of free patent. Another amendment in 1925 increased lands acquired by individuals through purchase to 144 hectares.

Practically a re-enactment of Act 2874, Commonwealth Act No. 11 of 1936 indeed withdrew the privilege allowed in Act 2874 to have two homestead parcels and this time permitted only one. But note the item for non-Christian tribes. Prior to the Commonwealth, these were allowed a measly10 hectares per homestead – in their own lands! But Act 141 further reduced this to four. In other words, while outsiders were allowed from 16 to 24 hectares, the native inhabitants were allowed only 10 which was even brought down to four.

Again, I would like to call attention to the fact that in all these laws, not a single provision was made for the communal landownership and use among the native inhabitants. None except the illegalization of land grants made by sultans and datus of the Muslims and the chiefs of the non-Christian tribes.

In other words, Mr. Chairman, what we have is a series of land laws which legalized the displacement of the native inhabitants of Mindanao. And what is the result of this?

In the case of the Muslims, Mr. Chairman, as of 1970, what is left is their predominance over the five provinces of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, and 11 municipalities outside of the five provinces. That is all that is left for the Muslims.

In the case of the tribal communities, the situation is worse. All over Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan, they are only dominant in the following nine municipalities:

  1. La Paz, Agusan del Sur
  2. Impasug-ong, Bukidnon
  3. San Fernando, Bukidnon
  4. Sumilao, Bukidnon,
  5. Talakag, Bukidnon
  6. Jose Abad Santos, Davao del Sur
  7. Malita, Davao del Sur
  8. Araceli (Dumaran), Palawan
  9. Lapuyan, Zamboanga del Sur

In other words, Mr. Chairman, in the proposed territory of the autonomous region, they are only dominant in four municipalities. In others, they were, to use a figure of speech, a mere pigment of the imagination.

What I would like to emphasize, Mr. Chairman, is that we had a situation where the laws have been discriminatory to our indigenous inhabitants, and since the 1987 Constitution has shown us the way to correct the inequities of the past, it is now incumbent upon the members of this Commission to correct what should be corrected.

And so, in closing, Mr. Chairman, I would like to say again “land to their owners.” I plead for the adoption of our proposed article on Ancestral Domain, Land and Agrarian Reform, and the reason is nothing personal for anyone of us. This plea is addressed to everyone for the sake of the people who have owned this land, and to whom so little is left.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


Maliwanag sa atin ngayon, maraming mga detalye pa ang dapat ayusin. Sa susunod mga mga taon, 80 taon bago sumulpot ang ikalawang millenarian na selebrasyon ng bansa… Dami gawa pa, kamay natin, Pinas natin. Mabuhay tayo!

[Si Prof. Rudy Buhay Rodil ay aktibong historyan ng Mindanao, tagapasulong ng kalinaw (Bisaya sa kapayapaan). Kilala siyang espesyalista sa paghusay ng mga gusot sa Mindanao-Sulu. Naging Komisyoner noon ng Regional Consultative Commision sa siyang nagbuo ng draft organic law ng Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao noong 1988. Dalawang beses siyang naging miyembro ng GRP Peace Negotiating Panel. 1993-1996, pakikipag-usap sa Moro National Liberation (MNLF), at noong 2004-2008 sa pakikipag-negosasyon sa Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Naging visiting propesor sa Hiroshima University, Oktubre-Disyembre 2011. Nagretiro noong Oktubre 2007.]