ANGAY-ANGAY LANG: The Minoritization of the Indigenous Communities of Mindanaw and Sulu (16)

16 of 16 parts
Epilogue 1

(Done in 1992 at Iligan City, published initially as two versions. First as the abbreviated edition published by The Minority Rights Group, London entitled The Lumad and Moro of Mindanaw, July 1993. The Philippine edition carrying the full draft was printed by AFRIM in Davao City 1994. This was later updated in 2003, summarized in an epilogue. This is the third revision, now with an expanded Epilogue.)

Part XVI. Updated Epilogue-I

In the Bangsamoro front. 

The first big event was the signing of the Final Peace Agreement between the GRP and the MNLF on September 2, 1996. After nearly five years of intensive negotiations both in Jakarta and in the Philippines, from exploratory to talks proper,  the GRP and the MNLF finally came to terms on the implementation of the 20-year old Tripoli Agreement of 1976. The two parties agreed to have a transition mechanism called Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) while the amendment of the Organic Act of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was being processed through Congress, and 7,500 MNLF combatants were to be integrated into the government, 5,750 into the Armed Forces of the Philippines and 1,750 into the Philippine National Police.

The implementation was a bit stormy in certain places but the tempest blew over in time. An uproar, mainly from the Christian population, was generated by the transition mechanism called the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development but when the opposing population realized that their interest was not really compromised, they simmered down.  MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari who refused to vacate his seat as ARMM Governor for reasons not yet fully clear up to now led an abortive rebellion, escaped to Malaysia, was arrested there by the Malaysian government and handed over to the Philippine government. He subsequently landed in jail; he is still there as of this writing. The Organic Act became a law in 2001; a plebiscite was held in August 2001 and Basilan and Marawi City became the new additions to the territory of the ARMM, and a new batch of ARMM officials was elected into office.   By the first quarter of 2003, the last batch of the 7,500 MNLF combatants who were trained and integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police was deemed completed.

The second big event was the all-out war against the MILF declared by President Joseph Estrada. Negotiations with the MILF followed immediately after the signing of the Peace Agreement in 1996 but this was marred by several major encounters between the MILF forces and the AFP, until finally, in March 2000, after the military re-captured the town hall of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte from the MILF, President Estrada thought it best to declare an all-out war against the former. A full-scale war raged for more than three months, leading to the military capture of 46 MILF camps.  More than one million residents, Muslims, Lumad and Christian inhabitants were dislocated. MILF forces  may have suffered humiliation but remained basically intact. Estrada has been impeached, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took over as the new president, the peace talks have inched forward a little with two major agreements on security and rehabilitation but is far from done. Ancestral Domain, a critical item in the agenda, has yet to be discussed.  A new round of fighting broke out in February 2003 which spilled over as far as Lanao del Norte.  Meanwhile,  Salamat Hashim  had passed away in July 2003, and Vice Chairman for Military Affairs Al Haj Murad Ebrahim has assumed the chairmanship of the organization. There is a lull in the fighting.  A resumption of  negotiation was scheduled for the first week of October but it is now December and there is no concrete indication that a date has been  fixed. The presidential election is only a few months away. Doubts have been expressed from the MILF end, albeit unofficial, that a peace agreement would be signed  with the Arroyo administration. This is where things stand at the moment.

In the Lumad front

The third big event was the enactment into law of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) in October 1997. This is the first law in the 20th century that reversed the effects of PCA 718 of April 1903 which, as we will recall, declared as void all land grants made by traditional leaders, if done without consent from government. With IPRA, ancestral lands may be titled.

Prior to the enactment of IPRA, the government already initiated positive efforts towards providing security to ancestral domain claims of the Indigenous Peoples. It is a bit late in coming, still short of what the Indigenous Peoples really want, but it is definitely a step forward. It started with DAO 2 (short for Department Administrative Order No. 2) issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in January 1993. Its title is self-explanatory: Rules and Regulations for the Identification, Delineation and Recognition of Ancestral Land and Domain Claims.  After complying with the procedures, claimants would be awarded a certificate of ancestral domain claim.

Since that time up to June 6, 1998, a total of 181 Certificates of Ancestral Domain Claims (CADC) have been issued totaling 2,546,036 hectares, nearly 500,000 hectares shy of the three million hectares originally targeted by the Order for its five-year effectivity.

Of the total of 85 CADCs that have been issued to the Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao,  the largest is the Matigsalug Manobo claim with an area of  77,143 hectares.  .

With the enactment of IPRA, authority to issue titles, not just certificates to ancestral domain claims have been turned over to the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP). Not too long ago, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo awarded Certificates of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), granted through the NCIP,  to three indigenous tribes in Mindanao during the culmination of the two-day Mindanao Indigenous Peoples congress on October 30, 2003. These are  the Matigsalug-Manobo from the municipalities of Kitaotao, Kibawe, and Quezon in Bukidnon; Talaandig from  Talakag, Bukidnon; and Arumanen-Manobo from the municipalities of Carmen,  Aleosan, Alamada, and Libungan, in Cotabato.

The fourth significant event was the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Peace Forum organized by Panagtagbo at Camp Alano, Toril, Davao City on 17-19 January 2001. This assembly issued a manifesto (See full text in Appendix N ) which made several important assertions, one of them being a reiteration of their desire for self-governance within their respective ancestral domains in accordance with their customary laws, and the other – and this is new – the creation of their own autonomous region, apart from the ARMM. For the first time, too, Panagtagbo succeeded in getting the Lumad position heard in the GRP Panel that is conducting peace talks with the MILF through the membership of Datu Al Saliling as member of the Technical Working Group on Ancestral Domain. They had wanted full panel membership but only a seat in the working group was available. They have also been able not only to present their position to the MILF but also to conduct dialogues with local units of the MILF to remind them of traditional pacts – called dyandi and pakang — with Maguindanao Moro leaders in the past with respect to ancestral domain boundaries. This mode of assertion of Lumad rights is unprecedented and bears monitoring.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. A peace specialist, Rudy Buhay Rodil is an active Mindanao historian and peace advocate)

TOMORROW: Update Epilogue II A Mindanao Historian’s Views; Quick Recalls on the Basic Issues of the GRP-MILF Peace Process