CAMP DARAPANAN, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao (MindaNews/ 26 August) – The chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is assuring Lumads (Indigenous Peoples /IPs) in the proposed Bangsamoro that they will not allow them to experience what the Moro people have gone through because “we have experienced being the minority and we know the situation, we know the hardship of being a minority, of being a victim of oppression.”
“We are assuring them that we will not repeat the same situation where a majority will oppress the minority,” MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim told MindaNews on Sunday afternoon.
Murad said oppressing the IPs and doing them injustice would mean “opening a door for them to wage another struggle against the Bangsamoro people.”
According to an IP Dev 2013 survey among 80 barangays in 12 towns “with sizeable IP population” in the mainland of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the total Lumad population there is 117,189, with the Tedurays numbering 110,559, followed by the Lambangian with 3,139, the Dulangan Manobo with 2,904, Higaonon with 161 and 17 other ethnic affiliations with less than a hundred each.
The ARMM, part of the core territory of the Bangsamoro political entity that would replace it by 2016, has a population of 4.7 million as of 2013, according to the ARMM website.
Murad said the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law has “so many provisions that are addressing the rights of the indigenous peoples,” including a provision for the Bangsamoro government to establish an office or ministry specifically for the IPs, to ensure their concerns are addressed.
Complaints have been aired by some Lumad residents in the proposed Bangsamoro about harassments and even killings by armed men identifying themselves as MILF members.
The most recent complaint was aired in a letter sent by Timuay Alim Bandara of the Teduray, Lambangian and Dulangan Manobo Ancestral Domain Claim (TLADMADC) to government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer on August 20, about how an armed group terrified residents of Pmogoyon, a community close to Sitio Bahar in Pandan, South Upi, Maguindanao.
The letter, coursed through Froilyn Tenorio-Mendoza, one of two members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) representing the Lumads, said three instances of ambush had been recorded, killing four persons and injuring one, between May 1 and August 10, 2014 in Sitio Behar and that a certain Maliga Alhaj Ali, an alleged MILF member was “consistently behind the disturbance of peace in this area.”
The GPH and MILF peace panels have a mechanism aimed at addressing complaints involving their respective military forces – the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities which was created in 2003 and mandated to monitor the implementation of the GPH-MILF Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities and settle complaints on ceasefire violations to contain and prevent conflicts from escalation.
If the alleged violation is perpetrated by the MILF’s armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the complaint is sent to the CCCH of the government peace panel which then sends a protest to the MILF CCCH, copy furnished the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT).
The same process is followed if the alleged violation is done by the military or police. A complaint is filed before the MILF’s CCCH which then sends a protest to the GPH’s CCCH.
Murad said Lumads who have complaints against the MILF are welcome to visit him in his office.
“We are very open.. even yung opisina ko mismo, we are open for them to come and have a dialogue with us at saka iparating nila kung ano yung mga concern nila,” he said.
Murad said he has been holding dialogues with Lumad leaders and mayors.
On August 6 this year, Murad wrote Ricardo Gunsi, Romano Ariston and Janito Rabelo, IP Mandatory Representatives in Upi, Maguindanao, reiterating his commitment to “protect, preserve and guarantee the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the future Bangsamoro, with emphasis on the rights over our shared ancestral domain, as a reflection of our genuine intention of assuring inclusiveness and promoting peace and justice in the region.”
Murad had earlier met the three representatives in a dialogue. He thanked them for their support to the peace process and ended his letter by saying, “Indeed, peace and prosperity in the region can only be attained through collective positive action and recognition of the rights of all constituents in our Bangsamoro homeland.”
“Give us a chance”
In a speech at the Moro-IP Solidarity Event at the EDSA Shangrila Hotel on May 23, 2014, MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, also BTC chair, admitted that the IP issue “ has been one of the most difficult and complex concerns I addressed as Chair of the BTC.”
“Understandably, groups held on to unshakeable ancestral domain claims backed by clashing interpretation of international and domestic legal and political principles. Yet, a zero-sum, take no prisoners’ approach in addressing this complex issue proved counter-productive and destructive of relationships that are key to building peace in our communities,” he said, adding they made progress “only when we took on a new lens and develop(ed) a new language that will foster unity not division in our communities.”
Iqbal added that with the new lens, “we can now imagine a Bangsamoro where all groups equitably and mutually reap what have been gained in our quest for self-determination on top of rights already enjoyed by each and every person or group.”
“We should focus our energies to weaving our beliefs, laws and rights towards forming a tapestry of peace, unity and progress in the Bangsamoro,” he said.
“Give us the chance to prove that in the Bangsamoro, the IPs have a bright future. This we will prove once the Bangsamoro is in place,” Iqbal vowed. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)