Rep. Catamco on IPs in the Committee-approved BBL: “not so happy”

QUEZON CITY (MindaNews/22 May) – “Not so happy.”

North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco proposed at least 12 amendments to the then 18-article, 242-section draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, focusing on Indigenous Peoples’ rights, but her colleagues at the 75-member Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (AHCBBL) and representatives of the 23 ex-officio members, turned down most of these, prompting her to cry on the shoulder of an IP advocate on Monday night.

Catamco, a member of the Manobo-Tagabawa tribe, did not show up for the vote on the BBL on Wednesday afternoon. She declined to reply if it was deliberate but sent emoticons instead.

On Wednesday morning, after the 13-hour session on Tuesday to finish the section-by-section voting, Catamco said she was “not so happy” with the final outcome of the Committee-approved Basic Law that now uses “Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples” instead of “Indigenous Peoples.”

IP RIGHTS. North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco (left, raising hand). said she is "not so happy" with the Committee-approved Bangsamoro Basic Law that will be sent to the plenary for debates. Catamco is a member of the Manobo-Tagabawa tribe. (MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas)
IP RIGHTS. North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco (left, raising hand). said she is “not so happy” with the Committee-approved Bangsamoro Basic Law that will be sent to the plenary for debates. Catamco is a member of the Manobo-Tagabawa tribe. (MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas)

“I’m still malungkot (sad) for the tribes because other important and vital provisions like identity and their distinct spiritual relationship with their lands and the preservation of which for future generation were outvoted,” Catamco told MindaNews.

“I think hindi lang dapat tribu ang malungkot how many people regard our lands and natural resources. Actually, we are reaping it – disasters, climate change, floods and many more will be felt. Ang kawawa ang mahihirap naman.” she said.

“Anyway, that’s how it is in a democratic process.Catamco  Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Pero sana sa dulo ng lahat ng procesong ito, ang totoong demokrasya – ang boses ng karamihan ang maririnig. Ang katotohanan ang mananaig. At higit sa lahat ang buong sambayanang Pilipino ang mananalo,” Catamco noted.

On May 11, supposedly the first day of voting, Catamco delivered a sponsorship speech on her proposed amendments “that impact on the Rights of the Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples” in the BBL.

Inclusive Peace

“Now, this is a historic moment – and could be our last – to correct this historical injustice and decades of neglect against our Lumads (Indigenous Peoples). 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,” Catamco told the Committee.

“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,” she said.

While Catamco’s proposals were incorporated in the Committee’s Consolidated Draft, not all were carried by the Chairman’s and Vice Chairperson’s Draft (CVCD), the draft distributed to Committee members shortly before noon of May 18, and approved by the majority to be the basis for the voting, despite objections from those who wanted to be given time to study it.

Catamco proposed a definition of “Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples” after the section on Bangsamoro People in Article 2 on Bangsamoro Identity” in lieu of Section 2 on Freedom of Choice. The CVCD, however, did not carry that proposal. The section retained “The freedom of choice of other indigenous peoples shall be respected” but added “There shall be no discrimination on the basis of identity, religion, and ethnicity.”

Declaration on Rights of Non-Moro IP

But a new section was added to the BBL by Catamco and the CVCD: the Declaration on the Rights of Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples — as Section 9 under Article 4 on General Principles and Policies. It states that the Bangsamoro Government “recognizes and promotes the rights of non-Moro Indigenous peoples within the framework of national unity and development.”

On May 19, Catamco’s proposal for the deletion of Sec. 30, Article V on “Protection of the rights of the IPs in the Bangsamoro,” as an “exclusive power” and transferring it to “concurrent” was approved.

“Ancestral Domain and Natural Resources,” however, remains under the exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro, in the Committee-approved bill.

Catamco did not succeed in having the provision on judicial affirmation deleted completely. The section carried by the CVCD merely removed the period for filing petitions “within a period of 10 years from the effectivity of this law.” The section now reads: “To recognize constructive or traditional possession of lands and resources by indigenous cultural communities subject to judicial affirmation. The procedure for judicial affirmation of imperfect titles under existing laws shall, as far as practicable, apply to the judicial affirmation of titles to ancestral lands.”

Transitional Justice

On Transitional Justice, under the Article on Basic Rights, Catamco’s proposal for the transitional justice mechanisms to address the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people, “including the non-Moro Indigenous peoples” was carried by the CVCD and approved by the body.
Under Section 5, the section’s title now reads “Non-Moro Indigenous People’s Rights” but the original provision as submitted to Congress was retained with the addition of “in accordance with the Indigenous People’s Rights Act, the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights.”

Catamco had proposed a different language: “The Bangsamoro Government recognizes the rights of Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples to their ancestral domains and lands, the right to internal self-determination, social justice and human rights, and cultural integrity, subject to the Constitution and Republic Act no. 8371,” and what she hopes would be the measures to promote and protect their rights, through the Ministry of Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples.

Catamco’s list of proposals also included the inclusion of “at least one” non-Moro IP Commossioner in the Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission. The CVCD did not not carry this proposed amendment.

It did not also carry her proposed amendment on the share of non-Moro IPs under the article on Fiscal Autonomy. Catamco had proposed an “automatic appropriation” of “at least five per cent in the total annual appropriations of the Bangsamoro be allocated for Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples, development projects or provision for support services, livelihood or infrastructure.”
On the rights of non-Moro IPs over natural resources, Catamco pushed for the amendment she proposed last week to include the responsibility to “maintain and strengthen their distinct spiritual relationship with their lands and other resources….” their priority rights over the resources that belong to “all generations” tbut the CVCD did not carry this and merely retained the original wording of the section.

No repeat of history

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim last year assured the Lumads that they do not want 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,” he said.

According to an IP Dev 2013 survey among 80 barangays in 12 towns “with sizeable IP population” in the mainland of the 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.


Lumads and IP advocates have repeatedly called on the Ad Hoc Committee in writing and during public hearings for a “full inclusion of IP rights in the BBL.”

Last year, they also repeatedly called on the 15-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that drafted the BBL to ensure that their rights under IPRA are assured.

The draft BBL made no mention of IPRA, a national law passed on October 29, 1997 but not implemented in the IP areas under the ARMM, but MILF peace panel Mohagher Iqbal had repeatedly said that the provisions of IPRA are incorporated there.

Iqbal admitted at the Moro-IP Solidarity Event at the EDSA Shangrila Hotel on May 23, 2014 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

“IPRA plus plus plus”

The BTC has two IP members in the BTC, both living in the core territory of the proposed Bangsamoro: Timuay Melanio Ulama and Froilyn Mendoza. But the two Commissioners have divergent views on a number of key issues.

In the first out-of-town public hearing of the Ad Hoc Committee on October 22 last year, chair Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro assured residents of the predominantly Lumad town of Upi in Maguindanao that what IPRA has given them will not be diminished but will instead be enhanced in the future Bangsamoro.

“It will be IPRA plus plus plus,” Rodriguez told a crowd of about 400 at the Upi School Gym.
“Do not worry. IPRA will be applicable (in the Bangsamoro). It is applicable now, it is applicable in the future, Rodriguez said, to the delight of IP groups pushing for the specific mention of RA 8371 or IPRA in the BBL.

The Committee-approved bill, which is scheduled for sponsorship at the plenary on May 27 and for plenary debates starting June 1, now mentions IPRA. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)