Lumads, CSOs agree in principle with proposed MILF peace pact

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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/14 June) – After two days of consultations Sunday and Monday with the peace panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), lumad and civil society leaders agreed in principle with the proposed MILF peace pact that is being submitted to the panel of the Government of the Philippines (GPH).

Lumad leaders said that the proposed peace pact by the MILF is acceptable to them and would strengthen their assertion of their right to self-determination, said Vic Saway, a leader of the Talaandig tribe in Bukidnon.

“What we are asking is for the MILF to recognize the traditional peace pacts that have been forged between the lumads and the Bangsamoro people,” Saway told MindaNews.

In response, MILF peace panel chairperson Mohagher Iqbal said that ever since, the MILF has recognized these traditional agreements which reaffirm the unity of the origins of the indigenous peoples of Mindanao.

Saway, who talked in behalf of the lumads in the consultations held at the Balay Mindanaw Peace Center here, proposed that to seal the agreement, they have to do some rituals with their Bangsamoro leaders.

Iqbal said that he will recommend to the MILF Central Committee the formalization of the unity between the lumads and the Bangsamoro people in pushing for a final peace deal with the Manila government even as he enjoined his brother lumads to further conscienticize their position by doing further consultations with the 23 lumad groups in Mindanao.

Earlier, MILF panel member Datu Michael Mastura assured the lumads that the proposed peace deal prepared by the MILF recognizes the rights of the lumads and the Christian settlers.

“But we cannot wait for our lumad brothers, that is why we have given them a choice to be with us or not when we sign the final peace deal,” Mastura said.

He explained that the situation of the lumads and the Bangsamoro people should be differentiated as the Bangsamoro people, especially the sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu, have based their claim to nationhood after they reached supra nationhood status. A thing he said that was not reached by the lumads.

“We are however realistic in our claims now, although we take the fact that Mindanao was wholly ours before, but the reality is that about 30 percent of it remains to us now and that is what we are claiming to have self-governance,” Mastura said.

Anthropologist Dr. Erlinda Burton, of the Xavier University Museo de Oro, said that based on their studies, the lumads, particularly the Manobo which later on divided into sub-tribes, were of the same origin.

“They were Austronesians who came to Mindanao after the 10th century. One group later on converted to Islam and another group went north of the Pulangi River sometime in the 13th Century,” Burton said.

The Manobos – which later on divided into subtribes like the Higaonon, the Bukidnon tribes, Subanon, among others – retained their animist religion and spread to northern and northeastern Mindanao and Zamboanga Peninsula. Those who converted to Islam established the Sultanate of Maguindanao which had expanded up to Northern Mindanao during the time of Sultan Kudarat in the 16th century.

Civil society groups meanwhile agreed to help in disseminating the information of the ongoing MILF-GPH peace process in order to create an awareness among the public.

Paul Paraguya, executive director of Balay Mindanaw, said that they will form a group which would conduct information and education drives to drum up support for the peace process.

Iqbal said that the draft peace pact they presented is still for consideration by the GPH. He said that public support for their proposal is necessary for it to be considered by the GPH.

“We have suggested that it will be considered as the working draft, but we enjoin the GPH to come up with its own draft, for us to negotiate in the peace table,” Iqbal said.

He said that Northern Mindanao, a predominantly Christian region, plays an important role in the peace process. “Your voice here is definitely very important as this region plays an important role in the affairs of Mindanao as a whole,” Iqbal said. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin / MindaNews)

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