Bukidnon datus revive unified council for Lumad governance

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/18 Nov) – Tribal leaders from Bukidnon’s indigenous peoples are looking at the revival of a unified council of elders as a new start to the movement to unify different and scattered tribal councils and tribal peoples’ organizations to pursue indigenous governance.

Twenty-two representatives from leaders and elders of the province’s seven hill tribes gathered at the Provincial Indigenous Community Affairs and Development (PICAD) office last week to reorganize the Bukidnon Unified Tribal Development Council of Elders (BUTRIDCE), which started in the 1990s as a Bukidnon-based lobby group for the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act. Among the top agenda set were the new direction of the council and the anointing of new leaders from the provincial down to tribal level.

But convenor Datu Anilaw Inlantong Erwin Marte told MindaNews Friday they were unable to gather equal representation among elders in the meeting. Thus, they were not able to collectively select and anoint the replacement of leader Datu Romando Sambile who died October last year.

He said they have set an assembly meeting on November 28 to follow through the initial discussions.

The council, Marte added, was able to create and identify seven committees, namely, customary law and justice, economic and environment, indigenous knowledge system and practices, traditional health and medicine, territorial guards, territorial committee to oversee boundary conflicts, and belief system and practices.

He said the committees, created during the November 11 meeting, will help them in their work to pursue indigenous governance in the province.

He added that the committees will be under the “pasagi” or a governing council, eyed to be the highest policy making body among the lumads in the province.

BUTRIDCE, Marte added, was originally intended to consolidate the issues and concerns of Bukidnon’s indigenous peoples at a time when the IPRA law was at its infancy. He said it was Talaandig Datu Migketay Victorino Saway, who was the first Northern Mindanao commissioner of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, who encouraged it.

But Marte said the council faced challenges like politicization, with some leaders being enticed by local politicians to run for public office or be in their campaign force.

“This affected the council’s work to unify the Lumad in the province under one umbrella organization,” he added.

He said the council also tackles the preparations for the Lumad’s mandatory representation in the legislative councils of government.

In the council meeting, they also tackled traditional peace pact (Tampuda Hu Balagen) and an update on carbon credits for the Lumad involved in environmental conservation.

He said the provincial government has facilitated the revival but clarified that decisions were made by the Lumad themselves.

“They are just facilitators,” he added. Datu Makabadbad Russell Aquino, PICAD head, said during the meeting that the move seeks to strengthen the Lumad’s rights over their territory and their right to development and indigenous governance. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)