OPAPP creates panel to air Lumad issues in peace talks

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 April) – The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) has created a separate five-member Indigenous People (IP) panel who will be tasked to get the issues affecting the Lumad communities that will be taken up in the peace negotiation of the government (GPH) with the rebel groups.

During the Peace Table Conversations Among Key IPs of Mindanao at the Davao Medical School Foundation (DMSF), Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (PAPP) Jesus Dureza said the new panel is a government-commissioned body from whom the GPH panel will get inputs on the concerns in which the Lumads want to be included in the peace talks.

He said the IP panel will engage all Lumads across the country.

“The government (GPH) panel will engage with you (Lumad) directly. I agree to open a peace table for the Lumad – separate panel. So, OPAPP will organize a panel like what we did with (Nur) Misuari, chair of the MNLF,” he said.

Dureza put to task the new government panel to create the terms of reference that will define their functions and the mechanisms how they can participate in the peace negotiations.

Atty. Reuben Dasay A. Lingating, former chairperson of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), will chair the new IP panel, composed of members such as Leonor Quintayo, Era Espana, Judith Maranes, and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) deputy governor Deonato Mokudef as members.

Lingating said that they will have to draft the terms of reference and the mechanisms for engagement with the GPH panel.

He added they are hoping to complete it in two weeks’ time.

Lingating said that the Lumad leaders are grateful to the government for creating a separate panel for the Lumads, a first in the history of peace talks between the government and the rebel groups.

“It is a joyful moment for all of our leaders. They were not really expecting this to happen at this precise moment. On our part, we have to be reminded of our duties and obligations, contributing to the efforts of this government. That’s a milestone that we can certainly achieve if everybody will just have to put his share on the table for the purpose of having a consensus on the manner we can express our agony,” he said.

He vowed the IP panel will adhere to an all-inclusive policy to ensure that all organizations, whether government-initiated or organized by the communities, will be heard.

“We always adhere to the principle of participative leadership and decision-making process. We have to recognize the importance and goal for decision-making on anything that we put on the table based on what is being aspired for by the communities,” Lingating said.

In a two-page position paper on the peace process, the Lumads said the integrity of the ancestral domains should not be compromised during any and all peace negotiations.

It said that AD must be exempted from the coverage of the agrarian reform program and ensure that the constitutional provisions for the protection of the rights of IPs to their AD and cultural integrity should be sustained and strengthened.

The Lumads also want a non-interference by the state and non-state actors over the conduct of the Free Prior and Informed consent (FPIC), Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan, Delineation and Titling, and other Indigenous Peoples and Ancestral Domains related activities. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)