Lumad leaders vow to protect ancestral domain from illegal selling of lands

DIGOS CITY (MindaNews / 9 May)—Tribal leaders vowed to protect their sacred ground from rampant selling of ancestral lands in Barangay Kapatagan here allegedly involving the village chief and other non-tribal members who are now facing criminal charges with the Regional Trial Court Branch 19.

Tribal chieftains arrive at the Almendras Hall of Justice in Digos City on Tuesday (9 May 2023) to attend a hearing on the selling of ancestral lands. MindaNews photo by ANTONIO L. COLINA IV

In an interview on Tuesday, Rogelio Manapol Jr., tribal chieftain of the Unified Bagobo Tagabawa, told MindaNews that tribal chieftains expressed concern over the selling of ancestral lands, which Republic Act 8371 or “The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997” prohibits.

Saying that ancestral domain means the life for the indigenous communities and the next generation of Lumad, Manapol told the public that they should not consider buying ancestral lands as “one of your investments.”

He said the scope of the ancestral lands belonging to Unified Bagobo-Tagabawa includes those within Digos City, Bansalan, Santa Cruz, portions of Sibulan, and Old Balutakan in North Cotabato.

A criminal case for violation of Sections 5, 10, and 72 of R.A. 8371 was filed last February 3 against Barangay chairman Juanito Morales, Rolando I. Parami, Gaudencio Brobo Sr., Ramon B. Brobo, Milagros B. Ocumen, Gaudencio B. Brobo, Allen Dale Griffin, and Lorize Quindao Lomocso, who were accused of being the persons behind the sale of ancestral lands.

The law prohibits, among others, the “unauthorized and unlawful intrusion” into the ancestral domain and imposes a corresponding penalty of imprisonment of not less than nine months but not more than 12 years or a fine of not less than P100,000 but not more than P500,000 or both.

Manapol said it was his late father, Rogelio Manapol, a former tribal chieftain, who reported the alleged illegal selling of ancestral lands to the National Bureau of Investigation-Davao on September 23, 2022, resulting in an entrapment operation on October 13, 2022 at the Barangay Hall in Kapatagan.

He alleged that Morales facilitated the selling of ancestral lands and even used the facilities of the barangay hall for these transactions in the guise of “Transfer of Rights and Improvements.”

He said the accused are not even members of the Bagobo Tagabawa, an indigenous cultural community in the province of Davao del Sur.

Shortly after the almost hour-long hearing at the Almendras Hall of Justice, MindaNews asked Morales for comment but declined.

“Ayaw ko interbyuha kay akong kaso naa na sa korte (Don’t interview me because my case is already in court),” he said.

The arraignment, which was tentatively set for May 9, has been set for May 23 to allow the trial court to evaluate if the case should be heard before the environmental court.

“We will defend our ancestral domain. We are here to pursue justice, and we will neither stop nor compromise in seeking remedy under the existing law. We will defend and seek justice for our rights and to protect the ancestral domain as well as our culture not just for the Unified Bagobo Tagabawa, but also for other tribes as well,” he said.

Matanam Adlrin Adang, a tribal chieftain of Santa Cruz town, said the tribal leaders hope to put a stop on the selling of ancestral lands.

He said tribal leaders hope the court would uphold the position of the tribal leaders on the illegal sale of ancestral lands, which is now a major problem confronting the tribal council.

He said tribal leaders have yet to plan their next move to address the existing structures constructed within the ancestral domain by non-members without the free prior and informed consent of the tribal council. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)