Peace, development and the BBL: The Lumad view

By Timuay Alim Bandara, Timuay Justice and Governance,
Date of publication: 
5 June, 2015

Timuay Alim Bandara is a member of Minted sa Inged (Supreme Council) of the Timuay Justice and Governance (TJG). He is also the head petitioner in the Teduray and Lambangian Unified Ancestral Domains Claim.

The burning issue between and among IP leaders on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which was highlighted in the May 25, 2015 Senate hearing, is whether or not to make reference to Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) or RA 8371, as the basis for the the recognition of IP rights in the BBL.

The contentions of those opposed to IPRA are that IPRA had not been implemented in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao; that there is no implementing mechanism in the ARMM; that IPRA will defeat the true essence of autonomy; that IPRA runs counter to some provisions of the BBL; that no profit-sharing arrangement in terms of utilization and extraction of natural resources.

On the other hand, they claim that in the BBL, there is equitable sharing of income and the opportunity for the creation of a political district for Indigenous Peoples in the Bangsamoro. Hence, they say, there is no need of IPRA in the BBL.

The above stated reasons are not sufficient grounds to drop IPRA in the BBL. Actually, these can be harmonized by Congress and in fact these are subject of lobby for amendments on the Bangsamoro Transition Committee version of the BBL.

It has to be emphasized that IPRA is a social and landmark legislation to correct historical injustices inflicted against the Indigenous Peoples. IPRA recognizes the right to self-determination of various distinct IP nations in the context of Ancestral Domain and self-governance and empowerment.

The motivation of the other IP leaders to drop IPRA in exchange for IP rights in the BTC version of the BBL are obviously to avail of the promised flooding of investments, business opportunities and political accommodations by way of creating a political district for IPs in the region. However good they maybe, those positions do not reflect the core agenda of Indigenous Peoples — the building of a society reflective of the hopes and aspirations of Indigenous Peoples.

The hopes and aspirations of IPs are well entrenched under IPRA provisions on the rights to ancestral domains; the right to self-governance and empowerment; social justice, human rights and cultural integrity. The weaknesses of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples as a government institution mandated to ensure the implementation of IPRA should not be confused as weakness of IPRA. In fact, the provisions for genuine empowerment of IPs are actually not yet realized partly because of the lack of understanding or focus on the part of NCIP and largely because the Indigenous Political Structures are not strengthened.

There can only be real empowerment of IPs if the Indigenous Political Structures are fully functional following the customary laws on the management of ancestral domains and economy; traditional governance structures and justice systems; culture and spirituality. This is the kind of society we need to build to ensure that IPs will not be further marginalized and disappear. Then IPRA may be enough for all government units including the autonomous regions to implement for the protection and promotion of IP rights. So this is not obsession to IPRA as many would say as the reason of non-Moro IPs in ARMM cry for IPRA in the BBL.

The reality is that ancestral domain areas cut across different political boundaries of barangays, municipalities, provinces and the autonomous regions. The development framework within ancestral domains is to be determined by the tribes through the formulation of the Ancestral Domains Sustainable Development and Protection Plan based on IPRA. The challenge is how strong or consolidated the IPS are that they would not be drawn into the local government units’ and autonomous regions’ development plans given that these government units have resources to fund their development plans.

There are glaring contradictions on these two development frameworks. There is the belief that the assurance of a lifetime job and employment among IPs is guaranteed only if the natural resources within their domain is protected and secured by the community. On the contrary, the new development paradigm introduced by the State such as establishment of regional industrial centers, construction of transportation routes, development of tourist spots, construction of sea and airports, putting up of communication facilities, operation of agro-industrial plantations, mining operations, putting up of malls and other project beneficial to global trading are destructive to nature and therefore are not assurances of job placement and sustainable employment for IPs.

However, we do not reject everything about the other development plan. There are good aspects that are also useful in IPs’ daily lives today. Therefore, we need to establish safety measures to protect our people in the community by way of taking into consideration the following in determining what is good development:

Safeguard our closeness to nature

Development should ensure that we are not distanced from our closeness to nature. Development that threatens to destroy nature and remove us from our lands is not acceptable because nature is the basic sources of our livelihood ranging from food, medicine, shelter and even customs and tradition. Because of this, nature is considered the extension of the life and body.

Collective leadership

Development should ensure that collective forms of leadership and decision making are respected. We particularly abhor attempts by large corporations to get their way through divide and rule enticements aimed at individuals in our society. Development process must respect the need to group consultation so that we can determine by consensus what the whole community desires.

Communal ownership of property

Development should ensure that communal ownership of property is not threatened. This includes the communal ownership of the land, hunting and fishing grounds, worship places and other major source of economy in the community for no one has the sole control over the product of mother earth. We use these resources in order to live a humane, dignified life.

Equal status in society

Development should ensure that equal status in society is preserved. We reject development that elevates some individuals into prestigious and powerful positions at the expense of others in the community. We value every individual in our community irrespective of life opportunities that may have come their way for advance education, employment and so on. Thus we reject development that values one human being over another for, we, the children of mother earth are equal.

The ‘good fedew’ as basis of justice, peace and development

Development should ensure that the good fedew remains the basis of justice and development. Goodfedew is the presence of a good feeling, peace of mind and the physical well being of every individual member of the community. This is the strongest foundation of peace, justice and development in tribal society. Any undertaking that runs counter to the “kéfiyo fédéw” is not good development.

Lumut Minanga or progressive pluralism

Finally, development should ensure that progressive pluralism is maintained and enhanced. Development should be respectful of all people including the tri-people neighbors of Mindanao like the Moro people, the Christian majority Filipinos and the Lumad.

Though there is no single organization governing the IP communities, the above stated principles are common among Indigenous Peoples. These practically connect the different IP communities into one global village.

Prospectively, the best allies of the IPs in this struggle are the working class because though they are far apart in terms of living conditions, they are the direct victims of the latest global development framework.

Both need job placement and employment opportunities with fair working relations — the former need fair working relation with nature and the latter need fair working relation with their employer.

The IP employer is nature and the working class employers are business managers who are doing massive destruction and deformation of nature in pursuit of producing more and more profit to the detriment of IPs and the working class.


IP struggle for Identity and Territory Consistent, Even Without Arms, says Lumad

LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights) press release

9 June 2015

Manila – “Our struggle to assert our rights as Teduray to our identity and territory has started long before the MILF-GPH peace talks, and we have been very consistent about this,” says Jennevieve Cornelio, a Teduray woman leader of the Timuay Justice and Governance (TJG). “Kahit wala kaming armas.” (Even if we do not have arms.)

Cornelio said that the IPs have been eased out of the peace talks, “because we are not armed.” This, however, does not mean the Lumads or the indigenous peoples in Mindanao do not have legitimate concerns. “Our territory is part of what is being proposed as Bangsamoro Territory. Our distinct identity as Teduray, Dulangan Manobo and Lambangian is being subsumed as Bangsamoro people. We cannot allow this.”

Cornelio was speaking as part of the panel in “Tapatan sa Aristocrat”, a media forum held Monday. The other members of the panel were Mohagher Iqbal, Chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Atty. Christian Monsod, as part of the Peace Council.

“The IPs have representatives in the drafting of the BBL,” according to Iqbal, referring to Teduray members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) – Ms. Froilyn Mendoza, appointed by the Philippine government, and Melanio Ulama, appointed by the MILF. Monsod also stated that the OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Affairs on Peace Process) held 32 consultations with IPs.

“But what was done by the OPAPP were IEC (Information, Education, campaign) and not consultations with the indigenous communities,” countered Cornelio. She acknowledged, however, that there were indeed two Teduray representatives in the BTC. But only one actually held consultations with the IP communities. “Comm. Mendoza held several community consultations, and we participated in those.” Cornelio said that it was through these consultations that they were able to discuss and propose IP provisions in the draft BBL. “We originally had 145 proposed provisions.” However, Cornelio narrated, after Comm. Mendoza brought these to the BTC, it was reduced to 69, then later, 13 provisions. “Now, none of our substantive proposals – not on IP identity, on our ancestral domain and the articulation of Rep. Act 8371 or Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) are there; but what can she do, Comm. Mendoza was the only one in the BTC fighting for our rights.”

Comm. Ulama, who appeared towards the end of the media forum, intervened and said that IPRA has not been implemented in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) since the IP law has been enacted, 17 years ago. According to him, the IPs do not need IPRA anymore, and BBL as it is, is enough. Ulama further questioned the representation of Cornelio, and said that he did not know her, and where she was from. Cornelio then said, “You would not know me, as I am just an ordinary Teduray woman from the community of Brgy. Looy, South Upi, Maguindanao. I’m active in the assertion of women’s rights. You however, we know very well, as the Teduray representative appointed by the MILF.”

Cornelio is currently here in Manila as part of the Lumad delegation, representing the IPs from the core territory, as they push for the full inclusion of IP rights in the proposed BBL.


For more information:
judy a. pasimio / 09175268341 / judy [at] lilak [dot] net
LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights)