Statement of Tebtebba on Philippines Peace Process at UN EMRIP

Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Eighth session

20-24 July 2015

Item 8: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Statement of Tebtebba Foundation

Delivered by Jennifer Tauli Corpuz

Thank you Mr Chairperson,

I make this statement today to provide updates from indigenous peoples of the Philippines, in light of non-submission by the Philippine government of a response to the questionnaire circulated by the EMRIP seeking their views on best practices regarding possible appropriate measures and implementation strategies to attain the goals of the UNDRIP.

The Philippine government is engaged in a peace process to address the oppression and historical injustices against the Muslim minority in Mindanao, Southern Philippines. The final peace agreement that was signed last year seeks to recognize the identity, ancestral domain, and right to self-determination of the Bangsamoro people. Indigenous peoples have been supportive of this peace process, recognizing the legitimacy of the struggle of the Bangsamoro and the need for a just solution to their plight. Unfortunately, in seeking to uphold the rights of the Muslim minority, the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, as presently written, violates the rights of the indigenous peoples found within the proposed Bangsamoro territory.

In its present form, the draft law recognizes only one Bangsamoro identity, a single ancestral domain or territory for the Bangsamoro, and self-determination only for the Bangsamoro people. Subsuming the identity of indigenous peoples under a single Bangsamoro identity is tantamount to forced assimilation, which is prohibited under international law. Recognition of the ancestral domain of the Bangsamoro, but not the ancestral domain of indigenous peoples is a violation of the right against non-discrimination and indigenous land rights. We recall the statement of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: “We need to fight any attempt to diminish the rights of indigenous peoples in order to uphold the rights of another people. The right to self-determination of indigenous peoples is not lower than that of the Bangsamoro.”

Mr. Chair, the Philippines adopted an indigenous peoples’ rights act in 1997, which is almost an exact copy of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. For the past 18 years, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, which the Bangsamoro seeks to replace, has not implemented this law. Proponents of the draft Bangsamoro law seek to perpetuate this injustice when they refuse to include implementation of the indigenous peoples’ rights act in the text.

In conclusion, we call on the Philippine government to ensure full inclusion on indigenous peoples’ rights in the Bangsamoro Bill. We seek the support of the Expert Mechanism in providing advice to the Philippines in this regard.

Thank you for your attention.