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Restoring Dignity and Sovereignty, A Structural Analysis of the Indigenous Peoples' Situation

Restoring Dignity and Sovereignty, A Structural Analysis of the Indigenous Peoples' Situation

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Published by: Matet Norbe on Feb 09, 2012
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Restoring Dignity and Sovereignty:A Structural Analysis of the IndigenousPeople’s Situation
 A paper presented by Mindanao Peoples' Peace Movement's Chairperson andDirector of the Institute for Peace and Development Studies of the SouthernChristian College,
Mr. Rodelio N. Ambangan
to the Philippine EcumenicalPeace Platform (PEPP) conference on November 7-9, 2011 at BPER, SCC,Midsayap, Cotabato.
Mepiya ne keepunan keytew langun!(We ask our great ancestral spirits and the unseen beings who are here today to bring our message to the Master of Life and Creator of all. We turn ourthoughts to the Creator, the Great Good Spirit, and send greetings and thanksfor the gift of Creation; for everything we need to live a good life is here on thisMother Earth.)It is an honour to be invited by people whom I admire and look up to, thePresident Emeritus of Southern Christian College, Dr. Erlinda N. Senturiasand the former Chairman of the Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement (MPPM)and Consultant of the Institute for Peace and Development of Studies (IPDS),Mr. Alvaro Senturias. They are the official representatives of the MindanaoPeoples’ Peace Movement (MPPM) to the Philippine Ecumenical PeacePlatform (PEPP).It is a relief for me to share some of my feelings and insights on the real andfactual situation of the indigenous peoples as well as some background in thePhilippine context. For convenience, let me inform you that my sharing ispremised on the assumption of most indigenous peoples that the realization of the right to self determination will contribute to the realization of a durableand sustainable peace.I was fortunate to participate in the celebration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 8-9, 2011 where more than a hundredof indigenous peoples gathered and hosted by Hon. Congressman TheodoroBrawner Baguilat, Chairperson on the Committee on National CulturalCommunities in Batasang Pambansa, Quezon City. The gathering paved way for a dynamic interaction between indigenous peoples and the representativeof the CPP-NPA-NDF, MILF and GPh who shared on the status of the peacenegotiation and its outcomes and trajectories.During the event, I remembered the story shared to me by Datu Al Saliling, anErumanen ne Menuvu tribal leader who happened to be a member of the
Technical Working Group of the Government of the Philippines sometimeduring Arroyo’s regime and he said:“Consider that all of us are passengers of a bus, the Indigenous people,the Government of the Philippines, CPP-NPA-NDF and MILF. The bus will goto Davao City from Midsayap. Most of the passengers will go to Davao city  while the indigenous people will drop by at Kidapawan. In this case, shouldthe indigenous peoples need to go to Davao City in order to reach theirdestination?” Which is more important to us, to reach home safe and meet ourloved ones or go together in a journey while feeling uncomfortable about ourfamilies and unclear about our destination?This story has a semblance with the collective and continuing appeal of theindigenous people for the long-dreamt Right to Self Determination withspecific emphasis on three major concerns: (1) Sovereignty (total access andcontrol) over their ancestral land and resources; (2) Restoration of territorialself-governance; and, (3) Assertion of self-determined development.
Why IPs are seriously raising these concerns? There are three mainreasons in my list?
1. Number one- The indigenous peoples has suffered so much from theCOLONIZATION and the massive appetite of the Spanish colonizers forpolitical grandeur and accumulation of wealth. The Regalian Doctrine wasunilaterally imposed declaring the entire Philippines as owned by the King of Spain espousing the encomienda system. The encomienda system facilitatesthe ejection of the indigenous peoples from their ancestral land anddisconnecting further their spiritual link to their ancestral land. To stay in theencomienda is a hell, they were required to pay tribute (tax) and required torender forced labor (polo y servicios) in building majestic convents andchurches, shipyards. Of course, there were accounts of Indigenous Peoplesrebellion but most often they went to the forests and mountains to evade fromthe villain. Mountain is called Iliyan or a natural defense.There was an account of an indigenous person, who ran for his life inCordillera Mountains for he could not withstand the cruelty of the Spanishconquistadores. One night, he went back to the lowland in Tarlac where thecontingent of the Spaniard was present. He travelled day and night just toshout at the Spaniard under the cover of darkness – “What did our ancestorsowe yours, why did you come to plunder us!”. Then he quickly ran back to themountain afraid that he will be caught.The Spaniard employed the “divide and rule tactic” to effectively conquer thenatives. We have inherited this strategy from the conquistadores. At present,it is imbedded in the system of big mining companies that are aggressively entering and exploiting the mineral resources within the ancestral land. Letme cite an example based on the situation of the indigenous peoples’against the Toronto Ventures Incorporated in Canatuan in Siocon,Zamboanga. In order to facilitate the entrance of the TVI, they have organized
a group of tribal leaders… “habang si Datu Boy Anoy lider ng mga Subanon sakomunidad magiting na kumkampanya laban sa TVI. Dumating ang issue saUnited Nation sa tulong na rin ng maraming NGOs. Habang abala si Datu Boy  Anoy sa kanyang pangangampanya laban sa minahan sa loob ng mahabangpanahon, ay nagkasakit ang kanyang asawa at ang nagdala at nagbayad nggastusin sa hospital ay ang TVI. Hindi nagtagal , nakumbinsi na rin si DatuBoy Anoy na pumayag na sa pagmina at kasama na rin siyahanggang ngayon”. Ito ay batay sa kwento ni Timuay Nanding Buday, isangLeader ng Subanon. Ano ang gusto nating ipalabas dito. Ang gusto natingipalabas ay kailangan ang tulong na sustainabli sa pamilya at komunidadmaliban sa rally, petition o complaint dahil sila ang expose sa mgaganitong dilikadong sitwasyon.2. Second reason-The Regalian Doctrine was essentially upheld and promotedduring the American period. There were laws introduced which underminethe concept of communal ownership of the indigenous people. They havecrafted the Philippine Commission Act No. 178 of 1903 “requiring all land to be registered, and all unregistered lands became part of public domain. It wasa disaster on the part of the Natives because first, most of them were living inthe mountainous place where they hardly had access to information. Secondly,most of them did not know how to read and write; and, most importantly, they do not believe in paper to legitimize their ownership of the land. Only those who have knowledge of the law and access to information fromthe government were fortunate. Through these, the dichotomy of majority-minority emerged, the mainstream and the margin. Pag- ikaw ay nasa marginikaw ay minority at hindi naririnig ang boses mo. Malayo ka sa serbisyo nggobyerno. Pag ikaw naman ay napabilang sa majority o mainstream malapitka sa servisyo ng gobyerno. The logic in this is very simple, “Pag malayoka, hindi ka naririnig. Pag ikaw ay malapit, ikaw ay naririnig”.The discriminatory laws aggravated the painful situation where the PublicLand Acts of 1913, 1919, and 1936 declare that Mindanao and all other fertilelands the State considered unoccupied, unreserved or otherwiseunappropriated public lands became available to homesteadersand corporations. For example, the PLA of 1903, provided a provision for thehomesteaders the right to own 16 hectares and corporation is 1,024 hectares while the wild tribes (natives) and the Moro has none. In the PLA of 1936, thesettlers were given the rights to own 16 hectares and the corporation to own1,024 hectares while the wild tribe to only have 4 hectares.These laws paved the coming of the settlers from Luzon and Visayas whichfurther pushed away the Katawhang Lumad and the Moro to the mountainsand hills. You can imagine that by just over two years, since the creation of NARRA resettled 20,000 families and reached a total of 30,686 by January 1963. Again, the logic here is very simple – and it is one of the law of physics. Ang isang lugar na may nakatira at pag nadatnan ng galing sa labas, sila ay madisturbo at ma-displace!3. Lastly, the IPRA is a bankrupt platform -The 1987 Constitution bears highhopes because of its pertinent provision which says, “The state shall recognizeand promote the rights of the indigenous cultural communities/indigenous

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