Community Consultations Start for the Proposed Regional Law for IPs in BARMM 

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COTABATO CITY — A series of community consultations has kicked off for a proposed Regional Law on Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in the Bangsamoro region.

Conducting the consultation is the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC), in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the legal team of the Office of Member of Parliament (MP) Attorney Mary Ann M. Arnado,

First to go was for the Higaonon tribe of Wao, Lanao Del Sur, and the Erumanen Ne Menuvu of Carmen, Cotabato Province, last August 18 and 19.

Intending to generate inputs from the IP communities in the BARMM region on the nature and scope of the regional law, the dialogue hoped to forge understanding and consensus on IP issues, concerns, welfare, and development programs.

Credit: MAMA

The goal is to protect and promote the rights and welfare of the IPs on the legislative agenda of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim
Mindanao (BARMM).

Consultation participants engaged in the workshop and close group meeting in threshing out crucial issues and concerns and what measures or provisions should be included in the law to improve their living conditions, safeguard their rights as IPs, and protect their ancestral domain from further encroachment.

Several notable themes came out from the initial consultations, mainly:

1. Legal measures to officially recognize and protect the rights of the Ips, among which is their rightful claim on ancestral domain;

2. The importance of using the Indigenous Political Structure (IPS) as the mechanism in all matters concerning the tribes (e.g., management of ancestral domain and natural resources, dispute settlement, and engagement with mainstream government institutions);

3. The IP Law must become a legislative tool that will heal past wounds and guarantee a sustainable future for IP communities;

4. The use of the NMIPs and IPs is still subject to further deliberation. There were two strong positions concerning Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples (NMIP) and IPs.

  • First, while some tribes embraced the Islamic faith or Christianity,
    religious affiliations should not become the basis for being an IP.
  • Second, using NMIP will clearly define the distinction between the Indigenous Peoples in the region who do not belong to the 13 Moro ethnic groups.

Datu Sakar Salepada, Imam and seventh generation of Sultan Mamako Salepada, said, “The interpretation of IP is very attached to clothes and religion. These conditions should not matter because the basis for being an IP should be in the bloodline. The Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) should look into this.”

Furthermore, the Erumanen tribe leaders asserted that the use of language must be inclusive to be understandable for IPs who, by the circumstance of struggle and forced displacement, have not received formal education. They suggested translating the draft into Bisaya or Filipino to be easily understood.

The Secretary General of the Erumanen ne Manuvu IPS (Indigenous Political System), Temuey Jojo Ambangan, said, “This [community consultation] is an opportunity to heal, but until when”, noting that they have been joining public consultations since the drafting of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), and although awarded with CADT, still outsiders in their lands.

The Higaonon and the Erumanen intended to use the opportunity to be part of the conversation to advance their issues, hopes, and aspirations in crafting the law for the IPs.

While they applaud the Bangsamoro government’s commitment to pursuing the rights of the IPs, they want to ensure that the law will be fair to all IPs and, primarily, protect the marginalized tribes and those who have experienced historical and social injustices.

Datu Cesar, an IP leader of the Erumanen ne Manuvu tribe and a barangay kagawad, said, “We met Minister (Mohagher M. Iqbal in Manila, and I told him about the IP’s rights in the BARMM region because we are also part of the Moro’s struggle. MP Iqbal said we must wait and chase after the chicken and then slaughter it. But I asked him (until) when we must wait before we can finally capture the chicken. Can we get at least a little slice of it, even just the wing part? So, we want to hasten the process. Commander Jack returned to Legpas, and he brought with him land titles. How did he manage to process such titles? This possible encroachment worries us.”

The community consultations are just part of the activities to be conducted by the Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus (MPC) in its effort to move forward the IP agenda in crafting this foundational law for the IPs in the Bangsamoro region.

There will be a write-shop wherein all IP leaders, consultants, experts, and policy-makers will draft an IP Code that will be deliberated in the BTA plenary.

The BTA MPs are determined to pass the regional IP law this year before the end of the second regular session. (/)

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