“We are glad that the ongoing peace talks is not exclusive to Christians but tackles the issues of the Filipino people, including us, national minorities.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Refusing to be on the sidelines, national minorities have engaged both peace panels to heed their urgent demands.
In a forum, Oct. 14, Amirah Lidasan of Suara Bangsamoro said Moro and indigenous peoples have submitted their respective agenda to the peace panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Kennedy Bangibang, NDFP peace consultant for Cordillera and National Minority affairs, said the national minorities’ agenda are embodied in the NDFP’s drafts on socioeconomic reforms and political and Constitutional reforms, the next substantive agenda items in the peace talks between the government and the NDFP.
Bangibang is one of the NDFP consultants released on bail. He participated in the first and second rounds of GRP-NDFP formal talks held in Oslo, Norway.
Bangibang, an Igorot himself, said the NDFP recognizes the national minorities’ right to self-determination and their right to ancestral domain.
“Our resources are being plundered. We are driven away from our lands. Our livelihoods are being destroyed. We are deprived of services. And the foreign powers, the national government and the ruling elite bastardize our culture,” Bangibang said.
Bangibang said the national oppression and discrimination being experienced by national minorities must end.
“We are glad that the ongoing peace talks is not exclusive to Christians but tackles the issues of the Filipino people, including us, national minorities,” Lidasan said.
While the resumption of formal talks is a positive development, Bangibang maintained that the GRP has yet to fulfill its commitment to release all political prisoners in accordance with past agreements.
Bangibang added that NDFP consultants like him who have been released on bail are still facing “fabricated” criminal charges.
“Political killings and arrests have not stopped. Many Lumad are still unable to return to their homes,” Bangibang said.
Amid the ceasefire declaration, Bangibang said, they received reports of military offensives from different regions. Just this week, two Lumad have been killed in Compostela Valley.
Bangibang called on fellow national minorities to continue organizing and mobilizing for their rights and welfare.
“History has taught us that in our unity, we can achieve victory,” Bangibang said.
Meanwhile, Lidasan said the Bangsamoro people look forward to President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise of “inclusive peace policy” in relation to the Bangsamoro conflict. She welcomed Duterte’s declaration of pursuing talks with the Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Lidasan said that previous peace agreements failed because the government has always mistaken autonomy for right to self-determination. What is ironic, Lidasan pointed out, is that the organic law creating the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has tied the Bangsamoro people to the decision-making of the national government.
Lidasan said it’s high time that the Bangsamoro people get involved in the peace talks. “We, who have been victims of war, must actively work for peace.”
I was so interested with the discourse on “National Minorities, Tribal Filipinos vs Indigenous Peoples”. To me, there is no conflict between National Minorities or Tribal Filipinos viz-a-vis, Indigenous Peoples. Perhaps, those who are ascribing to be under the identity of National Minorities or Tribal Filipinos have clearly understand their situation and status in the world’s society. They are just clarifying the term to conform with the glaring situations and status of original peoples inhabiting their territories since time immemorial, due to colonization and continuing minoritization and marginalization supported by State’s laws and policies.
Forgive me for my limited knowledge on the issue of, what is the right term and who have more rights, those who are ascribing as National Minorities and/or Tribal Filipinos or those who are ascribing as Indigenous Peoples?
Again, my limited knowledge guided me with the context, that the term “Minorities or Tribal” have no more ancestral domains, if they still have, they are not asserting their right to it, but only their right to cultural integrity, human rights and social justice. It’s true, they were uprooted from their ancestral territories as a result of government’s or private corporations’ projects support by the State, either by its laws or by its armed forces. While the term “Indigenous Peoples” have their right to what is now popularly known as “Ancestral Domains” based on Native Title, in the concept of a territory. Though threatened by lack of support of the State to implement its laws intended to recognize the four (4) bundles of rights of Indigenous Peoples, but they are asserting their right to Ancestral Domains and all three (3) other bundles of rights, the right to Self-Governance and Empowerment, Social Justice and Human Rights and Cultural Integrity. Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Self-Determination is rooted in their Ancestral Domains.
This is my opinion on the issue.