By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) gave its support to the national minorities who are in the capital, as it stressed that the struggle for the right to self-determination is part of the overall movement for national liberation.
In a unity forum with delegates of the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya yesterday, Sept. 18, NDFP peace consultant Emeterio Antalan praised the sacrifices and hardship of those who travelled to Metro Manila to gain support for their struggle.
“Through your sacrifices and efforts to push the movement for self-determination, and the repression that you experience in your communities and even here, you have shown that self-determination is not granted freely, but must be demanded and fought for,” Antalan said. The forum was held at sitio Sandugo, the Lakbayan camp at the University of the Philippines Stud Farm in Diliman, Quezon City.
Moros and indigenous peoples may yet face the worst attacks under Duterte, as the peace talks between government and the NDFP remains suspended, and the Presidential Palace is abuzz with talks of a looming nationwide declaration of martial law. Amid this atmosphere, the NDFP and groups under Sandugo continue to push for reforms, such as those in the NDFP draft Comprehensive Agreement for Social and Economic Reforms or CASER.
The Duterte administration had practically suspended the peace talks in May, just when it was about to tackle core issues, like agrarian reform, which is under the substantive agenda on social and economic reforms. The CASER is the second in the four substantive agenda of the peace negotiations.
Unlike most NDFP consultants who were released on bail, Antalan was released on a conditional pardon issued by President Duterte in July. Although freed, he is required to regularly report to local police in his residence, and must secure a permit to travel if he goes out of town.
The GRP-NDFP peace process is yet to be cancelled, in spite the suspension of the round of talks. Neither of the two parties have issued a formal letter of cancellation.
The national minorities section in the NDFP draft of CASER
Moros and indigenous peoples make up the national minorities, who have a distinct culture, territories and way of life, which they have defended throughout history. They were also commonly “minoritized” through systematic state policies of oppression and discrimination.
Rosario Bella Guzman of Ibon Foundation, who is also a resource person of the NDFP’s reciprocal working group on social and economic reforms (RWC-SER), discussed in the forum the NDFP revised draft of CASER which now contains a separate section on the national minorities. The section is given the same importance as agrarian reform and national industrialization.
The first part of the NDFP draft recognizes national oppression as a specific burden on national minorities.
The NDFP draft CASER has five points of reforms for the national minorities, said Guzman. These are the following:
1. Respect of the right to self-determination
2. Unconditional recognition of ancestral lands and territories
3. Recognition of the national minorities’ participation in economic development
4. End to all institutional forms of discrimination
5. Ensure the social services for national minorities
To recognize the national minorities’ right to their ancestral territories, the NDFP draft pushes to scrap the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act, or Ipra, and other laws which allow the encroachment of private, business corporations into their lands. Instead, a democratic law that truly recognizes national minorities’ territories shall be enacted.
The draft also calls to abolish the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples, or NCIP, which was formed under Ipra. Indigenous groups have clamored to shut down NCIP for its role in manipulating communities to give their consent to destructive mining and dam projects. Local NCIP officials have also been reported for “baptizing” fake tribal chieftains and making up fake tribes, which then give the required consent to such projects. The agency also help legitimize indigenous paramilitary groups which attack communities that resist the entry of projects.
Guzman said that the NDFP has gathered a list of fake datus and indigenous paramilitary groups that bastardize the national minorities’ culture.
All certificates of ancestral domain title and ancestral land titles (Cadt/Calt) will be reviewed, and the anomalous ones will be cancelled.
The draft CASER also calls for an end to the historic denial of social services to national minorities. This include giving recognition for indigenous schools, such as those of the Lumad in Mindanao, which have come under attack from government troops and paramilitary groups. Government funding must also be given to traditional medicine practiced by minorities.
Guzman cited sitio Sandugo and how it serves as a democratic space for the minorities to express themselves, develop their customs and highlight their struggles, instead of the commercialization and misrepresentation of their culture to attract tourists.
“There should be spaces such as this,” she said.
Three of the NDFP’s 18 allied organizations belong to the national minorities: the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF), the Moro Resistance and Liberation Organization (MRLO), and the Lumad Revolutionary Organization (LRO).
Continuing human rights violations of national minorities
In the forum, several Lumad shared cases of landgrabbing of ancestral lands and human rights violations in their communities.
Tayong Sanong, a Dulangan Manobo from Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat, said his father, Pastor Kama Sanong of the Dulangan Manobo Evangelical Church, has been in detention at the Provincial Jail in Isulan. Kama was arrested on July 11 this year by police and Philippine Marines, allegedly for illegal possession of firearms. But Sanong said the evidence – a .38 caliber revolver and a rifle grenade – were planted.
“My father refused to attend meetings. He knew these were about giving our land away,” Sanong said in the forum. He said the meetings were to facilitate the project of the Consunjis, which has logging and mining in the province.
Another Lumad, Torino Tanding, a Blaan from Tupi, South Cotabato, said he and his community is being driven out of their land by the expansion of the plantation of Dole Corporation. On May 28, he and several others survived a strafing, which he viewed as harassment, because they have refused to give consent to the use of their land.
Tanding said a certain Zenaida Balamon is claiming 150 hectares of lands owned by four Blaan clans. In a dialogue they held with Tupi Mayor Roland Tamayo, the latter only told them, “Are you aware that we are under martial law?”
Marissa Dumajug, head of the NDFP-appointed secretariat for the Joint Monitoring Committee for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl), encouraged victims to file their cases with the JMC.
She said that although the peace talks are suspended, the cases will be investigated by the NDFP.
Guzman said the national minorities is one of the “contentious issues” in the peace talks.
The government uses the official term “indigenous cultural communities,” not national minorities. But Guzman said the former puts emphasis only on their culture, but not the historic national oppression they continue to face.
Guzman called the NDFP draft of CASER “a beautiful document,” which has now been disregarded, with the uncertainty in the resumption of the peace talks. She said national minorities and the people in general must assert such reforms, as well as the return of the peace negotiations.