Statement for the Celebration of the Indigenous Peoples Month, October 2016

Historical and Legal Bases

Evidences that certain areas of the Philippines have long been settled territories of 110 ethno liguistic tribes prior to the colonization by Spain and later by the United States of America are not wanting. The protected forests and watersheds, hunting grounds which always yield wild animals, traditional land usages which are still evident in the IP areas are but some of the indications that these IP communities adhere to a traditional system of resource management that ensures sustainability of life. Perhaps, equally significant are the dances, songs, rituals, costume and languages of these tribes which they and their ancestors performed, sang, executed, wore and spoke.

The government of the Philippine Islands about ten years ago admitted that there are Indigenous Peoples in the country through the passage of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 or the RA 8371. The indigenous peoples have never been under the control of the Spanish conquerors and that laws promulgated by the colonizing Spaniards have never been implemented. Hence, what Spain ceded to the U.S.A. in the Treaty of Paris are those areas where Spain had control over. This has justified the claim of ownership by Mateo Cariño of what is now known as Camp John Hay in Baguio City, a claim based on native title. What is true for Mateo Cariño is true to all the Indigenous Peoples of the Philippine Archipelago.

After 19 years of the evolution of the IPRA, the 4 bundles of rights have yet to be achieved. We still suffer from all kinds of violations such as:

1. Intrusion of all kinds of unfriendly development destroying and exploiting our lands and natural resources which results to killings;

2. All forms of land grabbing which cause displacement and killings;

3. Slow pace of titling of our ancestral lands/domains due to lack of funds and formulated policies which are inappropriate to us;

4. Misinterpretation by legal luminaries on the provisions of IPRA such as the “prior rights or vested rights” which causes disrespect to our ethnicity;

5. All forms of racial discrimination and human rights violations like name calling, name tagging, choreographed dances and clothings, etc.;

6. Recruitment of our young people by both the government forces and other armed groups then using them to act on their interests by killing each other thus the lumads against the lumads involved.

CONCLUSION

So how do you commit genocide constructively?

Introduce developments that are not culturally sensitive in lands belonging to the Indigenous Peoples community and ignore them as if they do not exist. Make laws that they can use but do not implement them. Entertain their cases of land claims in court and quasi-judicial bodies but do not act on them—eventually their resources will go and maybe they would just stop and give up. Conduct consultations with them but not commit the mistake of accommodating their pleas and suggestions. Finally, to top it all, make distinctions between Indigeous Peoples and the rest of the world only when “necessary”—that is, when it is detrimental to them and advantageous to the government. Treat them differently when there are opportunities when they can be qualified, but do not give them special treatment when they will benefit from it. Consider them as Indigeous Peoples if you want to showcase your cultural heritage and if you need them during your cultural presentations and anthropological studies and treat them as ordinary citizens when it comes to land rights and resource allocations.

If injustices agains us are not corrected, the indigenous customs and traditions will disappear and the question becomes not a matter of possibility, but of time. (Balc, 2002)

Indeed, the indigenous peoples in our country have suffered a lot and continue to suffer more. But our battle cry is not hatred nor vegeance but reconciliation. By reconciliation, we expect the recognition of the past injustices, forgiveness for those who were instruments of such injustices, correction of an unjust system, and acceptance of the IP as an equal partner in Philippine society.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

1. Pressure the government to implement the law on indegenous peoples, the IPRA of 1997 or Republic Act 8371;

2. Pressure the government to implement other laws in the protection and recognition of Indigeous Peoples. Reiterate the substantial distinction between indigenous peoples and the rest of the world;

3. Respect the basic human rights fo the Indigenous Peoples and give meaning to the constitutionally enshrined principles process, (“No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of laws”).

4. Provide for culturally sensitive livelihood and education opportunities to the IPs;

5. Stop the recruitment of our people to avoid killings; withdraw of all government and other forces within the Ancestral Domains. To further create a comfortable atmosphere for the IP communities, declare the AD as peace zones;

6. Stop programs and projects tagged by government as “development” that do not pass the process of a genuine Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and are not culturally-friendly;

7. Settle the country old problem of IP lands, once and for all.