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Fate of 'lumad' uncertain under Bangsamoro.

The chair of the governing council of the Lumad Mindanaw People's Federation (LMPF), Jimid Mansayagan, has expressed deep concern that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will dislocate many lumad (indigenous peoples, or IPs) from their ancestral lands. The LMPF covers 33 ethnic groups, or 8 million IPs, in Mindanao.

The LMPF's plea is for the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (Ipra) to be respected and the inalienable rights of the lumad to be recognized. The BBL has no such provisions. The LMPF asks: Once the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao becomes a "territory" of the Bangsamoro, what will happen to the ancestral domain of the three largest lumad groups in the ARMMthe Tenduray, Lambangian and Dulangan Manobo?

The ARMM has a projected population of 3.9 million as of 2014 (the actual population was 3.2 million as of 2010). Its complex demographic, a mix of many ethnic groups, is elusive because the National Statistics Office has no ethnic breakdown of Muslims, Christians and lumad. The number of lumad is estimated at 500,000 by the IP DEV Project. They constitute a sizable 12.8 percent of the population and need to be recognized by the BBL as a key player.

According to the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, an IP DEV survey reveals that there are 123,200 IPs in 80 barangays of 12 municipalities, identified as the "ARMM Core Territory" and consisting of 13 ethnic groups. The aforementioned three largest of the 13 groups number 122,300 or 99.3 percent.

Despite the many dialogues between the LMPF and the government's chief peace negotiator, Miriam CoronelFerrer, no action has been taken on the issue. Both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are ignoring the IPs' pleas. The verbal assurance of MILF chair Murad Ebrahim that the Bangsamoro government and the MILF would not oppress the lumad is seen as useless. The assurance must be put into the law to be effective. The LMPF has written President Aquino about it, but there has been no reply.

In the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro of Jan. 13, 2013, the LMPF governing council asserts: "We are neither requesting special treatment nor seeking attention, but only reminding all parties concerned of rights already granted by law." The lumad are not envious of the goodies that the government will heap upon the Bangsamoro. They just want their inalienable rights respected.

Vicente Mendoza, a former associate justice of the Supreme Court, says the BBL is inherently unconstitutional. The LMPF says the BBL contradicts the Ipra, and the Ipra itself is a peace agreement. On Oct. 14, 2008, the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional the proposed agreement between the government and the MILF on ancestral domain. Then Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales said the peace panel chair "committed grave abuse of discretion" by failing to conduct consultation as mandated by Executive Order No. 3 and Republic Acts No. 7160 and No. 8371. The "furtive" negotiation process was branded as "whimsical, capricious, oppressive, arbitrary, and despotic." The BBL may easily have the same "furtive process" and destiny.

The lumad have reason to fear dislocation from their ancestral lands. A Norwegian Refugee Council Report says that when the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the agreement giving the MILF control over 700 areas in Southern Mindanao was unconstitutional, fighting broke out, displacing 700,000 Christians, lumad, and Muslims. This is how peace talks bring war.

Mr. Aquino has been fasttracking the peace process with the MILF because he wants it part of his legacy when he steps down; it's the image motive. Unfortunately, fasttracking will make the BBL a useless, inadequate, irrelevant and dangerous law, a blunder that may actually induce war.

The BBL should pass through three critical processes. The first is an updated population survey in the proposed BBL areas, complete with ethnic delineation. The second is a referendum to see if the people, even the Muslims, really want BBL governance. Will the minority Christians and lumad accept BBL governance? If they don't, and the BBL is forced on them, will there be a resurrection of the dreaded Ilaga? The third is an indepth study by a commission on the complex ramifications of the BBL. On Aug. 6, 2008, senators accused MalacaAang of failing to make the MILF cut ties with terror networks such as the Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf. Will Bangsamoro funds and arms end up in the hands of terror groups?

Lumad ancestral lands have been shrinking rapidly in the last decade, under extreme pressures from powerful forces, agribusiness, and mining multinationals in partnership with locals, which bring in the military to protect themselves from the New People's Army insurgents. Bigtime farming and mining attract wars. The promilitary lumad end up fighting the proinsurgent lumad. They are the pawns who get massacred.

The killing of indigenous peoples is appalling, especially in the Caraga Region, the Agusan and Surigao provinces, Davao Norte, and Compostela Valley. The lumad have nowhere to go. They are the ethnic Filipinos who may soon become extinct.

Bernie V. Lopez ( has been writing political commentary in the last 20 years. He is also a radioTV broadcaster, a documentary producerdirector, and a former Ateneo professor.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Nov 10, 2014
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