Gonzaga: Why Lumads turn red

Ecoviews & Issues

FOR the past few days, I have been engaged in "warfare" of a different kind -- battling life threatening situation of the Blaan of South Cotabato in the form of systemic disenfranchisement from the little that remain of their original 2,500 hectares "reservation land," granted specifically for them under a Presidential Proclamation 762, s. 1961 (signed on July 5,1961), by then President Carlos P. Garcia, reserving 25,070,000 square meters reserved for settlement, "of the non-Christians (Native Bilaans)."

In spite of Presidential Proclamation 762, s. 1961, providing reservation for the Blaan, under Martial Law, President Ferdinand Marcos issued, Presidential Decree 668 on March 7, 1975, which extended the life of the National Development Corporation (NDC), which corporate life should have ended on January 5, 1976. Through his Martial Law decree, NDC's life was extended to a period of 25 years from the effectivity of the said Executive Order on January 5, 1951. By virtue of another order, NDC entered into agreement for the growing of pineapple and other crops with the Dole Philippines Inc. and Philippine Packing Corporation, the period of contractual relations of which is beyond the corporate life of the National Development Company, under Executive Order 399.

Based on this questionable Marcos' Presidential Decree, most of the 2570 hectares were leased to Dole by the NDC, and presently administered by the Sarangani Resources Corporation (SRC). Under President Cory Aquino, majority of the decreed Blaan land reservation under the lease of the Dole Pineapple Canning Corporation, was awarded to DOLE Employees as part of the CARP, which now comprise, according to Nonobert Malit, "MULO" or Paramount Clan Leader of the Blaan in the area, "one of the largest and richest cooperatives under Department of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries' Cooperative." Ironically, 99 percent of the said coop members, are not Blaan, though the land distributed comprise their reservation provided for by PP 762, s 1961.

What was left to the Blaan, all interior, forest lands, marginal for agriculture, were unlawfully levied taxes by the provincial assessor of South Cotabato. The local government of Polomolok demanded the tribe to pay taxes to residual land occupied by the Blaan that comprises creek, cliff, and forest. The Blaan, unable to produce anything of commercial value over these forestal zone, failed to pay the taxes. In very short period of time, since the announcement made primarily through Mindanao Gazette (which the Blaan obviously does not read), announcement was made to foreclosure of their land. Follow-up announcement was made thereafter that said published lands with names of the Blaan holding only land declaration in their hands, will be subject of November 26- 27, 2019 Public Auction at the Provincial Gym.

Forestal, therefore inalienable, not subject to taxation, foreclosure and auction. Yet, in spite a DENR's certification to this effect, the municipal assessor, provincial assessor and treasurer, refused to receive the DENR certification, nor bothered to read it. Earlier, Blaan appealed to the regional office of the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) but fell on deaf ears. NCIP did not extend the certification the Blaan needed -- that is, the Presidential Proclamation 762, s. 1961, providing 2,500 hectares land found in Polomolok, as reservation for the Blaan.

Regarding this questionable move of Polomolok and South Cotabato's 's local government, Nonobert Malit, the "Mulo", or the paramount elder of the Blaan United clan expressed, "This is what we are trying to defend by all means, the remaining interior forestal land to which we were pushed in, because if we don't do it, then where we Blaan go? They have taken all our lands!"


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