Lumad rights given ‘high spot’ in Bangsamoro law

KIDAPAWAN CITY -- A representative of the indigenous peoples (IPs) in Mindanao has assured that their rights and interests would be given a "high spot" as they start drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which is needed for the creation of an expanded homeland for Muslim Filipinos.

The law is based on the Framework Agreement agreed upon by the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last year. Once ratified, it will replace the organic act, Republic Act 9054, which created the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm).

The Transition Commission, tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law, became operational in February with the appointment of its full membership.

Froilyn Mendoza, a Teduray from South Upi town in Maguindanao and a member of the Transition Commission, said it has been a “battle cry” of the lumads that their ancestral lands and their right to self-determination be recognized.

Timuay Labi (chief councilor) Alim Bandara of the Teduray in Maguindanao has said their tribes are living in oppressive situation under the Armm where the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act (Ipra) is not implemented.

The Ipra recognizes the rights of the IPs over their ancestral domain and provides for mechanism where these lands can be delineated and turned over to them for their governance, control and development.

The Tedurays and Lambangians, along with the Dulangan Manobo people, had laid claim to their ancestral domains covering an initial land area of 289,268 hectares comprising nine towns in Maguindanao, six towns in nearby Sultan Kudarat, and the city of Cotabato where the tribes are predominantly located.

Mendoza said the IPs have "high hopes" in the Transition Commission, especially so that its chairman, MILF peace panel head Mohaqher Iqbal, has stressed the need for "inclusivity" and respect for the "polarity" of the peoples in Mindanao in the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

"This inclusivity and respect for polarity of peoples will be our stepping stone as to how we will place in high spot the particular and distinct issues of the IPs in the Bangsamoro governance," Mendoza said.

Mendoza, a member of the all-women contingent of the Civilian Protection component of the International Monitoring Team, said the commission will strive to correct what she considered were "historical injustices."

Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the Senate Committee on Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation, also mentioned one of the “injustices” earlier, saying: "We cannot be a nation that writes laws like the Commonwealth Act 141 that declares all ancestral lands as public land."

Guingona challenged the Commission to correct the "flawed moments of history."

Composed of 15 members, seven of which were nominated by the government while eight were recommended by the MILF, the Transition Commission started drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law following its first meeting last week.

It draws its membership from various ethnic, professional and political backgrounds from within the Bangsamoro. (Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)
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