Wednesday, August 6, 2008

IP Rights over Ancestral Domain

My friend Heherson Juego of Splice and Dice commented:

Quite ironically, the lumads are raising their voices against the compact entered into by the gov't with the MILF. That's because they say they weren't given the chance to raise their concerns about the deal, knowing for a fact that they've been living in Mindanao for centuries already.

I agree. The Indigenous Peoples (IPs) have the right to raise a howl against the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain that government and MILF inked recently without consulting everybody. My frustration is that the IPs came late again. As far as I understand it, the IPs in the country can never have a solid voice coming from their ranks. When I joined my colleague giving a basic cartooning to a group of Lumads (natives) in the 80s, my part then was to draw a prophetic cartoon about the IP's unity. One of the participants explained that it was impossible because the IPs could not come together. "Misunderstanding" among IPs would often result in a pangayao (tribal war). I was happy over my impromptu drawing but feeling frustrated after hearing it. I didn't know if he was just pessimistic but i tend to agree two decades later that this is really a problem among IPs.

We have about 18 ethnolinguistic groups but there seems to be no group from them who could consolidate their common stand for their rights. If they continue to be voiceless as they retreat to the remotest areas in the countryside, IPs and their rich cultures will die sooner than later. Their professionals, saved for a few, are leaving them. I am afraid they cannot come back to stand us one body to raise their valid case as pointed out by my friend Heherson. The government should look after them and champion supposedly for their causes but we cannot trust the government to do it for the IPs. Let alone protecting them from the mining operations that inflicted harm on their communities for years now. Very sad reality.