Ancestral domain and peace

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By Radzini Oledan

Slice of Life

Monday, April 28, 2014

"OUR ancestral land is our worship area, it is part of our belief system. If it is not recognized, we will lose not only our spirituality but also our identity."

Lumads in Mindanao had long practiced tribal governance among its people and within their territories long before the colonizers came. It is their economic base, their shelter and their defense.

The assertion on the fundamental right to self-government, in their own ancestral domains and in accordance with their own customs, traditions and belief systems has long been a challenging concept especially for many of us who refuse to understand the communal concept of land ownership.


Everything is anchored on land—the social, economic and political culture. The land is also where their ancestors lived and where they are buried and as such, it is considered sacred for it is where the spirits of the ancestors roam.

The Indigenous People's Rights Act (IPRA) was passed into law on 1997, and outlines the recognition, respect, protection and promotion of the rights of the indigenous peoples on their ancestral domain, self governance, culture and integrity and human rights.

The recognition of the right to ancestral domain and self governance as a whole are enshrined in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act and the tribal governance provision under the Local Government Code. But just any law, the problem lies on its implementation. This is especially true in the ARMM areas where, owing to different contentions and interpretation, especially on the provision in RA 9054 that the Regional Legislative Assembly will enact its own IPRA, IPs find it hard to assert claim.

Under the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement, indigenous peoples and their right to self determination is upheld. In several dialogues, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panel recognized the relations between the Muslims and IPs at the time of the conquest and colonization of Mindanao.

Under the peace agreement, the indigenous people's customary rights and traditions will be taken into consideration in the formation of the Bangsamoro justice system and rightly so, as indigenous peoples are and have always been considered as Bangsamoro. It shall also recognize the indigenous processes as alternative modes of dispute resolution.

Within the identified Bangsamoro core territory, Tedurays are identified as traditional inhabitants of three towns of Upi (North Upi, South Upi and Datu Blah Sinsuat) and in the municipalities of Maguindanao.

If indigenous peoples have to engage within the Bangsamoro, it should do so in ensuring that they are able to protect and uphold their own political and social processes. This means going beyond tokenism and ensure that they are able to introduce significant changes.

The peace agreement upholds the rights of indigenous peoples. For all intents, the MILF peace panel has made every effort to make it relevant and responsive to the condition of Moro and indigenous peoples by engaging in continuous dialogue with elders and tribal leaders.

Just as in any agreement, the challenge is on translating things into action. When in doubt, take the risk of being transparent and trust that this can facilitate public discussion, further refine peace discourse and enable everyone to participate in building and maintaining peace. It can also keep those with vested interests at bay.

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Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 29, 2014.


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