The Philippines in Support of IP Rights and Indigenous Knowledge

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Note: In an interview with the UP FORUM, UP alumni and internationally recognized advocates Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Dave de Vera share their insights on indigenous peoples’ rights and indigenous knowledge. They compare the Philippines with other countries in Asia and the world in terms of support to IP rights and indigenous knowledge. On the issue of ancestral domain and the Mindanao peace process, they also give their views on whether the rights of the IPs and the Lumad are protected in the new peace agreement and suggest ways to ensure their continuous protection. They also talk about their UP education and what in it made them decide to take up the cause of the IPs as an advocacy.

DSC_5225-croppedDave De Vera

Kung suporta sa IP rights at indigenous knowledge ang pag-uusapan, advance ang Pilipinas kumpara sa ibang bansa sa Asya. Ang Pilipinas ang unang una, pioneer, in enacting a National Republic Act that recognizes the rights of indigenous peoples. Very unique tayo dahil mayroon tayong national admission and recognition that there are indigenous peoples within the population. Ibang iba ito dahil napakalakas pa rin ng resistance ng ibang nasyon sa Asya na kilalanin ang distinct ethnicity ng mga tao.

Halimbawa, sa Malaysia, hindi nila tanggap na may indigenous peoples. Wala ang salitang indigenous peoples sa Malaysia. Sa Indonesia, bagama’t lantad na lantad na very distinct ang ethnicity, hindi nila sinasabi na indigenous sila.

Sa China, ang tawag sa mga IP ay nationalities, One China Policy, pero may mga nationalities lang. It’s even worse in Thailand dahil ang mga IP ay walang citizenship.

Hindi sila itinuturing na subject ng hari. Hill people o hill tribes ang tawag sa kanila.

Malaki ang problema sa Asya. That is not to say na hindi sila lumalaban. Lumalaban sila.
Sa Pilipinas, malalim ang consiousness natin na may tribu, kaya mayroon tayong Republic Act. Sa ibang bansa, wala pa yan. Ang konseptong ownership ay ipinaglalaban pa nila upang kilalanin. Closest would be what’s happening in Indonesia at present. Kinikilala na ng gobyerno nila ang traditional governance ng forested areas. Sa Cambodia, kahit papaano, nagpasa sila ng national land law na kinikilala ang traditional settlements.

Sa Pilipinas, mayroon tayong sariling RA distinct and specific for indigenous peoples, may sariling opisina at mayroong ownership rights.

Sa bagong peace agreement, hindi mapo-protektahan ang karapatan ng mga IP at mga Lumad. Problema ito. Kaya nga may lobby group ngayon (Hunyo 5) ang mga Tituray at Lagbangeyan sa Maynila, mag-iisang buwan na silang umiikot. Kaya nga ang representative ng mga Lumad sa Transitional Bangsamoro Committee, pumirma sila, with reservations, dahil under the new peace agreement, ang framework at konteksto ng land ownership at governance ay Islamic. Dapat lang dahil nakipaglaban ang Moro Islamic Liberation Front o MILF.

Problema ito dahil ina-assume na ang dynamics ng relationship ng tao sa lupa ay purely from the Islamic point of view, na hindi naman. Napakalawak ng uri ng kultura, hindi lang limitado sa Islamic community ang nasasakop ng peace agreement. Ang pinaka-matatamaan dyan, mga Mamlu, Dulangan, Manobo, Tiruray, Lagbangeyan, atbp. While they have co-existed for years with the Islamized tribes, they maintain their own traditional structures of governance of land, distinct from an Islamic framework or an Islamic point of view. Ikalawa, ang istrukturang gumagarantiya sa karapatan ng indigenous peoples na ibinigay ng IPRA, ay hindi kinikilala ng bagong peace agreement.

Totally iba. Problema rin ito dahil ang istrukturang nakasaad sa IPRA ay very specific ang disenyo para protektahan ang karapatan ng mga katutubo na hindi Muslim. Kung hindi ito pwedeng pairalin sa bagong peace agreement, malulusaw ang konsepto ng ancestral domain o lupaing ninuno ng mga katutubo.

Anong pwedeng gawin? Kailangan mag-lobby sa Kongreso. Sa akin, malaking pagkakamali na itinaya nilang lahat ang kanilang pag-asa sa pagkakaroon ng dalawang upuan sa Bangsamoro Transitional Committee. Kung dalawa lang kayo in a big committee, walang mangyayari sa inyo. Unang una, pinapakinggan ka lang naman kung may implied capacity ka for armed resistance. Ang mga tribu, wala naman. Pakikinggan ba sila? Sa sobrang lakas ng pressure na matapos ang trabaho nila, concerns about erosion of traditional land rights of non-IP communities, na-gloss over. Nawala. Everybody was saying: Salamat, umupo ang mga MILF. Let us not lose the chance. Nakakalungkot dahil they had legitimate gripes, and yet, kung titingnan sa takbo ng diskusyon sa Mindanao, these IP leaders along with their advocates and supporters were branded as spoilers of peace.

Napabayaan ang kanilang argumento. Nasa Manila sila ngayon para makipag-usap sa Kongreso. Dito natin malalaman kung sila’y pakikinggan. Ito ang pag-asa nila. Hindi rin natin alam. Hindi pa natin nakikita ang bersyon na isusumite ng Malakanyang sa Kongreso. Sabi sa dyaryo ngayon (Hunyo 5), Malacañang will be making a big announcement soon. I think (I don’t know if I’m being overly optimistic), kaya nagtatagal sa Malakanyang, dahil nabigla sila sa isyung ito. Nakalimutan nga na nawala ang IP rights, ang non-Muslim rights. Akala nila noon, napaka-minority, na maliit. Hindi biro ang populasyong ito. We’re talking about millions of people affected here. A lot of people have the mistaken notion na pag sinabi mong Maguindanao, Muslim lahat yan. Hindi. From Tiruray, Dulangan, Manobo…ang laking populasyon nyan. Hindi alam ng marami na noong bakbakan sa Mindanao, ang maraming foot soldiers ay Tiruray, hindi naman mga Taosug, Maguindanaoan, atbp. Ang marami sa foot soldiers ay galing sa IP communities. Pero kung titingnan, hindi sila nag-graduate into leadership positions. Doon sila sa giyera.…In fact, pag kausap ko ang mga matatanda doon, sinasabi nila na noong panahon ng agawan ng lupa, biktima rin sila. So ang logical na ally nila ay ang MI at MN. Ngayong nag-aayos na, parang nakakalimutan sila, at ito ang problem nila. A lot of the areas claimed, even the camps, are ancestral domain areas.

Ang pag-asa na lang ay kung magtatagumpay sila sa negosasyon. Nakaabot ba sa Malakanyang? Nagkaroon na ng dalawang maliliit na forum dito. Maraming ginawa sa Mindanao pero hindi sila napapakinggan doon. Ang sinasabi nga namin ay bakit ba dyan kayo nag-iingay sa Mindanao?

Kaya ini-encourage namin silang magpunta sa Maynila. Ang giyera dito ngayon ay sa pagitan ng Malakanyang at Kongreso. Kapag nag-certify ang Malakanyang na binigyan ng palugit ang Congress, at ipinasa yan nang mabilisan, tapos na ang boksing.

Ang dapat gawin ay kulitin nila ang Malakanyang at kung hindi makinig, mag-lobby sila sa Kongreso. Nagtataka ako dahil dapat Mayo pa lang nasa Kongreso na yan, pero bakit hanggang ngayo’y wala pa? May mga nagsasabi na mukhang napakinggan itong mga non-Muslim. Maraming babaguhin. Hindi simple ang magiging implikasyon nito. It could be a deal breaker. Malaki ang iki-claim ng mga non-Muslim, baka buong Maguindanao.

Pero ayaw namang manggulo ng mga non-Muslim. In fact, they think that there can be peaceful co-existence. Importante lang na ang bundle of rights provided by IPRA ay kilalanin. So, anong istruktura ang kikilanin? Magulo. Ngayon, minamapa ang non-Muslim area. Whether this is recognized by the Bangsamoro community, hindi natin alam.

Hopefully, they will be able to convince Malacañang and some of the provisions will change to accommodate the recognition of ownership of lands. And then, makapasa sa Kongreso. Kung pangit pa rin ang ilalabas ng Malakanyang, walang choice ang mga non-Muslim kundi matulog sa grounds ng Kongreso. Othewise, mabubura talaga sila.

Kailangang mag-reach out din sila dahil they have been branded as peace spoilers and deal breakers. Dapat lumalim ang consiousness na hindi sila ganoon. Ensuring the peace, ito ang dapat. Ano ang silbi ng agreement na minadali? Mas maganda nang pinagpaguran para sigurado tayo.

Sa edukasyong UP, natagpuan ko ang pagpapalalim ng consciousness, na kailangan naiintindihan mo ang nangyayari sa iyong paligid at lipunan. Kapag nasa UP ka, nariyan ang interaksyon sa iba’t ibang paniniwala at idelohiya. Hindi ka nakatali sa isang sektor ng lipunan lang. Nag-uumpisa ka pa lang sa UP, ang kausap mo halos araw-araw ay nagbabago ang pananaw—may kaliwa, may kanan, may gitna. Nabibigyan ka ng pagkakataong palawakin ang iyong kamalayan sa mga nagyayari sa paligid, Binibigyan nito ng pagkakataon ang utak mo na gumana at magsuri at malaman kung anong sektor ang gusto mong alalayan, Every day ibinibigay ng UP ang atmosphere na yan. In fact, sa UP, magkakaroon ka ng overdose sa consciousness mo sa lipunan at halos makalimutan mo na ang iyong sarili para sa bayan. Sa palagay ko, ito ang nagtulak sa akin na mapunta sa ganitong linya.
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Si Dave De Vera ay executive director ng Philippine Association for Intercultural Development, Inc. o PAFID. Nagtapos siya ng BA Political Science sa UP. Maaari siyang padalhan ng email sa [email protected]

DSC_8992-croppedVictoria Tauli-Corpuz

Compared to other Asian countries, the Philippines is more advanced in terms of legal recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights. We have the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) which was passed by Congress in 1997. Aside from the Philippines, Taiwan and Nepal, there are no other Asian countries which have legal laws explicitly recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples. In fact, in many countries the very identity and existence of indigenous peoples are denied. They are called by other names such as primitive tribal groups, hill tribes, ethnic minorities or scheduled tribes. But in terms of the nature of violations of indigenous peoples’ rights, there is not much difference in all of these Asian countries. Indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination, including their right to free, prior, informed consent (FPIC) before any development project is brought to their communities.

There is still a long way to go in the Philippines in terms of serious implementation of the IPRA. For example, while the law stipulates that free, prior and informed consent should be obtained before any license or permit is provided by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples for any project entering the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples.

This is blatantly violated as shown by many documented cases of indigenous peoples being deliberately divided among themselves by the Government, including the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, and also by corporations. The resistance of various indigenous peoples to big mining projects and hydroelectric dam development which means not giving their consent, has been met with punitive actions by the State in collusion with paramilitary units supported by corporations. Several indigenous activists and leaders directly involved in these protests have been assassinated or have disappeared. These are clear violations of the basic collective and individual human rights of indigenous peoples enshrined in the IPRA and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

I do not think that the rights of indigenous peoples in Mindanao are adequately protected or that the Lumad were adequately included in these negotiations leading to the new Peace Agreement. I still hope that there will be measures to seriously address this gap. It is in the interest of the Philippine government and the Bangsamoro to ensure the enhanced involvement of Lumad and their issues into the Peace Agreement. Otherwise, we will be witnessing another round of conflicts.

I think UP has beefed up my values for caring for those who are more disadvantaged than me. UP also helped raise further my awareness of the national and global political, social and economic realities within which I can understand further why indigenous peoples are in the state they are in. It is very natural for me to take up indigenous peoples’ rights as my advocacy because I am an indigenous person myself, and I understand fully well what other indigenous peoples are going through within the country and the rest of the world.
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Victoria Tauli-Corpuz is the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She is also the executive director of the Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education or Tebtebba. She earned her nursing degree from UP. Email her at [email protected]

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