MANILA (Mabuhay) — Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles in a meeting with leaders of Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in Mindanao on Friday affirmed that IP rights will be respected in the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
“From the start, the government has been committed to IP rights. We will never allow you to become second-class citizens in Mindanao,” Deles told IP leaders in a meeting held at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on July 25.
In attendance were representatives from the Teduray Justice & Governance, Gempa te Kelindaan ne Erumanen ne Menuv and Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID).
Datu Roldan Babelon said that IP leaders are supportive of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“Hindi kami aayaw sa peace agreement. Support kami doon sa Bangsamoro right to self-determination. (We will not say no to the peace agreement. We support the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination),” he said. “Kami po ay magpapatotoo doon sa historical injustice na nakamit nila. Support kami na magkaroon na talaga ng peace ang Mindanao (We were witnesses to the historical injustice they experienced. We support achieving lasting peace in Mindanao).”
Deles stressed that indigenous peoples, like the Bangsamoro people who form a minority in Mindanao, shall be respected in the future Bangsamoro region that will be created to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by 2016. “The IPs are national minorities that are respected in the country,” she said.
“We have always made sure in the peace process that the new Bangsamoro must be inclusive. That means there will be respect for minorities within this minority area (future Bangsamoro region),” Deles added.
The peace adviser likewise mentioned that even MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim supports inclusivity in the Bangsamoro, quoting his statement during the signing of the CAB last March 27, “The CAB is not only for the MILF. It is for the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) as well as much as it is for all the Muslim ethnic tribes, the Christian settlers, and the indigenous peoples in the prospective Bangsamoro government territory.”
Provisions in BBL for IPs
The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) drafted the BBL in line with the provisions of the CAB. The Office of the President received it in April and has made comments on the draft. Upon the request of the BTC, the draft is currently being discussed by the GPH and MILF peace panels to arrive at a mutually acceptable proposed law that will be submitted to Congress for passage this year.
BTC Chair Mohagher Iqbal, also the MILF Peace Panel Chair, said last May during a meeting with the IP sector that the BTC has ensured the inclusion of IP concerns in the draft law.
He mentioned some provisions in BBL, which include among others: the right of the IPs for native titles and respect to indigenous customs and traditions, justice systems, and political structures; right to an equitable share in the revenues from utilization of resources in their ancestral land; right to free and prior and informed consent; right to political participation including at least two reserved seats for the IPs in the parliament; right to basic services; and right to freedom of choice to self-identity. (MNS)