THE Indigenous People (IP) of Mindanao, represented by Panagtagbo Mindanao secretary general Datu Victorino Migketay Saway, gave their official support to the ancestral domain claim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) during a conference Saturday
The government is negotiating peace with the MILF, which is fighting the past three decades for the establishment of a strict Islamic state in Mindanao. One of the three major aspects of the talks is the issue on ancestral domain.
Ancestral domain refers to the MILF demand for territory that will constitute a Muslim homeland. It is the single most important issue in the peace negotiations before the rebel group can reach a political settlement.
The IP’s position paper, signed on July 24, states that the IPs strongly support the peace talks on ancestral domain and that the peace agreement that will be signed in the future will not sever peaceful relationships between the Bangsamoro, the Indigenous Peoples and the settlers of Mindanao.
The paper also pointed out that before the Government of Republic of the Philippines (GRP) was established, ancestral domain issues were already settled between the IP’s and the Bangsamoro through unwritten, sacred peace pacts or covenants known as Diyandi, Pakang,Sapa, Tampuda hu Balagen to name a few depending on which tribe the pact is made with.
These pacts defined the traditional boundaries of the territories for both IPs and the Bangsamoro homeland, which is recognized and respected by the IPs until today.
In effect, the 30 IP communities under the umbrella of Panagtagbo Mindanao “strongly recommends that the peace agreements between the GRP and the MILF shall recognize, respect and support traditional peace agreements so that lasting peace in Mindanao will be achieved.”
However, the indigenous people also emphasized their culture’s distinct difference from that of the Moro especially in terms of religion and community practices including the system of governance.
As both cultures “embrace the integrity of ancestral territory”, conflict in governance is due to arise if the territories of the Indigenous Cultural Communities will be “moved or placed under the Bangsamoro Homeland.”
The delineation of the traditional boundaries have been covered by the peace pacts and the IP’s say that if these agreements will be altered, their ancestral domain concerns needs proper representation at the peace panel.
In the case when the traditional peace pacts needs to be amended, IPs say that descendants of both Moro and IP ancestors who settled the traditional boundaries should confer to amend past agreement “before a proposal to include the ancestral domains of the tribes into the Bangsamoro homeland can be made at the level of the peace panel.”
The passage of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act has already recognized the IP’s rights to self-governance and cultural integrity and they are merely asking to be given the “space” to develop and grow in their own accord. (GLP)