Under the leadership of the Mindanao People’s Peace Movement, the Lakbay Tribu para sa Karapatan sa Sariling Pagpapasya, or Indigenous Peoples’ Journey for the Right to Self Determination, brings to the fore of public and civil society discussion the issue of Indigenous People’s rights and representation in light of current discussion on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). The ongoing campaign has aimed to highlight and explain proposed provisions to the BBL called for by various IP leaders, and has been a crucial effort in spreading the plight of the underrepresented non-Moro Indigenous voice in the BBL saga. This cause has been shown support by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, but currently sits in limbo under the discretion of Congress. We at PBCI support these provisions, and find them to be productive in “inclusivizing” the BBL discussions.
We commend the provisions’ demand for the full implementation of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA), which, though in effect for seventeen years, has never delivered its promises made by the GPH. We strongly condemn this lack of implementation, which has led to destructive logging, mining, and agricultural practices led by foreign businesses and facilitated by the GPH, who, in the name of development, have wrecked forests, rivers, and mountains – entire ecosystems of God’s plants, animals, and people. We support those IP’s who have fought against the status quo, some of whose voices have been squelched by the GPH. We mourn with the Teduray as they grieve the loss of Timuay Lencio Arig, an outspoken critic of and pillar of support against the unjust GPH status quo.
It is in the darkness of the disastrous consequences of this status quo that we see the potential light of the BBL, obfuscated as it is by certain ambiguities and dissatisfying elements from the perspective of the IP’s. This is why we call on those in congress, the MILF, and the GPH to consider the implications of passing a BBL that is not truly inclusive; to ask themselves, “have we done enough to include all voices so that the right to self determination can be fully realized by all concerned parties?” As it stands, the non-inclusion of the IPRA (which we gladly praise Froilyn Mendoza of the BTC for advocating) and the broad language used to denote the Bangsamoro as one single Ancestral Domain, are significant dividers to the inclusivity of the BBL, and thus are detractors of justice.
Along with our non-Moro Indigenous brothers and sisters, we recognize the spirit of the BBL, of its potential to transform individual lives and communities as well as bring broader benefits through productive policies and equitable representation and distribution of wealth. Moreover, we also stand with them in their assertion that without due consideration of all concerned parties, self determination will become a facade and justice will be obstructed through selfishness and the desire to fast-track the ratification process for politically motivated goals.
If we have learned one thing from the long Peace Process, it is the importance of identity and the right to live according to one’s own people’s beliefs and be held accountable to one’s own people’s values. It is in light of this fact that we see the IP provisions to the BBL to not only be conducive to the original spirit of the Law, but to further its completion. We recognize that a collective Bangsamoro narrative will need to be crafted, but not at the expense of the unique individual collective identities that characterize the Mindanao Island. The multiplicity of perspectives must be considered so that the emotional, spiritual, physical, and communal health of individual communities and their Land can create a gestalt of well-being in the whole Bangsamoro. Naturally this includes the addressing of social, cultural, political, religious, and material needs. We pray that God can raise up leaders and inspire those in power to highlight these needs for everyone, so that His divine providence can take us to “BBL and Beyond”.