DAVAO CITY, Philippines – An official of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) assured that the rights of indigenous peoples (IPs) would not be stripped under a.federal government.
Jonathan Malaya, assistant secretary of DILG, said the IPs will be well-represented in Congress.
As cited on Article 2, Section 24 of the Consultative Committee’s (Concom) draft Bayanihan Federalism Constitution, “the Federal Republic recognizes, promotes, and protects the rights of indigenous people within the framework of national unity and development”.
“Aside from that, the new constitution makes sure that the Federal Republic will respect indigenous peoples’ customary laws in terms of ancestral domains, lands and resources within their territory,” said Malaya.
The draft also stated that while the IPs’ rights and welfare will be handled by the Federated Region, the Federal Republic will take charge over agrarian reform towards the benefit of landless farmers without overstepping on the ancestral land rights of small settlers and IPs.
On the other hand, the Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self Determination denounced the proposed federal form of government because it is a “total sell out” of their ancestral land and territory.
The 1987 Constitution currently safeguards the country’s land and resources from foreign control, but Sandugo said in a statement, the proposed measures to amend the Constitution “opens up Philippine lands and territory to 100% foreign ownership and unbridled exploitation of natural resources.”
Dr. Virgilio Bautista, Commisioner of Consultative Committee (Concom), said that in the new constitution “distribution of lands to the IPs will push through” because it will now be a decision of the regional assembly.
“Halos lahat ng mga IPs nasa bulubundukin (Many IPs are living in the mountains).And because of Presidential Decree 705, you cannot distribute the land because it is declared as forest land. And only agricultural land can be alienable and disposable,” Bautista explained.
The Concom’s model likewise allows Congress to create a consultative body to advise the federal President on policies affecting IPs.
Representing the majority of the consultative body will have to be those who came from such communities.
“When the government formulates its federal and regional plans and policies, it will make into consideration the rights of tribal groups, so there’s nothing to fear,” Asec. Malaya stressed.(davaotoday.com)