Muslim execs urge De Lima: Implement indigenous people’s rights law

Published by rudy Date posted on August 20, 2011

Muslim leaders pleaded to justice officials to fully implement the Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 which recognizes the rights of indigenous people and the role of the government to safeguard their well being.

Citing the repeated neglect by Malacañang in past administrations, the tribal leaders Datu Amansur Utto of the Maguindanoan Tribe, Datu Magsimbahan of the Manobo Tribe and Mindanao tribal governor Datu Higwayan na Holag-ayan also said a “federal” Philippines will be the best way not only to bring peace in Mindanao but also to uphold the rights of the indigenous people (IP) whom they claim to have been deprived of their constitutional rights.

Addressing their calls on Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and the Supreme Court which had earlier ruled as invalid the memorandum of agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD), the group said it “strongly supports the idea of creating a Bangsamoro federal state rather than separating from the Philippines. All Muslim leaders are for unity and for peace. There’s no reason for us Filipinos to be divided,”Datu Higwayan told reporters in a news briefing.

At the present system of government, Higwayan explained that the rights of IP in Mindanao as mandated by the law was being violated and thus resulting to the decades-old struggle of Muslims, particularly those living in midst of poverty in the region.

“In the light of the peace negotiation being pursued by the government with the MILF, our group, composed of tribal leaders in Mindanao, surfaced to voice out our own call.”

“Despite the existence of several laws that protect the IP’s rights, we are continuously oppressed and deprived of our constitutional rights and maligned with our customary laws and traditions,” he lamented.

One proof of the alleged violation of their rights, according to Datu Higwayan, was the brazen destruction of their ancestral homes by several scrupulous businessmen who were maintaining illegal mining operations in the land “that was toiled by their forefathers.”

He claimed that the people in Mindanao, many of which were considered indegenous people, were poor despite living in a land rich with natural resources.

“Though Mindanao had been tagged as the food basket of the Philippines, Mindanao people are starving,” Datu Higwayan said.

Datu Higwayan said that the government had also been making such abuses against the IP by failing to promote their rights and welfare.

“Sadly, we are witness on how the said law has been trampled and totally ignored in the course of advancing several economic development goals which at most cases are being perpetrated by the government,” he said.

Among the important provisions of the IPRA were the protection of IP’s ancestral domain to ensure their economic, social and cultural well being; the IP’s right to develop their lands; the right for self-governance and the right to participate in decision making; the right to determine and decide priorities for development.

“Hence we are calling on our government to fully implement the entire provisions of the IPRA and give the IP a chance to govern ourselves and decide on economic matters involving our ancestral lands,” said the muslim leaders.

“We are challenging the government to also show their sincerity in promoting the rights and welfare of the IP in the same manner that they are so focused and heartfelt in pursuing a peace negotiation with the rebel groups in Mindanao,” they added. –Benjamin B. Pulta, Daily Tribune

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