Tribesman demand independent voice in peace talks

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - News - (Mindanao Examiner)

DAVAO CITY – Members of the indigenous tribes in southern Philippines have asked President Rodrigo Duterte to include them in the government’s peace process with various rebel groups, saying, they had been marginalized and left behind in the past administrations.

Leaders of different tribes said the indigenous peoples had been repeatedly left out in government peace talks with the Moro National Liberation Front, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Cordillera People’s Liberation Army, and New People’s Army.

They said instead of being the beneficiaries of the negotiations, they were further marginalized and became victims of peace. Their right to self-determination has been continuously violated and the killings of tribesmen and other human rights abuses became most obvious, including intensified land conflicts, logging concessions given to rebel groups within the ancestral domains of indigenous peoples, and lately uncertain provisions for them within the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the nonrecognition of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act.

It was only in the last peace talks between the Philippines and the MILF that tribesmen were represented as part of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission with some successes in lobbying, but still not as independent and equal body.

With the peace negotiations being revived by the current administration, it has again opened an opportunity for the indigenous peoples to engage, participate and raise their voice for the peace panels to hear.

With this, the Katawhang Lumad Council of Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement held series of consultations in Cotabato City, Davao City and San Francisco town in Agusan del Sur province from July to September this year.

The Katawhang Lumad Council of Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement said it consulted different indigenous tribe leaders and representatives of tribal communities on their issues and concerns pertaining to the peace processes in the country and on how they can collectively engage these processes.

Just last week, as a culmination of these consultations, an Indigenous Peoples Leaders’ Conference on the Peace Processes was held in time of the observation of the 19th year since the passage of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act at the Ummah Development Foundation in Cotabato City.

More than 100 Mindanao tribe leaders and tribal communities’ representatives took part in the event and charted out their agenda for peace and development in their respective communities.

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