Philippines: The impact of exclusion on the Moro peace process
New Delhi: The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) today in its latest Briefing Paper, “Philippines: The impact of exclusion on the Moro peace process” stated that the exclusion of the indigenous peoples led to the collapse of the peace process between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government of Philippines. About 300 people have been killed and over 650000 displaced in more than two months of fighting between security forces and alleged renegades of the MILF. On 14 October 2008, the Supreme Court of Philippines declared the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the MILF and the Philippines government as “against the law and Constitution”.
ACHR states, “If the MOA-AD had been signed on 5 August 2008, it would have meant loss of at least 1 million hectares of Ancestral Domains belonging to the non-Bangsamoro indigenous peoples i.e. Erumanen ne Menuvù of Cotabato and Bukidnon provinces; Higaunon of Lanao del Norte province; and the Subanen of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga de Sibugay and Zamboanga del Sur provinces to the Bongsomoro Juridical Entity. Once their Ancestral Domains are included in the Bongsomoro Juridical Entity, these indigenous communities would have been deprived of all legal rights and protection available to them under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997”.
“The experiences of the indigenous communities of Teduray, Lambangian and Dulangan Manobo of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces whose Ancestral Domains of 400,000 hectares were included in the existing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has not been encouraging as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 is not applicable in the ARMM.” – stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of ACHR.
“The collapse of the peace talks with the MILF provides an opportunity for both parties to address inherent flaws – non inclusion of indigenous Lumad people who are Christians unlike the Bangsamoros. The non-inclusion is not only a flaw in the peace process but constitutes a clear violation of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997.” – further stated Mr Chakma.
ACHR recommended to the government of Philippines and the MILF to implement the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 including the right to free, prior and informed consent in letter and spirit; include Chairperson of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines in the Peace Secretariat of the government of Philippines; delineate Ancestral Domains of the non-Muslim indigenous communities; and include representatives of the indigenous Lumads in any peace negotiation between the Government and the MILF in future.