THE TEDURAYS along with other Philippine tribesmen have continued their fight for identity and territory under the proposed new Bangsamoro territory in Mindanao despite lacking in numbers and weaponless.

“Because we are not armed… this, however, does not mean the lumads or the indigenous peoples in Mindanao do not have legitimate concerns. Our territory is part of what is being proposed as Bangsamoro Territory,” said Jennevieve Cornelio, a Teduray woman leader of the Timuay Justice and Governance.

Jennevieve Cornelio, a Teduray woman leader of the Timuay Justice and Governance, speaks during a media forum in Manila. Photo:  Lilak (Purple Action for Indigenous Women's Rights)
Jennevieve Cornelio, a Teduray woman leader of the
Timuay Justice and Governance, speaks during a media forum in Manila. Photo: Lilak (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights)

Cornelio like other lumad delegates travelled to Manila to push for the full inclusion of their rights in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

On June 8, Cornelio raised again their concerns in a media forum in Manila which was also attended by Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and lawyer Christian Monsod, as part of the Peace Council.

“Our distinct identity as Teduray, Dulangan Manobo and Lambangian is being subsumed as Bangsamoro people. We cannot allow this,” Cornelio said.

Cornelio added that their struggle to assert their rights of identity and territory “has started long before the MILF-GPH peace talks.”

“We have been consistent about this,” Cornelio said.

Cornelio noted that in the forum Iqbal said that the “indigenous peoples have representatives in the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law” in reference to Teduray members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC)–Ms. Froilyn Mendoza, appointed by the Philippine government, and Melanio Ulama, appointed by the MILF.

Also revealed in the forum was that the Office of the Presidential Affairs on Peace Process held 32 consultations with indigenous peoples.

“But what was done by the OPAPP were information, education, campaign and not consultations with the indigenous communities,” said Cornelio.

In a statement, Cornelio acknowledged that there were indeed two Teduray representatives in the BTC.

“But only one actually held consultations with the IP communities. Comm. Mendoza held several community consultations, and we participated in those. .. it was through these consultations that they were able to discuss and propose IP provisions in the draft BBL.

“We originally had 145 proposed provisions….However, after Comm. Mendoza brought these to the BTC, it was reduced to 69, then later, 13 provisions. Now, none of our substantive proposals – not on IP identity, on our ancestral domain and the articulation of Rep. Act 8371 or Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) are there; but what can she do, Comm. Mendoza was the only one in the BTC fighting for our rights,” Cornelio said.

Alim Bandara, another Teduray leader, earlier urged the Congress to review all the provisions in the BBL related to indigenous peoples.

“We are expecting that Congress will study carefully all the provisions in the BBL related to IP identity so that we will not be victims of forced assimilation or integration (to the Bangsamoro); the recognition, promotion and protection of our collective and individual human rights; our rights pertaining to land and natural resources (ancestral domain), and the applicability of Indigenous
Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) in the Bangsamoro,” Bandata said.

According to Bandara, the Teduray and Lambangian population is around 8,000 not including those who evacuated due to the wars.

Bandara said that last April 15, 2014, they sent a letter to Pres. Beningo Aquino III, asking for “attention and intervention” on their plight as indigenous non-Moro people in the Bangsamoro political entity.

They appealed to Pres. Aquino to “hear us and give attention to all our concerns that our bundles of rights re ancestral domains, self governance and empowerment, social justice and human rights and cultural integrity be entrenched in the Bangsamoro Basic Law under the Bangsamoro Ministerial Government.”

“More urgent among others is the current ancestral domains delineation by NCIP in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) but opposed by Hon. Director Fatima Kanakan of the Office of Southern Cultural Communities in ARMM,” Timuay supreme chief Sannie S. Bello said in a letter, a copy of which was furnished to this writer.

The letter is part of the other documents given which Bandara said can help the public to understand the situation inside the Bangsamoro which was more known before as ARMM.

“We sent Aquino our letter and also our working paper as early as 2012 especially after there was 10 point agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF. But before that, actually we ‘ve been active in giving our position papers, however they were ignored,” Bandara said.

In their documents, Bandara claimed on the basic information of affected indigenous people in ARMM, covering 84 barangays (villages) in portions of eight municipalities and whole of other three municipalities in Maguindanao.

Based on IPDEV census, there are 122,914 indigenous people including other tribes in mainland ARMM, with an Ancestral Domains land area of 201, 850 hectares.

The major tribes are Teduray, Lambangian and Dulangan Manobo.

The group disclosed that ancestral domain areas of the three tribes are in portions of Datu Sangki, Ampatuan, Datu Hoffer, Datu Unsay, Datu Saudi, Guindulungan, Talayan, Datu Odin and whole municipalities of South Upi, Upi and Datu Blah Sinusat, all in Maguindanao province.

Major concerns raised by the group is the two MILF Camps within the domains (Camps Omar and Badre) and the occupation/encroachment on indigenous peoples’ areas.

The group also noted that all other public lands (ancestral domains) are “targeted as host to banana, oil palm, cassava, napier grass, coconut and other plantations by politicians in their respective municipalities.”

While Upi, South Upi and Datu Blah Sinusat are also object of mining (gold, copper and coal).

They also raised alarm on issues of land grabbing in their territory.

In their document on “Self-governance within the New Political Entity”, the group maintained that “Teduray and the Maguindanaon have common ancestry.”

“This is an accepted story on both sides despite the existence of several versions of the story. The brothers Mamalu and Tabunaway parted ways when the latter became a Muslim, committing in a sacred covenant, to respect each other’ beliefs and each other’s territory.

“This is the reason why the Teduray have lived separately from the Maguindanaon, each one developing its own customary laws in the course of time. Although living separately, they also promised, in the same covenant, to help each other in times of need. This is also an accepted story on both sides.

“So, now the Maguindanaon have become a people, and so do the Teduray. They are the same yet distinct, each possessing the inherent right to self-determination within their respective ancestral domains, affirmed by themselves as well as by the UN Declaration of Indigenous Peoples Rights,” it said.