“We are glad that the ongoing peace talks is not exclusive to Christians but tackles the issues of the Filipino people, including us, national minorities.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Refusing to be on the sidelines, national minorities have engaged both peace panels to heed their urgent demands.
In a forum, Oct. 14, Amirah Lidasan of Suara Bangsamoro said Moro and indigenous peoples have submitted their respective agenda to the peace panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Kennedy Bangibang, NDFP peace consultant for Cordillera and National Minority affairs, said the national minorities’ agenda are embodied in the NDFP’s drafts on socioeconomic reforms and political and Constitutional reforms, the next substantive agenda items in the peace talks between the government and the NDFP.
Bangibang is one of the NDFP consultants released on bail. He participated in the first and second rounds of GRP-NDFP formal talks held in Oslo, Norway.
Bangibang, an Igorot himself, said the NDFP recognizes the national minorities’ right to self-determination and their right to ancestral domain.
“Our resources are being plundered. We are driven away from our lands. Our livelihoods are being destroyed. We are deprived of services. And the foreign powers, the national government and the ruling elite bastardize our culture,” Bangibang said.
Bangibang said the national oppression and discrimination being experienced by national minorities must end.
“We are glad that the ongoing peace talks is not exclusive to Christians but tackles the issues of the Filipino people, including us, national minorities,” Lidasan said.
While the resumption of formal talks is a positive development, Bangibang maintained that the GRP has yet to fulfill its commitment to release all political prisoners in accordance with past agreements.
Bangibang added that NDFP consultants like him who have been released on bail are still facing “fabricated” criminal charges.
“Political killings and arrests have not stopped. Many Lumad are still unable to return to their homes,” Bangibang said.
Amid the ceasefire declaration, Bangibang said, they received reports of military offensives from different regions. Just this week, two Lumad have been killed in Compostela Valley.
Bangibang called on fellow national minorities to continue organizing and mobilizing for their rights and welfare.
“History has taught us that in our unity, we can achieve victory,” Bangibang said.
Meanwhile, Lidasan said the Bangsamoro people look forward to President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise of “inclusive peace policy” in relation to the Bangsamoro conflict. She welcomed Duterte’s declaration of pursuing talks with the Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Lidasan said that previous peace agreements failed because the government has always mistaken autonomy for right to self-determination. What is ironic, Lidasan pointed out, is that the organic law creating the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has tied the Bangsamoro people to the decision-making of the national government.