indigenous peoples

No Senate hearing on Kusiong landslide since Tedurays wouldn’t appear – Padilla

Lorenz Pasion

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No Senate hearing on Kusiong landslide since Tedurays wouldn’t appear – Padilla

DISPLACED FAMILIES. IP families displaced by conflict at an evacuation center in Maguindanao del Sur. Ferdinandh. Cabrera/Rappler

Ferdinandh. Cabrera/Rappler

Members of the Teduray tribe, however, had already landed in Manila when they were told the Senate hearing had been canceled

Manila, Philippines – Senator Robinhood Padilla said on Friday, October 27, that the Senate inquiry on the Mt. Minandar landslide on Datu Odin Sinsuat (DOS), Maguindanao, which claimed the lives of 27 members of the Teduray tribe, was postponed because “no member of the tribe” wanted to be a resource speaker. (READ: Disaster in Kusiong landslides: How politics killed non-Moro IPs)

“I deemed it improper to put pressure on the members of the Teduray tribe to join, much more expose themselves, in a public hearing,” Padilla said in a statement sent to Rappler. 

Chairperson of the Committee on Cultural Communities and Muslim Affairs, Padilla told Rappler that the inquiry never pushed through out of respect for the decision of the Teduray tribe. 

Padilla also said that he went to Davao City to personally speak with the tribe on December 2, 2022, for the inquiry, which was supposed to happen on December 12, 2022.

The inquiry is supposed to address the controversy regarding the Teduray’s resettlement on the Kusiong Relocation Site where multiple landslides occurred during the onslaught of Severe Tropical Storm Paeng on October 28, 2022.

Padilla also instructed his staff to go to DOS and Cotabato City to conduct consultations with the tribe on December 13, 2022.

Questionable reason

Contrary to Padilla’s claim, however, that no Teduray wanted to be a resource person, members of the Timuay Justice and Governance (TJG), an indigenous political structure of the Teduray and Lambangian, flew to Manila on December 11, 2022 in hopes of attending a public hearing on the issue. 

Upon landing at the airport, however, the council received a text message that the Senate probe would be postponed. To date, it still hasn’t been pursued nor scheduled. (READ: When fighting for ancestral lands hits a dead end)

At the time the Senate hearing was supposed to happen on December 12, 2022, some sources claimed that Padilla attended private meetings with the DOS local government and the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples Affairs in Paeng. 

Padilla confirmed in his statement to Rappler that he had a meeting with DOS officials and the ministries of the local government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) on December 7, 2022. But, he clarified that it was not a “private meeting” because it occurred in the Senate.

The sources also alleged Padilla to be good friends with Datu Lester Sinsuat, incumbent DOS mayor who is being linked to the Kusiong community’s forced relocation in December 2020.

But Padilla said his meeting with DOS officials at the time the inquiry was being planned had nothing to do with its postponement. He also denied being a good friend of Mayor Sinsuat.

“The agenda of the consultation focused on the plans of the local government to give the Teduray tribe a suitable relocation site,” Padilla said. 

“It is thus quite wrong to insinuate that my “friendship” with the mayor was the reason why the public hearing of my committee did not push through,” Padilla also said.

Perennially displaced

Living in Kusiong, DOS, since the 1900s, the Teduray tribe were perennially displaced mainly due to wars and land conflicts

For decades, Tedurays have lived on the mountains and by the shores of Kusiong, working as farmers and fisherfolk. But this changed when some private resorts were recently established, displacing around 300 families, including Moros, from the coastlines of the village.

Starting in December 2020, the Tedurays were forced to transfer to the foothills of Mt. Minandar. It is where 27 Tedurays died due to a landslide triggered by Severe Tropical Storm Paeng.

There was no relocation permit from the BARMM Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, and Energy (MENRE). Nor was the relocation included in the local comprehensive land use plan, Ministry of Interior and Local Government head, Naguib Sinarimbo, confirmed.

Since 2005, the Tedurays have been fighting for their ancestral domain rights which have yet to be recognized. – Rappler.com

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Lorenz Pasion

Lorenz Pasion is a researcher at Rappler and a member of its fact-check team that debunks false claims that spread on social media.