IPs seek leaders who recognize their rights
TANAY, RIZAL, Philippines – The Dumagats of Tanay see the upcoming elections as a time to call for candidates who can defend the violated rights of the tribe.
“Ang hinahanap namin na lider ay yaong mga makakapagtupad ng aming karapatan. Yaon lang naman ang aming karaingan, ang maipatupad ang aming mga karapatan,” expressed Bernardo dela Cruz, Chieftain of the Dumagat community. (We are looking for government leaders who can implement our rights. That is our only wish – to have our rights recognized.)
Right to implement their own rules
Chieftain dela Cruz said that they have long been waiting for support from the government in imposing their own set of rules and regulations on the people entering their community.
Many lowlanders violate their rights according to dela Cruz. Among the most prominent cases of abuse of their rights is the illegal extraction of natural resources in their ancestral domain.
“Hindi na sila nahiya sa amin. Labas pasok sila dito dala ang mga kahoy na pinutol nila galing sa gubat namin,” appealed dela Cruz. (They were not even ashamed of their actions. They come in and take out logs they illegally cut from our forest.)
The lack of recognition of their rights from the lowlanders and the government hinders the leader of the community to seize operations of illegal logging in the mountain. The mountain is the Dumagats’ primary source of basic necessities.
Tanay is considered as one of the parts of the country with the most number of illegal logging operations. In 2012, DENR confiscated in one operation more than P3 million of illegally cut logs.
The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 grants the indigenous people (IP) rights to regulate the entry of visitors to their territories and implement their customary laws.
According to the dela Cruz however these rights are often disregarded in practice.
Right to government support
The Dumagats are also calling for their right to government support by the implementation of programs catering to their cultural needs.
“Paminsan-minsan may mga dumadating dito na tulong sa amin, pero kadalasan wala,” shared one of the Dumagats. (Help seldom reach our community. Most of the time there is none.)
The Dumagats of Tanay are recipients of the Department of Social Welfare and Development program called 4Ps or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. The program entitles each family a monthly cash grant.
Some studies showed that 4Ps is not the most effective way to eradicate poverty in indigenous peoples’ communities because the program requires different identification documents which IPs usually lack.
The program also requires the Dumagats to travel to the lowlands just to get financial assistance, causing them to incur additional transportation expenses.
The community is appealing to receive sustainable sources of food like carabaos and seedlings for farming to combat hunger in the village.
“Ganito talaga ang buhay naming mga katutubo, mahirap,” Rody Conception, an elderly Dumagat said. (Our life as indigenous peoples is really poverty-stricken.)
According to them, most of the help they receive are from schools and non-governmental organizations.
Need for representation
Aside from the recognition of their rights, the Dumagats now believe that they should be represented in the House of Representatives through their party-list bets.
“Ang sabi nila sa amin, kung gusto raw namin na maipatupad ang aming mga karapatan at makahingi ng mga benepisyo ay dapat magbuo kami ng grupo,” dela Cruz said. (We were informed that if we want to exercise our rights and to receive benefits from the government, we should form our own organization.)
“Sana ay mabigyan kami ng pagkakataon na maipahayag ang aming mga mungkahi sa gobyerno,” he said. (We hope we can be given the chance to voice out our concerns to the government.)
Seven indigenous people’s party-lists have been approved by COMELEC to run for the elections: Abante Katutubo, Inc (ABANTE KA), Agila ng Katutubong Pilipino, Inc (AGILA), Ang Laban ng Indiginong Filipino (ALIF), Action League of Indigenous Masses (ALIM), Ang National Coalition of Indigenous Peoples Action Na (ANAC-IP), Abante Tribung Makabansa (ATM) and Katribu Indigenous Peoples Sectoral Party (KATRIBU).
A Congressional committee known as the National Cultural Committees is dedicated for the creation of legislations for indigenous peoples.-Rappler.com
Mary Joie Cruz is a Rappler Intern. Follow her on Twitter for real-time updates.