BBL falls short on UN indigenous peoples rights

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples thinks the proposed Bangsamoro law falls short in meeting the minimum international standards for the survival, dignity, and well being of indigenous peoples

Part 1 of 2

Non-Moro indigenous peoples aren’t second class citizens – Part 2

In light of the Bangsamoro Basic Law’s (BBL) impending adoption by the Philippine House of Representative and Senate, I would like to share my views on House Bill No. 4994 and its amended version. 

The final adopted version of the BBL will have direct impacts on the rights of the Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples. In my capacity as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it is my responsibility to assess the opportunities and risks this law may have on them.  

I fully support the goals to achieve peace with justice in the Bangsamoro territory and the protection and fulfillment of the human rights of the Bangsamoro people. For too long, the Bangsamoro together with the Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples have suffered and continue to suffer from the legacy of colonization, historical injustices, and persistent gross violations of their basic human rights. They are often dispossessed of their lands, territories, and resources without their free, prior and informed consent, and are deprived of their right to determine their political status and pursue their own economic, social, and cultural development.    

There is no doubt that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the Framework Agreement, and now the enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law are key steps in the quest for long-lasting peace and justice for all. However, it is equally important to ensure that the rights of the Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples will not be diminished or derogated in any way in the BBL.  

The IPs of Bangsamoro

The reports I received mention that the Non-Moro indigenous peoples within the claimed Bangsamoro territory have an estimated population of 122,980. These are the Teduray, Lambangian, and Dulangan Manobo, Higaonon, Erumanen Ne Menuvu, and the B’laan.  It is estimated that they own approximately 309,720 hectares of land and 93,799 hectares of coastal areas, on the basis of Native Title. This covers more than half of the whole land area of Maguindanao province (11 municipalities) and 4 barangays in Wao, Lanao del Norte. The Erumanen Menuvu live in two barangays in Carmen, North Cotabato. 

The rights of Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples are protected under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997. This is why they are insistent that the IPRA should be acknowledged in the BBL. There is a high risk of the BBL’s failure to bring about long-lasting peace if the recognition of their rights embedded in the IPRA remains ignored. This is not to say that their rights under IPRA are effectively enforced to their satisfaction. 

Notwithstanding the unsatisfactory implementation of the IPRA , the coming into being of the BBL does not offer comfort nor guarantees to the Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples that their rights will be better respected. In my various meetings with them, they told me that they will continue to assert their distinct identities and will sustain their fight to ensure that their rights to self-determination and to ancestral domains will be respected, protected, and fulfilled.

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I am encouraged to see that House Bill 4994 and the amended version have integrated articles on indigenous peoples. These include, among others, the inclusion of non-Moro Indigenous Peoples in the Preamble (amended version), the freedom of indigenous peoples to choose their identities (Art 11, Sec 2), the recognition of their rights to their individual and communal property rights (Art V, Sec 3.30), and explicit references to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (Art IX,  Sec 5, Par 30). 

I was also informed that Sec 9 of Art 1V, entitled, “Declaration on the Rights of Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples,” was passed through a vote at the Committee hearing level. I welcome the progress achieved. However, I still think that House Bill 4994 and its amended version fall short in meeting the minimum international standards contained in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) for the survival, dignity, and well being of the Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples. It also diminishes some of the rights of indigenous peoples contained in the IPRA.

The derogations revolve around the rights to self-determination, to ancestral domains, territories and resources, to cultural integrity and to development. The preamble of the UNDRIP and Article 2 affirmed that indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples and they have the right be free from any kind of discrimination. Unfortunately, there are several articles which are not underpinned by the principles of non-discrimination and equality. 

Article 11 of House Bill 4994 states that Bangsamoro People are those who are the natives or original inhabitants of the Mindanao and Sulu archipelago. All the Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples, therefore, even those outside of the claimed Bangsamoro territory, are Bangsamoro. This singular identification violates the right of peoples to be different and yet equal.

Most indigenous peoples in Mindanao who are not Islamized do not want to be identified as Bangsamoro. Article 11, Section 2 of the bill states that other indigenous peoples can be free to choose their identities which is the approach taken by the BBL to deal with this problem. This still does not adequately address the confusion on who are Bangsamoro and who are Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples. A clear definition on who is Bangsamoro should be included. For Non-Moro Indigenous Peoples, the IPRA definition on who is indigenous can be used in the BBL. –

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz is the current United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council for this mandate from 2014-2017. She is an independent human rights expert focusing on indigenous peoples’ rights and women’s rights. She is an indigenous person, a Kankana-ey Igorot, from the Mountain Province in the Cordillera Region.

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