MANILA, Nov. 28, 2014 — A Catholic episcopal commission has called on the lay faithful to uphold the rights of Indigenous People (IP), urging them to fight existing realities of physical, cultural, structural, and ecological violence that cause the “severe marginalization” of Filipino natives.
“With power of our collective strength and unity, we urgently call on all our fellow Filipinos, specially our esteemed government officials, church leaders, civil society organizations to respect and protect indigenous people’s rights and well being,” the group said in a statement signed by Tabuk Bishop Prudencio Andaya, Jr., Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Indigenous Peoples Apostolate (ECIP-IPA-IPs) Chairperson.
According to the group, this can be achieved by “fully implementing the constitutional provisions, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) other Laws, Issuances and International Instruments that recognize and protect (the indigenous groups’) rights to the letter and spirit of these issuances.”
They highlighted the rights to ancestral domain, self-determination and self-governance, and cultural integrity as the primary means to achieve unity and equality among indigenous groups.
The ECIP-IPA-IP, composed of representatives from 37 dioceses in the country, had their national convention at the Covadonga Center for Culture and Spirituality in Cagayan de Oro City on Nov. 17 to 20 with the theme “Indigenous Peoples Lives: Blessed in the Midst of Challenges.”
The group specifically called for the “repeal of all administrative orders inconsistent with the provisions of the IPRA,” which “puts in jeopardy the Indigenous peoples rights over the ancestral domains, blatantly and unjustly deprives indigenous peoples of their lands without due process, [and] unduly delays delineation of and formal recognition of ancestral [domains].”
They also urged the fast tracking of the process for the formal recognition of ancestral territories; rectify the policies on the issue of Ancestral Domains Delineation and formal recognition; and put a stop to development aggression, putting up instead sustainable & culture sensitive development programs.
The ECIP-IPA-IP raised the need to repeal the administrative order on the certification of Indigenous Political Structures, noting that “this [is] being in utter contradiction with the rights of the indigenous people to Self-Governance and Self Determination.”
Among the other issues they also raised are the need for equal representation of IPs in legislative bodies of Local Government Units (LGU); observe and respect genuine, IP-controlled Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process; reform of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to a graft-free,
IP-controlled agency mandated to implement IPRA and to promote and protect IP Rights; uphold the IPRA as a social legislation and consequently, for all government agencies; and for local civil registrars to facilitate and open access for registration of birth and marriages of IPs.
They also stressed the importance of the indigenous people’s right to proper education, urging the need to support and promote the Indigenous Peoples Education (IPED) by integrating the IP educational systems within the Philippine educational system.
The group called on schools, universities, and colleges to take a pro-active role in the promotion of IP education from basic to tertiary levels in their respective school systems. (Jennifer M. Orillaza/CBCPNews)