Pushing for an Inclusive Peace Framework

MPPM is now on its 15th year as a peace movement. Over the years, it has cultivated not only its tri-people character, but also the solidarity it affords to each peoples’ struggle. As a tri-people organization, it has been advocating for the equal recognition and realization of the right to self-determination of peoples. 

This historical moment of Mindanao’s history as it carves another milestone; MPPM attempts to articulate the inclusivity of its peace framework through defining an inclusive Right to Self-Determination for the tri-people.

For many years, the Bangsamoro and the Indigenous Peoples have consistently articulated and provided more content to their assertion of their Right to Self-Determination.  For the most part, this was aided by international instruments and covenants that defined the right to self-determination of nations/peoples. Meanwhile, the migrant members of the movement struggled long and hard as they tossed the question among themselves if they as well can claim their own Right to Self-Determination if international standards are to be followed. 

Right to Self-Determination: The Tri-People Grassroots Perspectives

The series of tri-peoples pre-summits conducted on October to November 2013 helped in shaping all these articulations. It is a by-product of thirteen (13) years of open discussion, togetherness and journeying together of these grassroots tri-people striving to work for just, peaceful and sustainable communities for every people of Mindanao.

In defining the right to self-determination, the Indigenous Peoples and the Bangsamoro have three common themes which are premised on identity, self-governance and territory (ancestral domain). 

The Bangsamoro's assertion for self-determination is more known as it had been advanced by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the past four decades. In their long period of struggle, the Bangsamoro also tried using diplomatic means. 

On February 1, 1924, the Bangsamoro leaders presented the Zamboanga Declaration to the United States Congress stating that 50 years after the granting of Independence to Luzon and Visayas, the inhabitants of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan should decide by vote whether their territory would be incorporated to the whole Philippine territory or remain independent.

In 1996, Bangsamoro civil society groups such as the Bangsamoro People's Consultative Assembly (BPCA) conceptualized the idea of a United Nations-Managed Referendum as an alternative to the long running war in Mindanao. The idea was supported by the Mindanao Peoples' Peace Movement when it adopted the launching of a referendum its continuing thrust for the decade during its Council of Peoples' Representatives’ meeting on June 28-30, 2002. 

On December that year, the 2nd Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Summit was launched. It was attended and participated by over 500 tri-people who unanimously decided to call on the Government of the Philippines "to hold within the next few years a United Nations-Supervised Referendum in the Bangsamoro areas of Mindanao. In the Referendum, the Bangsamoro would have the opportunity to determine their political future as part either of the Philippines or as an independent nation. The MPPM pledges its commitment to support and promote this proposal through a multi-track strategy, including but not limited to legislative pressure, peoples' initiative, peace constituency building and national and international lobbying." 

The call was in support to the Bangsamoro's assertion for their right to self-determination because they greatly believed that this will help address the Bangsamoro problem in a bloodless, diplomatic and peaceful manner. The experiences of other countries with self-determination struggles such as East Timor, Aceh of Indonesia, Northern Ireland and others inspired this call.


Meanwhile, for the Indigenous Peoples, the assertion for the right to self- determination is anchored on identity and self-governance in their ancestral domain. Presently, this is manifested in the assertion of the Teduray, Lambangian and Dulangan Manobo within the core area of the proposed Bangsamoro territory. They are currently pushing for the delineation of their ancestral domain within the area under the Teduray, Lambangian, Dulangan Manobo Ancestral Domain Claim (TLDMADC).

The Timuay Justice and Governance (TJG), which is the indigenous political structure of the Teduray and Lambangian could very well be the model among all other indigenous peoples in Mindanao for their self-governance. In an inter-tribal summit in 2002, these tribes codified their customary laws and put up the legislative, executive and judiciary departments of the TJG.  Their continuing claim for their Ancestral Domain is an initiative that correlates to their assertion for the full realization of their right to self- Determination as a people.

Interestingly enough, it is this current assertion for the recognition of their distinct identity as Indigenous People within the context of Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro that have somehow put the assertion of the Katawhang Lumad in clearer perspective. They posed that as a distinct group of people, with their own set of belief and justice system they are entitled to self-governance within the future Bangsamoro Government.

“…In exercising our right to self-determination within the proposed Bangsamoro Ministerial government, in minimum, we can establish an “autonomy” or self-government in matters relating to our internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing our autonomous functions within our ancestral domain territories.

Said rights are protected in the present Philippine legal systems (Constitution, IPRA & MMA N0. 241) and in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) of 2007 and other international instruments.

The autonomy arrangement we envisioned to be included in the Bangsamoro Basic Law:

The proposed Bangsa-Mamalu Autonomy is a confederation of territorial customary governance system of the Teduray, Lambangian and Dulangan Manobo (+) that has internal legislative, administrative and judicial powers and functions in contiguous areas within the core area of the Bangsamoro.

- The Bangsa-Mamalu Autonomy is not to take over the powers and functions of the Bangsamoro Ministerial government in local governance (barangay, municipal or province);

-This is to establish a democratic political-space for the full participation of IPs in shaping their own future side by side with the Bangsamoro bearing in mind their distinct identities despite the many commonalities and similarities they have as native inhabitants in the region.

-Empowered to select/decide representative/s to the Bangsamoro Ministerial government (Cabinet, Parliament etc).

Meanwhile, the other tribes of the Indigenous Peoples are at different levels of development while pushing for their ancestral domains as embodied in the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act (R.A 8371) of 1997. The tribes who managed to have their ancestral claims awarded to them are going through the process of designing their Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development Protection Plan (ADSDPP). Many of the ancestral territories are confronted with the incursion of development projects that the tribes felt have threatened the security of the territory.

The Matigsalog tribe is mostly situated in the tri-boundary of North Cotabato, Bukidnon, and Davao. In the Davao side, an Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) was implemented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Even before the agreement expired, an oil palm plantation came in without the corresponding Free and Prior Consent (FPIC). Another group, the Erumanen Menuvu, Tinanen, and Manobo of Bukidnon and North Cotabato, continually resisted the establishment of Pulangi Dam V that threatens to flood twenty-two (22) communities. While in South Cotabato, Zamboanga Peninsula and CARAGA, the B'laan, T'boli,  Tagabawa,  Subanen, Higaonon, Manobo, and Banwaon are faced with the constant threat of mining.

For these tribes, right to self-determination is having the right to manage and control over their ancestral territory free from any interference. Development should have the approval of the tribes within the area and must redound to their benefit. This approval should be given free from force and coercion.

In relation to this, the tribes demand from revolutionary groups or any armed groups present in their ancestral territories to respect and recognize the Indigenous Political structure of the Indigenous People and their decision if they opt not to join with these groups.

On the other hand, Mindanao migrants cannot speak of a common identity as they came from different ethnic groupings bound by a common language from their places of origin either from Luzon or from the Visayas. While most are Christians, they are also grouped into different religious denomination. When the migrants speak of right to self-determination, these are often manifested in their day-to-day lives, within the family, their community organizations and their locality.

Concretely, the migrants expressed their exercise of their Right to Self-Determination in establishing community organizations (sectoral or multi-sectoral) wherein they chose their own leaders and agreed on rules and regulations to govern these organizations for their collective welfare. Most of the time community issues that ranged from social, cultural, political and economic are the impetus in forming these organizations.

Is Inclusive RSD possible?

MPPM is a microcosm of Mindanao society. With its tri-people membership, the difficulties, realities and triumphs of the grassroots communities are often reflected within the peace movement.

Individually and collectively, the tri-people membership defined the Right to Self-Determination as the freedom to decide individually or collectively their affairs without external control or compulsion from others. The individual’s freedom to exercise one’s basic human rights is a common demand with the corresponding acknowledgment that these rights are not absolute, as they also have to respect the rights of others. It is with this respect of other people’s/peoples right that the migrants acknowledge and recognized the legitimacy of the assertion of the Bangsamoro and the Indigenous Peoples for their right to self-determination over their identity, self-governance and ancestral territories. In the same manner, both the Katawhang Lumad and Bangsamoro recognized the reality that the islands of Mindanao that used to be their ancestral territories are now a shared territory with the migrant populations, who are like them, suffering from poverty, dispossession, powerlessness, inequity and inequality.  

Mindanao’s history has been a bloody one and often the strife and division of its tri-people communities have become a stigma for its peoples. However, history also showed that the tri-peoples of Mindanao used to live together in peace and harmony and these mixed communities are still very much evident and alive.