Attention: National Commission on Indigenous People
Per news report, “Government troops who have stumbled on an isolated indigenous community in Davao del Norte while in pursuit of the elements of the rebel New People’s Army have paved the way for government to make its presence felt and to introduce services to the inhabitants for the first time.”
Andrie B. Perez, regional IP focal person of the Department of Social Welfare and Development described the general area of the village (Tapayanon, Kapalong, Davao del Norte) as a former training and breeding ground of the NPAs because of its strategic location as part of a mountain range that straddles the tri-boundaries of Davao del Norte, Bukidnon and Agusan del Sur.
Lt. Amadeuz VJ Celestrial, civil-military operations officer of the 60th Infantry Battalion said that the village “practically had nothing to show of its link to outside world. No electricity, no faucets, no health services, no TV, no hygiene. The villagers subsists mainly on root crops.”
It was reported also that the National Anti-Poverty Commission under Secretary Noel K. Felongco is also scheduled to hold a service caravan to strengthen government assistance and intervention while “DSWD is set to build a school building to introduce basic education to villagers and their children.”
Clearly, the absence or utter lack of government services in our hinterlands makes these areas vulnerable to NPA’s influences. Thus, the obvious lasting solution to peace and order problem is our far-flung barangays particularly in our Lumad areas is to bring government closer to them.” “Di ba?” the big question now is: “How can we effectively and permanently bring the government closer to our indigenous people’s ancestral domains in Mindanao?”
In my 1998 book titled “Struggle for Autonomy in Mindanao”, this writer proposed a solution on this particular issue but unfortunately our government simplyignored it. Today, after twenty one years, I’, again reiterating said recommendation and, we do hope and pray, that the Duterte administration will seriously pay attention on this matter.
Our humble proposal is for the creation of a Lumad province in the heart of Mindanao. This is real empowerment of our indigenous people in Mindanao. If they have Lumad provinces in Cordillera, why can’t we have even one in Mindanao? Ponder hard on this.
The most depressed area in Mindanao is its “heart” – meaning the area where boundaries of Davao del Norte, Davao City, North Cotabato, Bukidnon and Agusan Sur converge. In this “heart” of Mindanao, we find the ancestral domains of our different highlander tribes. This is their last frontier which we must protect and appropriately develop for the common good.
Allow me to quote below part of my article “The Heart of Mindanao”
included in my book mentioned earlier: “In the 1988 local elections, Datu Jose Libayao confided to me that he was supporting OIC Mayor Vislumino Tamundong for Mayor of Kapalong, Davao Province, so that if Tamundong would win, he could help Libayao and his tribe to progress. This writer told Libayao: “You and your tribe will progress faster if you acquire political power rather than; just rely on Christian political leaders. This is people empowerment of the highest order Libayao’s eyes widened and retorted: “I like that!”
“Many interesting things happened after that, but to cut the story short, last synchronized elections, Datu Jose Libayao was elected Mayor of the newly created Municipality of Talaingod.” (Of course, through yours truly political maneuverings.)
What I’m trying to say isthat, let’s really empower our lumads by giving them political powers as what our government did to our Bangsamoro people.
“What’s good for the goose is also good for the gander.” As a saying goes. By creating a province for our indigenous people in the “heart” of Mindanao, will be a big feather in the hat of the Duterte administration. Undoubtedly, this is the best way of bringing the government closer to our lumads that will result to lasting peace and sustainable prosperity Mindanaowide. For our indigenous people in Mindanao, there is no issue which is greater than true recognition of their ancestral domains. Social justice alone can justify the creation of anew province for our cultural communities. Let not the Duterte administration miss this golden opportunity to serve our most disadvantaged sector in our country. Our National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) should lead this noble undertaking supported by the LGU concerned, DSWD, DDF, DPWH and our military. This is in consonance with the “Whole of Nation” approach our government is now pushing.