Editorial: Assault on IP rights, ancestral domain


The area blown up by military personnel under the National Task Force Mining Challenge (NTFMC) last February 14 may have been defined as within the municipal boundaries of Tuba, Benguet but, for the longest time, it is also being been claimed by Baguio City and specifically the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) has also been trying to ease out any private claims, legitimate or illegitimate, over this area.

Still the barangays of Loakan as well as Baguio City and Tuba are ancestral domains of the native Ibaloys in these communities. Ever since, the Ibaloys’ traditional livelihood revolves in farming (vegetables, vegetables, fruits and rice), raising cattle and gold mining. Yes, mining gold is a traditional livelihood practice of the Ibaloys even before the entry of colonial governments and as a matter of fact, this precious metal has been the reason for the relentless military “crusades” of the Spanish colonial government in the Benguet followed by then the American and Japanese.

And since the entry of the American government in the early 1900s until the present Filipino government, indigenous peoples (including the Ibaloys) have both been violently and subtlety pushed away from their ancestral home.

Their elders, since time in memorial, have been struggling for the reclamation of their ancestral lands from the government who by legislations, since the American rule, have been used to legitimize the land-grab of these ancestral lands. There have been no written records yet found (for it may have been destroyed) of any armed defense for their lands or livelihood but there are a string of documents since the American period that shows the people have not given up their ancestral claim. These indicate hard evidence of the historical injustice committed particularly against indigenous peoples of Loakan, Tuba and Baguio, like it is for the rest of the indigenous peoples or national minorities of the country.

The NTFMC’s brutal closure of the pocket mines last February 10 is not humane. It shows how unjust and tyrannical the present dispensation can be or shall continue to be. Furthermore, it is reminiscent of the martial law in the 70s-80s when the Philippine Constabulary (PC) would send two or three “six by six” truck loads of soldiers and two or three cars of officers to arrest one accused (or vilified) to be a communist, and most often than not, the arresting team also would raid the residence and take whatever they want if not clean it out of private possesions. (Also, most of these ten of thousands political prisoners of martial law were never charged or proven to be communists.)

The “illegal mines” the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) blew up were in ancestral lands, mined by local indigenous peoples (Igorots) who possesed ancestral claim over the land where the mine tunnels were located. And the “raid, confiscation and closing the mines” could only be seen as an assault to the collective rights, livelihood and ancestral domains of the IPs.

The alleged illegal mines fed thousands of people and kept them above the poverty line legitimately for many decades but then, like a shocked resident said, “Pinatdog dan iti banga mi, pangalaan min ti kanen mi ngay…” (They emptied our pot, how can we eat now).

Does DENR now have police powers that it can (ab)use against the poor and discriminated IPS? Is its assignment now to break or rescind the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act? While on the other hand refuse to close corporate mines that have caused the largest environmental disasters and the loss of thousands of lives, and billions of the people’s private sources of livelihood. Is this a graphic image of oppression? Is this an artistic image of ‘galamay ng imperyalista’?

On the other hand, Ngaranto niman dag-en ni Igodot? Nganto malay dag-en ni umidin ivadoy? Ngarantoy da ikuanni aahmed jo? (What will the Igorot do now? What will the umili of ivadoy do now? What shall your ancestors say?) # nordis.net


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