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Rudy B.


Achieving peace and

justice in Mindanao
through the tri-people

There was a time when the populations of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago
were predominantly Moros and Lumad. As a result of the resettlement program initi-
ated by the American colonial administration and later sustained by the government
of the Philippines, settlers from the northern islands poured in droves into the region.
Within less than sixty years, they had displaced the indigenous inhabitants and became
the majority population. This created an unfeasible situation that did not benefit
the local population, for whom common good was measured in terms of numerical

Today we must consciously reshape the relationships of the present inhabitants

of the region if we are to live a life of peace and development. To this end, we propose
the tri-people approach. One way of accentuating the need for the tri-people approach
is by zeroing in on the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination, which has been at
the center-stage of Mindanao history in the last 42 years, from 1968 to the present.

The May 1 Manifesto of the MIM (originally Muslim, later Mindanao

Independence Movement) declared its intention to establish an Islamic state in
predominantly Muslim areas of Mindanao. The Moro National Liberation Front
(MNLF) led the Moro struggle for national liberation, declaring its desire to create
a Bangsamoro Republic within its claimed ancestral homeland, the entire area of
Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan (Minsupala), through armed struggle.

From 1972 to 1996, no less than 75% of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
were deployed in Moroland and between 100,000 to 120,000 lives were lost in that

Rudy B. Rodil is a former member of the Government Peace Negotiating Panel in

the GRP-MNLF talks (1993-96) and GRP-MILF talks (2004-2008). He is a retired
Professor of History at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology,
IIligan City.


war—50% MNLF, 30% AFP, and 20% civilians, mostly Moros in whose areas the war
raged. The Philippine government spent 73 billion pesos on combat expenses alone.

After the MNLF signed the Final Peace Agreement with the government in
1996, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) felt that the desired Bangsamoro
self-determination had yet to be attained and decided to resume the fight. Now it is
technically at war though engaged in peace negotiations with the government.

One may also include in the picture the kidnap-for-ransom activities of the
Abu Sayyaf Group, whose targets tended to be non-Muslims, mostly Christians and
Chinese businessmen, as a matter of fact.

The social turmoil that revolved around the Memorandum of Agreement

on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the Government of the Republic of the
Philippines (GRP) and the MILF highlights the reasons for the guardedness among
the tri-people. The negative public reaction from Christian settlers, encouraged by
opposition politicians, gave way to the petition for a Temporary Restraining Order
from the Supreme Court to prevent the signing of the MOA-AD and the court’s even-
tual ruling that the document is unconstitutional. The very position of Malacañang,
saying that it would no longer sign the document “in its present form or in any other
form” regardless of the Supreme Court ruling, may have triggered the fresh outbreak of
violence that was led by three top commanders of the MILF in central Mindanao. All
these indicate both the complexity of the problem and the grave urgency to resolve it.

One must add to this complexity the Lumad’s own collective manifestos
protesting their inclusion in the MILF-claimed Bangsamoro ancestral domain, along
with their political position, which states that they are not Bangsamoro and therefore
have their own ancestral domain and right to self-determination.

Three distinct interest groups are coming to a head. How to reconcile these
positions within the Philippine republic whose very foundation is being questioned is
one of the biggest challenges faced by the present Aquino administration.

This paper is divided into four parts. Part One is on the historical background
of the tri-people relationship; Part Two covers the Moro and Lumad assertions of right
to self-determination; Part Three focuses on the basic considerations in advocacy for
peace and development, and Part Four highlights specific recommendations.

Part One
The Concept of Tri-People Relationship
It is only in Mindanao that we speak of a tri-people relationship. By tri-people
we refer to the Moros or Muslims, the Lumad and the migrants, mostly Christian
settlers and their descendants, the greater number now belonging to the second, third
or fourth generations and are already considered homegrown Mindanawons; also, other
migrants who are not Christians. The grouping is loose and there are several overlaps in
between, but the designations are popularly used in the region.

The Moros

The name Moro was originally given by the Spaniards to those Muslims of
northern Africa who occupied Spain for nearly eight centuries, from 711 to 1492 A.D,
and later to the Muslims of the Philippine archipelago. Now it refers to the 13 ethno-
linguistic groups of the Maranao, Maguindanao, Tausug, Sama, Sangil, Iranun, Kalagan,
Kalibugan, Yakan, Jama Mapun, Panimusan, Molbog and Sama Dilaut, also popularly
known to outsiders as Badjaos. They are mostly Muslims, except for the Kalagan,
who are only partly Muslim, and the Sama Dilaut, who are generally non-Muslims.
They constitute, according to the 2000 census, about 18.9% of the entire population of
Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago and they are the majority population only in the
provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and in fifteen
other towns—one in Cotabato, nine in Lanao del Norte, two in Sultan Kudarat, two in
Zamboanga del Norte, and one in Palawan.

The Lumad

The Lumad include approximately 35 tribes and sub-tribes indigenous to

Mindanao, among which are, in alphabetical order- Ata Manobo, Bagobo, Banwaon,
Bla-an, Bukidnon, Dibabawon, Higaunon, Mamanwa, Mandaya, Mangguwangan,
Manobo, Mansaka, Matigsalug, Subanen, Tagakaolo, Talaandig, Tigwa, T’boli, Teduray
and the Ubo Manuvu. There may be more because they normally refer to each other by
their geographical and not by their ethno-linguistic names. They constitute, according
to the 2000 census, about 8.5% of the entire population of Mindanao and the Sulu
archipelago, and are the majority in only eleven towns—one in Agusan del Sur, four in
Bukidnon, two in Davao del Sur, two in Maguindanao, one in Sarangani, and one in
Zamboanga del Sur.

The name Lumad is Cebuano Bisaya but is the product of an agreement among
representatives of 15 out of 18 ethno-linguistic groups that was arrived at during
the founding congress of Lumad Mindanaw in June 1986. Cebuano is their lingua

franca. Although most of them are Christians, usually belonging to various Protestant
denominations, depending on which group arrived at their place first, they seldom refer
to themselves in their religious identities.

The Christian Settlers and their Descendants

Composed mostly of the settler population of the 20th century and their
descendants, the Christians settlers also include (in the census) the Bisayan-speaking
natives of Mindanao, majority of whom came from northern and eastern Mindanao and
who were converted into Christianity during the Spanish period, and the Chavacanos
of Zamboanga. Many of them are still known by their geographic place names,
such as Davaweño, Tandaganon, Surigaonon, Butuanon, Camiguinon, Cagayanon,
Misamisnon, Iliganon, Ozamiznon, Dapitanon, and so on and by some peculiarity in
their respective accents.

Table 1.1 Muslim-Lumad-Other Indigenous-Migrant Populations In Mindanao, Sulu And Palawan Based On Mother
Tongue Classification By Province, 1970 Census

Province Total Muslim % Lumad % Indigenous % Migrant %

Agusan del Norte 278,053 1,350 0.49 1,998 0.72 3 0.00 274,702 98.79
Agusan del Sur 174,682 1,036 0.59 29,531 16.91 30 0.02 144,085 82.48
Bukidnon 414,762 3,998 0.96 73,359 17.69 5,533 1.33 331,872 80.02
Cotabato 1,136,007 438,134 38.57 62,326 5.49 4,703 0.41 630,844 55.53
South Cotabato 466,110 28,349 6.08 43,908 9.42 109 0.02 393,744 84.47
Davao del Norte 442,543 12,657 2.86 15,034 3.40 5,754 1.30 409,098 92.44
Davao Oriental 247,991 1,818 0.73 11,503 4.64 84,308 34.00 150,362 60.63
Davao del Sur 785,398 9,027 1.15 92,666 11.80 12,297 1.57 671,408 85.49
Lanao del Norte 349,942 83,921 23.98 999 0.29 11 265,011 75.73
Lanao del Sur 455,508 404,359 88.77 89 0.02 0 51,060 11.21
Misamis 326,855 485 0.15 2,828 0.87 0 323,542 98.99
Misamis Oriental 482,756 656 0.14 2,601 0.54 312 0.06 479,187 99.26
Sulu 425,617 412,591 96.94 1,573 0.37 581 0.14 10,872 2.55
Surigao del Norte 238,714 430 0.18 386 0.16 1 237,897 99.66
Surigao del Sur 258,680 1,701 0.66 2,204 0.85 698 0.27 254,077 98.22
Zamboanga del 411,381 22,098 5.37 43,684 10.62 3,050 0.74 342,549 83.27
Zamboanga del 1,029,479 178,146 17.30 47,103 4.58 154,710 15.03 649,520 63.09
Mindanao 7,924,478 1,600,756 20.20 431,792 5.45 272,100 3.43 5,619,830 70.92
Palawan 236,635 32,328 13.66 9,353 3.95 91,434 38.64 103,520 43.75
Grand Total 8,161,113 1,633,084 20.01 441,145 5.41 363,534 4.45 5,723,350 70.13

Source: Republic of the Philippines. National Statistics Office, Manila. 1970 Census of Population and Housing. Table III.15.
Classification by Sex, Major Mother Tongue and Municipality.

Table 1.2 Moro-Lumad-Migrant Populations In Mindanao, Sulu And Palawan Based On Mother Tongue Classification,
By Province, 2000 Census

Moro Lumad Migrant

Province Total % % %
Number Number Number
Mindanao 18,104,337 3,643,032 20.12 1,530,266 8.45 12,931,039 71.43

Basilan 332,579 255,239 76.75 197 0.06 77,143 23.20

Zamboanga Norte 821,921 41,335 5.03 139,265 16.94 641,321 78.03
Zamboanga Sur 1,930,822 261,224 13.53 124,421 6.44 1,545,177 80.03
Bukidnon 1,060,253 8,684 0.82 201,387 18.99 850,182 80.19
Camiguin 74,134 152 0.21 131 0.18 73,851 99.62
Misamis Occidental 485,978 1,055 0.22 21,809 4.49 463,114 95.30
Misamis Oriental 1,123,529 9,689 0.86 30,671 2.73 1,083,169 96.41
Davao (Norte) 742,206 16,005 2.16 45,276 6.10 680,925 91.74
Davao Del Sur 1,902,993 49,778 2.62 269,400 14.16 1,583,815 83.23
Davao Oriental 445,733 18,041 4.05 73,238 16.43 354,454 79.52
South Cotabato 1,100,511 50,636 4.60 126,624 11.51 923,251 83.89
Sarangani 410,137 37,633 9.18 120,638 29.41 251,866 61.41
Compostela Valley 579,719 9,779 1.69 65,846 11.36 504,094 86.95
Lanao Del Norte 757,084 189,120 24.98 5,509 0.73 562,455 74.29
Cotabato (North) 957,294 187,195 19.55 60,062 6.27 710,037 74.17
Sultan Kudarat 585,768 129,373 22.09 45,682 7.80 410,713 70.12
Cotabato City 161,517 97,218 60.19 1,573 0.97 62,726 38.84
Marawi City 129,809 125,072 96.35 120 0.09 4,617 3.56
Lanao Del Sur 668,860 616,873 92.23 1,316 0.20 50,671 7.58
Maguindanao 800,369 632,382 79.01 58,983 7.37 109,004 13.62
Sulu 619,550 590,948 95.38 213 0.03 28,389 4.58
Tawi-Tawi 322,066 306,804 95.26 112 0.03 15,150 4.70
551,265 4,698 0.85 14,407 2.61 532,160 96.53
Agusan Del Sur 558,414 1,640 0.29 103,851 18.60 452,923 81.11
Surigao Del Norte 480,691 679 0.14 2,534 0.53 477,478 99.33
Surigao Del Sur 501,135 1,780 0.36 17,001 3.39 482,354 96.25
Mindanao 18,104,337 3,643,032 1,530,266 12,931,039
Palawan 752,114 51,829 6.89 51829 6.89 648,456 86.22
Grand Total 18,856,451 3,694,861 19.59 1,582,095 8.39 13,579,495 72.02

Source: Republic of the Philippines. National Census and Statistics Office, Manila. 2000 Census.

The Chavacanos were originally the Mardicas or Merdicas (meaning “free
people”) who were natives of Ternate, Moluccas in present Indonesia. They were
brought to Manila as soldiers by the Spaniards in 1663. Later, they were settled in
Ternate, Cavite; some must have been assigned to Zamboanga, possibly about 1718.

Constituting nearly two hundred thousand in 1898, these native Christians are
now integrated into the majority population. The entire migrant Christian population
constitutes approximately 72.5% of the entire population of Mindanao and the Sulu

Emergence of the Tri-People Concept

The tri-people concept did not emerge in our history until around the early 1980s,
shortly before Lumad Mindanaw was founded in June 1986. The Lumads asserted their
right to self-determination as a distinct segment of the Mindanao population and they
wanted to govern themselves within their ancestral domains in accordance with their
customary laws. Genuine autonomy within the republic was their battlecry.

The Moros, for their part, have been vocal in their demand for recognition
of their distinctness as a people. They are Muslims and would like to remain so. Their
political awakening reached its maturation under the leadership of the Moro National
Liberation Front, which originally advocated independence from the colonial clutches
of the Republic of the Philippines through armed struggle. They wanted their own
Bangsamoro Republic.

In the face of these Moro and Lumad assertions of their respective rights to
self-determination, the migrant population will have to rethink its position. Although
they constitute the majority population, it no longer seems appropriate to speak in simple
terms of majority rule. Democracy in Mindanao will have to be redefined. There are
fundamental rights, interests and sensibilities involved that should be considered.

Stepping Back into History: Clarifying Political Realities

In the 1998 commemoration of the centennial of the Philippine Revolution,
which culminated in the establishment of the Republic of the Philippines in 1898, the
nation took great pride in recalling the long process through which, from the bondage of
colonialism, it rose to establish national identity and won independence.

But it is often overlooked, or many are simply not aware of it, that the Lumad
and the Moro in Mindanao cannot identify with these commemorative activities;
they were not part of that political process. Let us go back in history and examine
why this is so.

Political Situation in 1898

On December 10, 1898, at the time of the signing of the Treaty of Paris
between Spain and the United States, the Philippines was almost six months old, still

in its infancy but a perfectly legitimate de facto state. It declared its independence on
June 12, 1898, and it is this date that is now celebrated as Independence Day.

The Sultanate of Sulu, a state in its own right, was established in 1450, fought
the Spaniards for 333 years and had remained free until 1898. While it is true the sultan
signed a treaty with Spain in 1878 that technically reduced its political status to that of a
protectorate, Sulu remained a de facto state, uncolonized to the end.

The Sultanate of Maguindanao, formed in 1619 by the famous Sultan Kudarat

from the two powerful datuships of Rajah Buayan and Maguindanao, also fought the
same Spanish colonizers. Its leaders signed agreements with Spain in the last 50 years
of the 19th century that compromised the sultanate’s sovereign status but, like Sulu, it
remained uncolonized until 1898.

In short, there were at least two de facto states at that time, all free and indepen-
dent. If such was the case, which part of the Philippine archipelago belonged to Spain
that she had the right to cede to the United States in the Treaty of Paris? We could
probably say Intramuros, that city surrounded by stonewalls in Manila by the Pasig river.
The political leaders of the United States were aware of this situation but chose to ignore
it. When they paid the twenty million Mexican dollars to Spain for the Philippine
archipelago, they claimed that there were no nations in existence here at that time, only
scattered tribes fighting one another, thus neatly deflecting any possible accusation that
the United States was guilty of invading free nation states.

We say that the Treaty of Paris was a spurious transaction, in which Spain sold
what did not belong to her. The two sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao, including
the Moros of the Pat a Pongampong o Ranaw, were never her colonies, and the Filipino
people had just won their independence from her. But issues like these, questioning the
legitimacy of the Treaty of Paris, were rendered moot and academic by American victory
in arms in the wars that followed, specifically in the Filipino-American War and the
Moro-American War. The Philippine islands, including Moroland, became, as described
in American textbooks, “Our Insular Possessions”.

In 1946, independence was returned only to the Republic of the Philippines, but
not to the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao and the Pat a Pongampong ko Ranaw.

What about the case of the other indigenous peoples? Apparently, they did not
have any social structures that would have merited the status of states. But in their simplicity,
they contributed immensely to the anti-colonial struggle. The peoples of the Cordillera
fought off the Spaniards successfully until 1898 and were never colonized. The Aetas of
Luzon, the Mangyans of Mindoro, the indigenous peoples of Palawan and the Lumads of
Mindanao chose to avoid or evaded contact with the Spaniards and so had remained free.

Ugly Twist in Our History

The stain of an ugly twist in our history remains with us until today. Those of
our people who were colonized and became Christians fought and struggled to eventu-
ally give birth to the Filipino nation and to the Republic of the Philippines. This is
what was commemorated in the Philippine centennial. Those of our people, the Moros
of the two sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao, and the Cordillerans who were never
conquered and colonized because they fought tooth and nail for their independence;
the Aetas of Luzon, the Mangyans of Mindoro, the indigenous peoples of Palawan and
the Lumads of Mindanao who succeeded in avoiding contact with the Spaniards and
also remained free—they all now suffer the status of cultural minorities.

Their own struggles against colonialism have yet to find a place in the Philippine
flag, while their own accomplishments have not been given their proper space activities
commemorating independence. Nor are their feats mentioned in Philippine history
textbooks used in schools. This is because we have yet to cleanse our consciousness of
the stains of colonial mentality deeply embedded in our social structures. Colonialism
contributed to the sowing of these stains, but the cleansing process is now in our

American Share in the Process

One of the achievements of the American colonizers that endured to this

day is the labels they neatly applied on us. First, in the census of 1903, they catego-
rized the population into two broad groupings of Christians and non-Christians.
The Christians were generally those belonging to any one of the eight linguistic
groups of the Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Bikol, Iloko, Kapampangan,
and Pangasinan, who predominated the Christian population; they were also char-
acterized and called “civilized”. The Spaniards colonized them. It was this group
of people who rebelled against the colonizers and, after more than 300 years, their
struggle ripened into the Philippine Revolution. They gave birth to the Filipino
nation and to the Republic of the Philippines. In 1898, they were the Filipino

The non-Christians, also tagged as “uncivilized”, were those—let me reiter-

ate very quickly for emphasis—who fought back and were successful in maintain-
ing their independence throughout the period of Spanish presence. These were
the proud Moros of the two sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu and the Pat
a Pongampong o Ranaw, and the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera, known
today as the Bontoc, Ibaloi and Kankanaey, Ifugao, Ikalahan or Kalangoya; Isneg;
Kalinga, Kankanais or Applais, and Tinguian. The others were those who kept

out of Spanish reach, thereby remaining free, among whom may be counted the
Aetas of Luzon, the Mangyans of Mindoro, the indigenous peoples of Palawan and
the more or less 35 Lumad tribes and sub-tribes of Mindanao already mentioned

Because they were unconquered and had not been colonized, they never
had to rebel against the Spaniards. The Moros and the Cordillerans were always at
war with these aggressors. They had their record of struggle against the Spaniards,
separate and apart from those fought by the Christians, and they are proud of it.
Naturally, they had no part in the formation of the Filipino nation and cannot
identify with the symbolisms of the Filipino flag.

Our Own Contribution to the Labeling Process

Within ten years after the Republic of the Philippines regained its inde-
pendence, Congress passed R.A. 1888 that formalized and made official the labels
National Cultural Minorities upon those earlier called non-Christians. The labels
have since taken deep root in our consciousness. Some minor changes in the
labels were later made to remove the social stigma – Cultural Communities in the
1973 Constitution and Indigenous Cultural Communities in the 1987 Constitution.
However, the public continues to refer to the Lumad groups and individuals as
non-Christian, uncivilized, or simply minorities.

Displacement in Their Ancestral Homelands,

Only One Aspect of Marginalization

Worse than the labels, it was the American-initiated resettlement programs

that created permanent damage on the lives of the indigenous population. It opened
the floodgates to a heavy influx of Filipino settlers from the north, starting from
1913, leading to the massive displacement of the local people from their ancestral
lands. This inflow of settlers was so heavy that by 1948, according to the census,
where once the indigenous population predominated, they now had become the
numerical minorities. By 1970, the Muslims retained numerical majority only in
the five provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
The Lumads remained the majority in only eight towns all over Mindanao.

The provisions of the public land law and other related laws were stacked
against the non-Christians. For instance, there was the Philippine Commission
Act No. 718 of 1903 issued six months after the passage of the Land Registration
Act, making void land grants from Moro sultans or datus or from chiefs of non-
Christian tribes when made without government consent. The following table
shows the discriminatory land disposition provisions of the public land laws:

Table 1.3. Public Land Laws and Resettlement1

Hectarage Allowed
Year Homesteader Non-Christian Corporation
1903 16 has. No provision 1024 has.
1919 24 has. 10 has. 1024 has.

1936 16 has. 4 has. 1024 has.

The Moros and the Lumads lost their lands to the settlers mainly by operation
of law, in classic cases of class legislation. Their displacement and dispossession in their
own ancestral lands was legal!

This was only one aspect of their marginalization. Being now numerical
minorities, they had to submit to the dominance of majority rule. More concretely,
they had to submit to a majority-dominated uniform system of governance and justice,
to a majority-dominated uniform system of land landownership and land use, to a
majority-dominated uniform system of economic life and to a majority-dominated
uniform system of education. Needless to say, what emerged in media and common
usage is a majority-dominant culture.

Rodil, R. The Minoritization of the Indigenous Communities of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago, Revised
Philippine Edition, Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao, Philippines, 2004.

Part Two
Moro and Lumad Assertions of Right of Self-Determination
Moro Rebellion

The MNLF-led revolution that erupted in late 1972 was the maturation of
a series of Moro protests against the discriminatory treatment that they experienced
within the Republic, the most infamous (prior to 1972) being the Jabidah massacre of
1968, wherein 26 of some 180 young Moro recruits undergoing secret military training
in Corregidor were massacred for alleged mutiny. This was followed by the formation
of the Muslim (later Mindanao) Independence Movement or MIM, and its declara-
tion of a definite desire to put up an Islamic state in predominantly Muslim areas of
Mindanao, Sulu Archipelago and Palawan. There were also several other bloody events
in 1971, including the merciless massacres at Manili in Carmen, Cotabato and Tacub
in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte.

The groundswell of Moro protests, spiced with reports of secret military train-
ing, became one of two excuses for President Marcos’ declaration of martial rule; the
Communist rebellion was the other. Martial law provided the valve for the full-scale
eruption of the Bangsamoro armed struggle for national liberation from, as the MNLF
loves to say, the clutches of Philippine colonialism.

In the beginning, the MNLF referred to its people as Bangsamoro and stated
in unequivocal terms that Minsupala was its ancestral homeland; it wanted to establish
its own Bangsamoro Republic and it aimed to accomplish this through armed struggle.
The cost of that conflict was staggering to all concerned.

The MNLF signed the Tripoli Agreement with the GRP in December 1976,
establishing autonomy for the Muslims in southern Philippines, more specifically in
the 13 provinces of Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao,
Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte,
Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Palawan, and all the cities and villages therein. Paragraph
16 further states that the entire agreement would be implemented through consti-
tutional processes. After the two plebiscites of 1989 and 2001, only five provinces,
excluding the cities of Isabela in Basilan and Cotabato in Maguindanao, have remained
from the original 13 provinces.

It took the GRP and the MNLF 20 years to agree on how to implement the
document. Fourteen years after the two parties signed a final peace agreement, the full
implementation of the accord has yet to be seen, a shortcoming that the government

The 1996 Final Peace Agreement for the implementation of the Tripoli
Accord, however, was not acceptable to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and it
decided to pursue the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination. At the same
time, it also announced its openness to peace negotiations. When the negotiations
started in January 1997, it submitted a single agenda item: to solve the Moro
problem. Much ground has been covered but the peace process is still going on
after 12 years, and there is no clear end in sight.

The GRP-MILF peace negotiations has so far resulted in several impor-

tant agreements, chief among which were the decision to a cessation of hostilities
and the Tripoli Agreement on Peace in 2001, which finalized the three agenda
items of security, rehabilitation and development, and ancestral domain. A high
point in the negotiations was the much publicized signing of the Memorandum
of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) on August 5, 2008. However,
opposition politicians, mainly from Cotabato, Zamboanga City and Iligan City,
petitioned the Supreme Court to forbid the signing with the issuance of a tempo-
rary restraining order. They got the TRO and the rest is history. Malacañang
announced that it would not sign the agreement “in its present form or in any
other form” regardless of Supreme Court ruling. Three commanders of the MILF
launched attacks on civilian targets in mid-August and by the summer of 2009, an
estimated 6,000 evacuees were displaced from their homes and farms.

By mid-October of 2008, the Supreme Court decided that the MOA-AD

was unconstitutional. The two parties have since issued separate orders for their
respective troops to cease hostilities, negotiations have resumed, and some vital
agreements have been reached (e.g. revival and expansion of the International
Monitoring Team IMT, the formation of the International Contact Group ICG,
among others). By the first week of June 2010, the same month on which the term of
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was to end, the two negotiating panels signed
a Declaration of Continuity, expressing the desire of the two parties to continue
the peace process. There has been neither interim agreement nor comprehensive
compact. The ball is now with the new president, Benigno Simeon Cojuangco
Aquino III.

Lumad Assertion
A Political Act

Although never advocating armed struggle, Lumad Mindanaw and all its
affiliate organizations have clearly indicated their desire to attain genuine autonomy
within the republic. Lumad Mindanaw as an organization is no longer in existence
but the concepts its advocates have sown are very much alive and attracting more
adherents. They wanted to govern themselves within their respective ancestral

domains in accordance with their own traditional laws. This is an assertion of

collective political right, not just cultural identity.

1987 Constitution Upholds Ancestral Domain of Indigenous Com-


For the first time in our political history, the 1987 Constitution states
its recognition of the ancestral domains of the indigenous communities. Being
a product of the EDSA Revolution, the 1987 Charter carries a sincere attempt
to cleanse our political and social system of the various stigmata of the martial
law regime and our colonial past. Regional autonomy is clearly provided for the
Cordillerans and the Muslims of Mindanao. But it was not until October 1997
that an enabling act for this constitutional recognition was promulgated for the
Indigenous Peoples.

The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act

A Reason To Rejoice

Nurtured through the legislative process by committed and well informed

indigenous leaders, lobbyists and sympathetic legislators, R.A. 8371 or the
Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) deserves to be hailed as a strategic first
in the history of Philippine legislation. It was the long-awaited ancestral domain
law designed to protect the interests of the indigenous peoples and uphold their
identity and dignity. After 94 years, it eliminated the infamous Philippine
Commission Act No. 718 of l903.

Native title is now part of the law of the land. Ancestral lands and
ancestral domains include not only the physical environment but also the spiritual
and cultural bond to said territories. These ancestral lands or domains may now
be titled. As of 2007, of the total certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT)
and certificate of ancestral land title (CALT) applications covering 4.8 million
hectares, only 19% had been approved; the processing of the remaining 81% is
awaiting completion. Lack of funds has been identified as the cause.

The right to self-governance in accordance with customary laws is also

guaranteed. Communities living in contiguous areas where they constitute the
majority population may form a separate tribal barangay. The same guarantee
is given to the exercise of their own judicial system. They, too, shall have
priority rights in the harvesting, extraction, development or exploitation of
any natural resources within the ancestral domains. Outsiders who wish to
tap said natural resources can only do so with the community’s free prior and
informed consent.

Need for Sympathetic Cooperation to Implement the IPRA

Like any good law designed to protect and uphold the rights of cultural
communities, numerical minorities that they are and vulnerable to manipulation due to
their unfamiliarity with the letter of the law and its operations, the success of IPRA’s
implementation will definitely require sympathetic cooperation from the rest of the
government bureaucracy as well as from the general population itself. There have been
recent instances of settler opposition to Lumad applications for ancestral domain claim.
It can be recalled that the Commission on National Integration (CNI) of the past had
very grand objectives but the government never released more than 50% of its budget

The inertia of history and cultural bias are very much alive and must be viewed
as a built-in obstacle to the fulfillment of the dreams visualized in this law. Decisive
efforts from all concerned must be exerted to generate a spirit of mutual acceptance and
mutual cooperation among the various peoples of Mindanao.

Part Three
Basic Considerations in Advocacy for Peace and Development
The tri-people approach is without substitute in our peace building and devel-
opment activities in the entirety of Mindanao and the archipelago of Sulu. It is also
imperative that the local government units (LGUs), the provinces, the municipalities
and the barangays should lead in the process. A way to carry this out is for central
government to institutionalize the primacy of the peace process nationwide, and to
engage the entire government machinery in the peace process, more specifically at the
level of LGUs. Combining peace and development is too big and too complex to be
confined to peace negotiations alone between the government and rebel forces. Given
the delicate nature of the problem in Mindanao, LGUs and the people themselves must
be engaged, not only through sectoral representation but also through institutionalized
peoples’ dialogue.

Citizens’ Participation in
Creating A Culture of Peace

The tri-people approach is best analyzed in microcosm, specifically within the

framework of the 13 provinces in the Tripoli Agreement. Creating a culture of peace
in these 15 provinces (from the original 13, following the recent creations of Sarangani
province out of South Cotabato and Zamboanga Sibugay out of Zamboanga del Sur) is
not a simple case of settling the implementation of the Tripoli Agreement. The MILF
have added a few more areas beyond those specified in the Tripoli Agreement, but the
basic elements affecting the inhabitants therein remain the same. The plebiscites of
1989 and 2001 merely touched on the territorial coverage of the autonomy but not on
the dynamics of the relationships of the tri-people within the autonomy and without.

While it is true that the Tripoli document clearly speaks of establishing

“autonomy for the Muslims in Southern Philippines” in the 13 provinces, which may
also be interpreted as the recognition of the ethnicity of the Muslim population, it
is equally true that the same document is silent about the other major segments of
the total population in the region. Naturally this is a major cause for concern among
the non-Muslims; they certainly find difficulty identifying with this autonomy. The
Government must constantly be conscious of the demographic peculiarity of the area
of autonomy. It is not possible to leave any sector out, especially the Lumad and the
Christians, whose population in 1970 and later in 2000 was decisively greater than
those of the Muslims.

In 1970, the total population of the region, Palawan included, based on mother
tongue classification, was 8,146,652. Of this, the Muslims were 1,630,650 or 19.98%,

the Lumad 443,501 or 5.43%. The Christian settlers and their descendants composed
the remaining 6,086,962 or 74.71%. There is a loose population of 363,534 or approxi-
mately 4.45% whose collective identity is classified as “Other Indigenous Inhabitants.”
Even if this number were deducted from the settler population, the majority status of
the Christian settlers remains overwhelming.

This was not much different from the figures of the 2000 census, where the
total population of Minsupala region had more than doubled at 18,856,451. Of this,
the total Muslim population was 3,683,073 or 19.53%, and the Lumad 1,607,744 or
8.53%. The Christian settler majority was an overwhelming 13,565,634 or 71.94%.

This population reality has a direct bearing on the implementation of the Tripoli
Agreement, especially on the decision of the GRP and the MNLF to have a plebiscite,
and, as the events surrounding the GRP-MILF Memorandum Agreement on Ancestral
Domain have shown, also on the fate of the GRP-MILF peace negotiations.

Eight of the 13 provinces2 listed as the territory of the autonomous region in

the Tripoli Agreement were Christian-dominated; only five had a predominance of
Muslims. So the result of the plebiscite of 1989 was not entirely unexpected, except
for that inexplicable twist where the Muslim-dominated province of Basilan and the
Islamic City of Marawi voted no. These same areas voted yes in the 2001 plebiscite,
but the Christian dominated cities of Cotabato, a component city of the province of
Maguindanao, and Isabela, a component city of Basilan province, voted no.

The most intense opposition to the GRP-MILF MOA-AD of 2008 emerged

from the Christian-dominated provinces of Cotabato and the cities of Zamboanga and
Iligan. According to then Vice Governor Emmanuel Piñol of Cotabato, 173 barangays
of his province were listed in the Category A of the MOA-AD without the benefit of
public consultation. Mayor Lawrence Cruz of Iligan City complained that the eight
barangays of Iligan enumerated in Category A constituted more than 82% of the entire
territory of the city. He argued that, while four of these barangays are Moro-dominated,
the other four cannot possibly be Moro ancestral domain because Moro population
there has always been a minority. In fact, two of them, Hindang and Mainit, had only
one Muslim each in the 2000 census. There were plebiscites in the territory of the
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 1989 and 2001. In both the
answer in Iligan was an overwhelming no to inclusion. In 2001, only a measly 2.67%
voted yes.

In 1976, when the agreement was signed, the area of autonomy included only 13 provinces. With the creation of
Sarangani and Zamboanga Sibugay, there are now 15. Both Sarangani and Zamboanga Sibugay are Christian-
dominated, bringing to 10 the number of Christian-dominated provinces in the Philippines.

Often taken for granted and therefore left unarticulated as such are the intense
emotional outbursts triggered by publicized concessions to Moros, represented by the
MNLF and the MILF. The settlers’ angry reactions to the MOA-AD were not new.
Similar expressions were exhibited in the 1988-1989 discussions on Muslim Mindanao
and ARMM and in the aftermath of the signing of the interim agreement on the
creation of Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) in
1995-1996. The following words have become triggers that set off loud and often angry
reactions among settlers: “Muslim Mindanao,” “SPCPD,” and “MOA-AD.” Feeling
rejected on a massive scale by these outbursts, the Muslims in turn naturally felt that
their fight for self-determination is fully justified.

It is equally important to bear in mind that the various Lumad tribes, all 12
ethno-linguistic groups within the 15 provinces, along with the rest of their kin all
over Mindanao, have since the mid-1980s started to articulate their own right to self-
determination within their ancestral domain.

The Christian population, most of whom are third or fourth generation descen-
dants of immigrants from Luzon and the Visayas but also of whom a large number is
indigenous, see themselves as genuine Mindanawons and distinct from the others. To
this extent, they may also be deemed to possess a certain level of “ethnicity”.

Need to Establish Commonalities

The tri-people must take part in identifying what is common among them and
work out a modus vivendi from there. This is not something that can be the subject of
negotiations between the GRP and the MNLF or the MILF. This cannot but be part
of the broader peace process. We are talking about harmonious relations at the commu-
nity level. The events from the early 1970s to 2008 are more than sufficient evidence
to prove this. Konsult Mindanaw pioneered by the Bishops Ulama Conference (BUC)
and the succeeding Dialogue Mindanaw have amply documented the same popular call
for community dialogues, public consultation and peaceful resolution of conflicts.

Perhaps, this is one moment in history when we must grapple with realities
in a manner radically different from the way the colonizers did. If we must unite,
we must do so as distinct entities; we must do so as equals accepting and respecting
each other’s unique identity and dignity, regardless of population size. We must do so
because unity in diversity is mutually beneficial and best for all concerned. This is an
important first step in the creation of a culture of peace. Balanced with one another,
ethnicity and recognition of each other’s political right to self-determination can be an
instrument for sustaining a peace culture, which, in turn, is a vital component for the
development not only of the autonomous region but also of Mindanao and the rest of
the Philippines.

Peace Credo; the Organic Whole; Implications to Development

A number of peace advocates and educators from all over Mindanao and
Sulu assembled at the Southeast Asia Rural Leadership Institute (SEARSOLIN),
Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro City, in July 1996. This gathering was aptly called
Consultation-Workshop on Peace Education in Mindanao, with the theme “Journey to
Peace and Harmony”. It was hosted by the Mindanao Support and Communication
Center for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (MINCARRD) and the Office
of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP). The participants produced,
ratified and adopted a Peace Credo in Filipino. The English translation here is mine. It
is appropriate to recall it here.

Kalinaw Mindanaw!
Lumad, Muslim, Kristiyano
Magkaiba, Magkaisa
Isang Diyos
Isang Lupain
Isang Adhikain
Kalinaw Mindanaw!

[English Translation]

Peace Mindanaw!
Lumad, Muslim, Christian
They are different, they can be one
One God
One land
One dream
Peace Mindanaw!

What the Peace Credo advocates is that on the level of the people, the tri-
people approach in peace advocacy is creating a stream of unifying ideals among a
diverse population whose basic interests may sometimes be conflicting. It is molding a
common agenda and a common vision; it is creating unity out of diversity. It is seeing
ourselves as integral parts of an organic whole.

Following the idea of an organic whole, the same people will do well to see them-
selves as one with nature and the physical environment in which they live. Then from there,
find the inter-links, or the unifying thread among the various forces of nature. With a
closer look, one can easily see the interactive roles of the various resources or forces of devel-
opment in Mindanao in the overall forward movement of the region and the country.

Take industrialization as a case in point. One may say that industrialization is

possible only with a continuous flow of electrical energy. Electricity comes largely from
the Agus river hydroelectric plants, seven of them generating a total of 944 megawatts.
The six dams along the Pulangi river will produce a total of 1,003 megawatts and
service irrigation systems. Other smaller projects will have a combined capacity of
714 megawatts. The Mt. Apo geothermal plants alone are projected by the Philippine
National Oil Company to produce a total of 220 megawatts of electricity. The 22 sites,
excluding the geothermal plants, in Mindanao are expected to produce a total of 3,006

From the sources of energy to the distribution of electricity, we can feel a very
intimate interconnection between the peace process and the economic development.
Water, the source of power that turns the giant generators, is dependent on the integrity
of the watersheds. Keeping watersheds alive require the nurturing care of people, people
who share a common desire to keep the water flowing for the common welfare. The
vital watersheds in Mindanao are located in Moroland and within the ancestral lands
of Lumad communities. Maintaining the watersheds will mean not only preserving the
water resources in all lakes and major river systems, it will also mean a sustained supply
of water for agriculture, another strong component of Mindanao economic develop-
ment. The best illustration of the latter is the potential of the Cotabato and Agusan
river basins. For the Lumad communities in particular, sustaining the integrity of the
watersheds is respecting the sacredness of their domains, both physical and spiritual.
Sustained effort from a diverse population will only be possible if the same is unified by
a common goal.

What this boils down to is that peace in Moroland is a vital component in

the restoration and preservation of the watershed areas that will, in turn, assure us
of the continuous flow of electricity. This for its part will fuel the industries. The
cycle can continue ad infinitum. The cycle we have presented here is not meant to be
complete but the concept of the organic whole approach to development seems worth

Tri-People Approach: Implication to National History

The Filipinos of today are not the same as the Filipinos of 1898. In those days,
the Filipinos, the colonized segment of the population that felt the need to liberate
themselves from the clutches of Spanish colonizers, did so and in the process produced
the Filipino identity, the Filipino nation and the Filipino Republic. They put together
a flag which faithfully represented their political realities and consciousness.

But there were other segments of the population that we cannot so identify for
lack of bases in historical fact. The Sulu sultanate fought Spanish colonialism as a state;

so did the Maguindanao sultanate, of which the Moro are extremely proud. We cannot
take this away from them.

The Lumad, who avoided contact with the Spaniards and were therefore not
colonized, could not be identified as Filipinos either because they were not part of that
process that brought about the Filipino nation.

The American segment of our colonial experience changed all this. Having
conquered and colonized all of us, it was the American colonizers who decided that
we share the same territory and should all be Filipinos. This is why it can be said that
only one independence was restored in 1946. The Muslims were not particularly happy
about that. Content or not with what we have inherited from the American colonizers,
we have a problem to solve. We have a shared destiny and a shared territory but we have
conflicting views about it.

Mindanao is Shared Territory

At this point in our history, not a single segment of the population can claim Mindanao
as theirs. It is already shared territory. The three segments of the population are
capable of working out a modus vivendi that can make Mindanao a home of peace and
harmony. What Mindanao has taught us is that we can still be Filipinos, but the basis
of our unity cannot be our differing experiences with Spanish colonialism. Neither
can it be the present Filipino flag that is the product of a different era. It must be our
mutual acceptance of one another as distinct peoples in one nation, with our respective
histories, identities and dignity sharing the same territory. It must be our common
vision crafted from present realities.

Perhaps, we should explore the feasibility of designing an entirely new flag and a
new constitution, to represent an expanded historical experience and an expanded
nation that allows for sufficient social spaces for the tri-people. This will make future
commemorations of independence something all Mindanawons can identify with and
find more meaningful.

Part Four
There is no question that everybody wants peace and development in Mindanao.
But we must get our acts together. We can start by dreaming of producing a new generation
of Mindanawons in 20 years, Mindanawons who are not weighed down by deep-seated
prejudice, who can come to terms with each other’s differences and social spaces, and
who are willing to listen to one another in peace and define common dreams. But the
government must lead this process, especially the local government units, complemented
by non-government organizations and the private sector, including the various religious
institutions. To accomplish these goals, this paper makes the following recommendations.

First, nationalize the primacy of the peace process and engage the entire
mechanism of government in the peace process. This should not be limited to the Office
of the President through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and to
the security sector, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.
The local government units must take the lead in their respective areas. Formal peace
negotiations alone will resolve neither the rebellion of the Bangsamoro nor the rebellion
of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army (CPP-NPA). The same
primacy of the peace process can be adopted in other areas of the country and adjusted to
their specific requirements. In particular, it will help if:

a) The LGUs at the provincial, municipal and barangay levels will be mandated to
institutionalize and lead in community dialogues where citizens of the LGU can
listen and decide on major community issues, especially peace and development
b) The national line agencies should have a peace component in their structure and
c) The Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education will
enshrine peace education in their curriculum, in the primary, secondary and tertiary
d) The universities and colleges, both public and private, will revise Philippine history
textbooks to include appropriate space for Mindanao history from the perspective
of the Bangsamoro and the Lumad.

Second, a new Constitution is imperative to solve Mindanao’s problems. The

resolution of ancestral domain and self-determination issues affecting the Bangsamoro
and the Lumad will ultimately require structural changes in governance. Bangsamoro
and Lumad communities need to have their ancestral territories and social spaces secured
constitutionally to make the solution permanent. It is time for a new constitution that
secures the Lumad and Bangsamoro where previous constitutions and legal frameworks

have been instrumental in marginalizing them. Community dialogues led by LGUs will
enable the non-Lumad and non-Bangsamoro to understand and appreciate the fundamen-
tal issues involved, such as defining the concrete meaning of self-determination and how
this will relate to the central government.

For years, state policy was for amalgamation or integration of the non-Christian
populations. The result was marginalization. The 1987 constitution gave way to autonomy
and the recognition of the ancestral domain rights and distinct cultures of these peoples.
Now we have the Organic Act for the ARMM and IPRA for the indigenous peoples.
These obviously are not enough. There is a need for government to loosen up and allow for
secured social spaces for the Bangsamoro and the Lumad, within they can develop at their
own pace.

It must finally be admitted that the country’s basic laws, such as the Treaty of Paris,
the Philippine Bill of 1902 (The Philippine Organic Act), the Jones Law of 1916 (The
Philippine Autonomy Act), the Tydings-McDuffie Act, the Philippine Constitution of
1935, the 1973 Constitution, and the present 1987 Constitution, operated within colonial
logic: that there were no nations here when the American colonizers arrived and there was
only room for one independent Republic of the Philippines in 1946. The 1935 Constitution,
in particular, affirmed the legitimacy of the Treaty of Paris. It was within the framework
of these laws that the amalgamation and marginalization of the Bangsamoro and Lumad
communities took place and were justified. We must now rethink whether the same laws
that created the problem can still be used to resolve the same problem.

Third, fast-track the processing of Lumad applications for Certificates of

Ancestral Domain Title and Certificates of Ancestral Land Titles. After a century of
displacement, this requires no further elucidation. Every day of delay leaves the door open
for settlers to insert themselves into Lumad domains. A CADT or a CALT is the Lumad’s
best defense against unwanted intrusions; it is also their best assurance of long-term peace.

Fourth, the details of the peace talks with the MILF and with the CPP-NPA
should be disclosed to the LGUs and the public so that these can be discussed openly.
It should be the task of OPAPP, and not of the negotiating panels, to deal with public
information and public consultation.

Fifth, the President of the Republic must stand by the signed agreements
with rebel groups and ensure that these are duly communicated to the other branches
of government and for implementation. By the non-full implementation of the 1996
Final Peace Agreement with the MNLF, for instance, the government is actually missing
by default on a crucial opportunity to stabilize the situation in Moro Mindanao. What
happened to the GRP-MILF MOA-AD has delivered its lessons; the least that we can do
is learn from them.