Ancestral Domain Claims


Understanding the ancestral domain claim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is not difficult. Since the period of the late Pres. Marcos, up to the time of Tita Cory, FVR and to some extent, in Erap’s time, comprehensive efforts have already been taken to give back land belonging to the tribal peoples of the Republic of the Philippines.


The ancestral domain awards process is not perfect. But so far, there has been scant publicity that will put the entire effort per se in a negative light. To a large extent, the awarding of ancestral domains may still be considered a success.


While it is true that the resulting awarded ancestral lands may be insufficient or possibly in exceptional cases, surpass the actual ancestral domains of particular tribes, the fact is that many of the country’s more than one hundred tribal peoples have finally gotten their share of the lands which they supposedly rightfully own, by virtue of a piece of paper that certifies their ancestral claim to a particular parcel of land within the archipelago that was originally their tribe’s principal domain.


The Philippines’ modest but real success in giving back ancestral lands to their rightful owners has made the country one of the inspirations in the United Nations Forum on Indigenous (Peoples) Issues (UNFII). Our own NCIP Chair, Atty. Eugene Insigne, was elected as the Asia/Pacific Regional Representative to the UNFII replacing the Rep from China that previously held that post.


In the matter of returning ancestral domains to our indigenous peoples, we can safely say that the Philippines is on the right track.


The government therefore has opened the way for tribes to earn whether a pittance or something worthy from these parcels of real property. The government has given the tribes something that they could call their own homeland. By virtue of their mores, their own forms of governance, they are free to exercise their powers, freedoms, rights and privileges over these real estates or ancestral domains.


That may not be on paper, but it is an unwritten code between the government and the tribes or indigenous peoples. And it is common in as many countries as there are tribes within them — even though the degree of tolerance for self-rule, self-governance, self-determination, self-help and self-reliance as well as self-defense might vary from country to country.


The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are the two (2) most important agencies in the awarding of ancestral domain claims. A sample document of ancestral domain claim guidelines for example, was promulgated by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD).


In the case of the ancestral domain claim of the MILF (Tribe of Maguindanaos, embracing the claims of the other Muslim Tribes that accept the MILF as their representative in the current peace process with the Philippine Government) may be handled by the DENR but not wholly by NCIP. This is due to the existence of the Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA) that according to its self-description, is “mandated to uplift and improve the condition of Muslim Filipinos. OMA is also the main institution provided under the Philippine Government tasked to address the various issues facing the Muslim communities.”


The OMA was formed during the incumbency of Tita Cory. So far, perhaps due to the separation between the mandates of NCIP and OMA, the ancestral domain claim of Muslims only has been taken up more seriously now.


Even during the past when government and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under Nur Misuari came into the negotiating table, signed agreements to jointly establish peace in Mindanao, the ancestral domain claim issue was not adequately taken up.


In other words, it is only at this time that the ancestral lands of the Muslims are poised to be handed over back to them, and it is because of the peace process that this momentous event in our history will be happening.


Moreover, it was observed during the past, that the OMA really had no serious business in its offices. Its major function was only to send using the money from the public coffers of the Philippine Government, Muslims to Mecca to attend the Pilgrimage during Ramadan.


During the past tensions and actual hostilities between MILF and the government, there were also scholarly and academic studies being made in continuance of old work on Muslim ancestral lands.


It will be borne by historical records that nearly all the Sultanates in Mindanao are actually related in one way or another due to occasional inter-marriages and because caste and social standing brought the Royalties together more frequently. This is found in references to the work of Dr. Cesar Majul on the beginnings of Islam, History of Islam in Mindanao, Sulu Sultanate, the Maguindanao Sultanate It will also be borne out by real, authentic documents that the Philippines had a real Islamic state in Mindanao and even in the Manila, the pervasive influence and extent rule of Islamic leaders was also a fact. The colonizers changed all that. Manila was taken over and wars and battles with Mindanao began. The other tribal peoples themselves that bowed to Spain’s conquest, were used in provoking, and making war with, the Muslims in Mindanao.


Mindanao has not been at peace ever since. And the notion of Muslims being able to claim their ancestral domain may have been relegated within the halls of the government to the dustbin of history, until now.


The long wait for the ancestral claims of the Mindanao Muslims was supposed to be done over with. This was supposed to have been achieved by the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domains (MOA-AD) between the Government of RP (GRP) and the MILF in Malaysia.


The agreement was to be signed as preparatory to the signing of a peace compact between GRP and MILF.


If the Muslims in Mindanao will finally be given back the lands that are their ancestral property, that will be doing justice to what the colonizers had wrought upon them and it will be a vindication of the Bangsa Moro’s struggle that had been waged not forty (40) years as erroneously claimed by people like dishonest politicians and supreme court justices. The Moro struggle has been going on for the past four to five hundred years. That struggle will never stop unless the land that was taken away from them will be properly returned. At least, in that regard, the Philippine Government is again on the right track.


6 Responses to “The Archangel Blog’s Pages”

  1. gandalf Says:

    hit it right on the spot. in russia, our muslims are also discriminated against.

  2. i learn much about your country from reading your posts.

  3. JohnMcCain Says:

    Nice site! Thank you!

  4. Imma Says:

    great blog!!! keep it up!!!

  5. raveAccerne Says:

    it’s a very okay site.

  6. Great post. Thanks.

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