UPI, Maguindanao—Tribal leaders here wanted more seats for indigenous peoples in the new Bangsamoro government.

Leonor Mokodef, vice-chair of Teduray-Lambangian Women’s Association, said   “We want to have more reserved seats in the Bangsamoro government because we want to ensure that IPs are equally represented.”

To achieve equal representation, Mokodef suggested that the municipalities of Upi, South Upi,and Datu Blah Sinsuat should be subjected to “re-districting.”

“With more than 10,000 population, these three towns should be treated as separate districts,” she explained.

Mokodef added that she wanted also to “ensure that tribal women must be recognized in all levels of decision-making in the Bangsamoro government.”

“We propose that the definition of the indigenous peoples as defined in IPRA (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act) law must also reflect in the Bangsamoro Basic law.”

“Our IP rights should be recognized and respected in accordance with the law,” Mokodef stressed.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rofus Rodriguez, chairperson of the Adhoc Committee, assured that there will be more reserved seats for the indigenous peoples in the Bangsamoro government.

“It is very clear that all the rights in the IPRA law are already in the Bangsamoro Basic Law and there will more allocation of seats for them,” said Rodriguez.

He added that “we will consider the request that there will be a separate district for Datu Blah and South Upi, and North Upi so that there will be more representatives from the IPs.”

In a separate interview Saturday, Timuay Santos M. Unsad, the vice supreme chieftain of the Timuay Justice and Governance, the indigenous political structure of the Teduray and Lambangian tribes in Maguindanao, has proposed some additions and deletions to the revised Bangsamoro law.

For instance, on the Bangsamoro Justice System  under Sec. 24—Office for Traditional/Tribal Justice System,Unsad proposed to add “responsible for the delivery of financial, technical, legal and other institutional support to the tribal justice system.

On Sec. 39 on Customary justice, if referring to IP justice system, Unsad proposed to add “provided that customary justice system of Indigenous Peoples shall be recognized and respected in accordance with IPRA.”

On Sec. 38 on Bangsamoro Settlements, he proposed to add “if it falls within ancestral domains, IP rights should be recognized and respected in accordance with IPRA.”

On judicial affirmation of titles,  Unsad proposed that “IPRA has different options for ancestral lands” by deletion of the provision in paragraph D of Section 4 which is on judicial affirmation.

On reserve seats, Unsad proposed that the words “reserve seats per sector” must be deleted “because indigenous peoples are not sectors.”

“They are peoples and so we proposed that an allotment of at least 2 reserve seats as representatives of the following indigenous peoples but not limited to the Teduray, Lambangian, Dulangan-Manobo,” Unsad explained.

Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, chair of the House defense and security committee, said that the Adhoc committee “will listen to the concerns of the IPs and study all the recommendations.”

“We do not have to address only the issue of ethnic identities. We have to address the differences in culture, and justice systems as a lot of different things we want to amalgamate. How can we all reconcile these? We hope that this proposed Bangsamoro Basic law will be the final cure to this disease,” said Biazon. (davaotoday.com)

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