Leaders of indigenous peoples residing in Zamboanga City lamented anew over the neglect and repressions they experience from government or society.
Some 50 tribal leaders of the Yakan, Sama Bangingi, Subanon, Badjao and Kolibugan tribes of the city vented their complaints during a forum conducted by the Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, Inc. (ZABIDA) last Friday, October 30 at Preciosa Hotel, this city. Among these complaints were denial or delay in the grant of their ancestral domain claims, discrimination in employment, lack of basic social services, eviction from their traditional villages, destruction of their local ecologies, and non-representation or consultation in decision-making of affairs affecting them.
ZABIDA president Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF urged the forum participants to form strong unity groups or associations so they can speak as one in demanding for their rights from government or institutions. He told them to work together and “dream high” to uplift their social and economic conditions.
The human rights forum was the seventh in a series with sectoral groups that ZABIDA conducted during the year as part of its public diplomacy and good governance thrust. The taken approach is to brief participants about their human and legal rights and discuss their community issues and concerns on the basis of those rights. Previous sectors included persons with disability, youths, farmers, women, internally displaced persons, and urban poor. The issues are raised during a workshop, and then these are portrayed and preserved in paintings done by the participants to be used in future advocacy efforts.
Fr. Calvo said as with the other sectors ZABIDA will accompany the tribal communities in their continuing endeavors to fulfill their aspirations and to receive redress for their complaints.
“This is part of our dreaming, our journey not only in Zamboanga City but throughout Mindanao to create a community in which everybody will enjoy human security. We in Mindanao are victims of the war and violence, as I have observed in my 43 years living here. We need peace and hope in the future”, Fr. Calvo said.
“You, the indigenous peoples, are the original inhabitants of Mindanao. You deserve respect and justice, we must respect our cultural differences,” he further told them.
National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) Zamboanga City Officer in Charge George Jocutan in addressing the forum assured ancestral domain claimants that his office has been allocated funds to be used to process their claims next year. He said NCIP will work with ZABIDA to serve the local tribal communities, even as he appealed to local governments to attend to their plight.
City Hall executive assistant Mohammad Nasser Sampang also delivered a message of Mayor Ma. Isabel Climaco-Salazar at the closing ceremony.
The ZABIDA program is funded by the Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion Internacional para Desarollo, which is the Spanish government’s international development agency.