Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Human Security and Culture: Strengthening Cultural Integrity and Diversity (Third World Studies Center Policy Dialogue Series 2006)

29 August 2006 (Tuesday) 1:00-4:00 p.m. Balay Kalinaw University of the Philippines-Diliman, Quezon City


Assistant Professor
College of Social Sciences and Philosophy
University of the Philippines-Diliman

Cordillera People's Forum

Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
College of Social Sciences and Philosophy
University of the Philippines-Diliman


The prominence gained by human security has prompted not only the rethinking of the concept of “security,” but also how human security is operationalized in various contexts. In the
Philippines, the state and society in general are yet to acknowledge the inadequacies of the national security framework, and agree to a precise and contextual definition of an elusive concept, such as human security, which supposedly offers an alternative to the prevailing ideology. It is in this context that the TWSC Policy Dialogue Series 2006 specifically aims to define human security, taking into consideration the existing development and national security framework, from which stems the country’s policy responses to peace building and conflict resolution.

Culture is the collective expression of values, beliefs and practices, reproduced as concrete, lived experiences of particular groups of people. Institutionally and symbolically, culture ensures individual identity and membership in a community. Culture is also a resource that members of a community draw from in order to achieve their full human potential, thus guaranteeing a sense of community security. Being integral to lives and communities, culture—in particular, indigenous culture—should be preserved, developed, promoted, and protected.

The passage of R.A. 8371, known as the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997, is a landmark event in history, the fruit of the long-worn struggle of Filipino indigenous peoples (IPs) towards full recognition and sovereignty. IPRA seeks to protect lives, livelihoods, and communities, as it enshrines the fundamental rights of IPs, in particular: 1) rights to ancestral domains and lands; 2) rights to self governance and empowerment; 3) social justice and human rights; and 4) right to cultural integrity.

By and large, IPRA is the supposed institutional mechanism that would collectively engage indigenous peoples as active members of the state. But the passage of this legislative act is only an initial thrust to its complete and sustained fulfillment. Already, IPRA is wrought with problems, from the creation of an institutional body (the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, or NCIP) that would implement, uphold and protect the IPRA, to the implementation process itself, to the conflicting responses from stakeholders.

Studies assessing its implementation question just how far the law can address the needs and protect the culture, livelihood, rights, and integrity of IPs.[2] Problems in the issuance of ancestral domain titles, for instance, prevent them from owning, utilizing and managing the most important resource, as mandated by the IPRA. This problem is further compounded by the intrusion of corporate interests. For IPs, this is not a simple issue over territory and ownership. Land is integral to everyday life; it extends to all other social, economic and political spheres.

The interface between the discourse on indigenous peoples’ rights and welfare and human security has gained a profound emphasis. In the Philippines, the urgent call for the adoption of a human security paradigm for IP programs and initiatives is a response to increasing threats, regionally and internationally, to the long-term security and stability of the country. A reexamination of the law towards a better understanding of human security framework is also propelled by the gnawing, unbridled poverty experienced by local IPs, especially in areas where armed insurgency is prevalent.

The final output of this discussion will be presented as a policy agenda on human security in a national conference of various stakeholders from government, civil society, private sector, and the academe in December 2006.


This third installment of the Policy Dialogue Series for 2006, dubbed “Human Security and Culture: Towards Strengthening Cultural Identity and Diversity,” intends to create a venue for intersectoral dialogue on human security, particularly on the promotion and protection of cultural integrity and diversity as a dimension of human security.


The third part of the Policy Dialogue Series 2006 seeks to answer three key questions:

1. How is human security defined?

2. Does the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA), as the law crafted to protect the cultural integrity and diversity of indigenous peoples (IPs), promote and protect human security?

3. What policies and mechanisms should be crafted to promote and protect human security of IPs in protecting their cultural integrity and diversity?

[1] Coalition for Indigenous People’s Rights and Ancestral Domains. Guide to R.A. 8371. Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA). (Quezon City: CIPRAD, 1999), p.4.

[2] An early assessment of the law is found in Florence Umaming-Manzano, “An Analysis of the Current Status of the IPRA Implementation,” In Coalition for Indigenous People’s Rights and Ancestral Domains. Guide to R.A. 8371. Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA). (Quezon City: CIPRAD, 1999), p.65-68. For a more detailed assessment covering a longer period, see Nestor T. Castro, “Three Years of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act: Its Impact on Indigenous Communities,” Kasarinlan 15 (2): 35-54.


NESTOR CASTRO (Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy [CSSP], University of the Philippines [UP]-Diliman):

Let me start by citing some existing published ethnographies on the concerns of indigenous peoples that may be connected to human security.

The first one is from the perspective of a Manobo, Datu Dinawat Ogil, circa 1967, as interviewed by a Filipino anthropologist, Bishop Francisco Claver. He talks about the concept of free childhood.

My childhood was as free and happy as any Manobo child’s can be. I went hunting in the jungles round about, hunting the wild boar, the chattering monkey, and the fast-running deer, and I went fishing in the rivers. Many were the joyful hours by the riverbanks, now along the Tigwa, now along the Namnam or the Balacayo, as I and my companions made dams and traps to catch the slithery fish.

In the next quotation, Datu Dinawat Ogil compares a life prior to the coming of the Japanese, when people had the freedom to go hunting. When the war broke out, such activities were no longer possible. He also shares how life was after the war.

I was probably 13 or 14, still unable to carry a man’s load, when the Japanese came. We fled to the mountains. Those were hard times, indeed. One day, I could not bear living out in the jungles any longer. I went to the Japanese camp and worked for the soldiers there. At first, the soldiers wanted to kill me… Soon, tall white men, the Americans, and their PC [Philippine Constabulary] companions came up the river, too, and Namnam became a place of death and slaughter. But it all came to an end, and all those strange men moved out with their instruments of death more horrible than the sharp doldog. Namnam was ours once again.

The second perspective comes from a Tiduray from Upi, Maguindanao. He refers to the conflict in Mindanao when Ilonggos, Ilocanos, and Cebuanos came and displaced the indigenous people in the area. Their first reaction was to flee, but later they realized that they have nowhere else to go. They had no choice but to assert what was theirs.

Years ago, our ancestors inhabited the land called Awang…Settlers came, waving in front of them a piece of paper called land title. They did not understand it…But they did not want trouble and the mountains were still vast and unoccupied. And so, they fled to the mountains, bringing their families along and leaving precious and sacred roots behind. We have nowhere else to go now. The time has come for us to stop running and assert our right to the legacy of our ancestors.

Speaking of the Chico Dam issue, this is from a Kalinga named Suplay Alunday in 1984:

When the soldiers had not yet come to Kalinga, there was no trouble. Our bodong maintained peace and order. Then the soldiers came and recruited some of our people to PANAMIN [Presidential Assistant on National Minorities] and CHDF [Civilian Home Defense Forces], to use against us. This caused the breaking up of many peace pacts and the worsening of tribal wars.

For those who are not familiar with the situation, the Chico River Basin Development Project in the 1980s was supposed to establish four hydroelectric dams along the Chico river. This would have displaced approximately 100,000 Kalingas and Bontocs. Bodong is the traditional peace pact system of the Kalingas as well as other ethnolinguistic groups in that area. It is also called by different names: pachen, budon, puchon, buchong. There is this notion that the traditional institutions of the bodong provided security for the people but this was eroded with the coming of new institutions introduced by the Philippine government, most notably the PANAMIN and the paramilitary unit, CHDF, now known as the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units.

The Kalinga perspective: government vis-à-vis the Kalingas. However, in this statement from an Ifugao woman in 1992, warfare is a state in which the Ifugaos are caught in the middle:

It is good when military (troops) are here, and there are no NPA [New People’s Army] groups. If NPA groups are here, they will fight (the military troops). It’s better if neither will come here so that it is peaceful…And it is dangerous for the children at school because the military lives there…Once, they (military and the NPAs) were fighting here and I was so sick of nervousness…I thought I might die.

This ambahan, the poetic expression of the Hanunoo Mangyan, reflects the attitude of the people towards conflict:

Kawo no mangambungan
Dag ambon yami day-an
Pangambon yami adngan
Halaw nakan magduyan
Halaw palyo yi maan
Libayan talayiban
Baras lawod anuhan.

If you are angry with me
Don’t be mad behind my back!
Face me and we can agree.
You know why I tell you this?
That I can go home in peace
To Libangan with the reeds,
Where the Anuhan flood meets.

Peace here is not based on warfare but on internal peace and contentment.
We can go on and on with different ethnographies, peoples’ stories about and their own concepts relating to human security. For the purpose of this dialogue, however, we could look at Tagalog concepts related to seguridad. Of course, seguridad is a borrowed word from the Spanish language. But its meaning has been changed. The concept of siguro and sigurado are different in the Philippine setting. In Spanish, seguro means “to be sure” but in Filipino it is “not being sure”. Indeed, some of our native Filipino words have no exact equivalent in Spanish or even in English. I shall mention some indigenous Tagalog terms related to human security as examples. You may also think about your own native terms.

The closest term in relation to human security would probably be ligtas and kaligtasan, and their opposites, di balisa, di nababagabag, hindi ligalig, malaya sa kapahamakan, malayo sa panganib, mapayapa, may katiwasayan, panatag ang kalooban, walang pag-aalinlangan, walang pag-aatubili, and walang pangamba. Certain terms would also be applicable to other concepts. Ligtas or kaligtasan can also mean “to be saved”. Di balisa may be true for individual or collective situations.

The different statements and linguistic terms may be the starting point of our dialogue. I did not start with the definition of human security based on existing literature. Rather, I would like to go into what people are telling us about how they feel. Basically they are talking about freedom from fear, freedom from uncertainty, freedom from interference, freedom from oppression and discrimination, and freedom from violent conflicts. Conflicts may persist, but some can be resolved internally by the community using their customary practices and certain preferences for amicable settlement.

The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) was enacted in 1997. It was supposed to be a magna carta of IPs’ rights in the Philippines. It includes stipulations on human rights including the right to ancestral domain, the right to self-governance and empowerment, the right to social justice, and the right to cultural integrity. Human security cuts across these various rights.

I use the term “territorial domain rights” instead of the one used in IPRA. “Right to ancestral domain” is used in local literature but is not a universal concept. Some ethnolinguistic groups in the country have a concept of ancestral domain, such as the Cordillera peoples. Others, however, have a more fluid concept of territorial boundaries. Hence, IPRA’s definition of ancestral domain should be understood in terms of collective and intergenerational ownership. When we refer to an ancestral domain title, ownership of land is by an entire group and not just by one individual or family.

The territorial domain rights of IPRA also include the right to develop lands and natural resources within their ancestral domains. Protective measures are therefore guaranteed. For example, the consent of IPs is needed in cases of development projects in the area. Unlike the earlier practice, in which government and business undertakings were imposed on various ethnic groups, development planners have to secure the permit or the consent of the indigenous communities. This is best illustrated by the Chico River Basin Development Project.

The right to regulate entry of migrants is a response to the displacement of IPs. Many of them have become minorities in their own land. For example, South Cotabato, home to the B’laan and T’boli, currently has a predominantly Ilonggo population. In Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato, there are more Ilocanos than Manobos.

With regards to self-governance and self-determination, IPRA talks about indigenous peoples’ (IPs’) right to use their own justice systems, conflict resolution mechanisms and institutions, and peace-building processes. Indigenous peoples have a right to resolve land conflicts within ancestral domains according to customary laws. But what are these instruments? How can IPRA’s provision on self-governance be applied in situations of armed conflict? Unfortunately, many people do not know what they are, including the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

There are also the rights to maintain and develop their own political structures–whether this refers to the bodong, the Council of Elders, datuships, among others–and to determine and decide priorities for development. The issue of free and prior and informed consent is relevant to the latter. Regarding social justice and human rights, IPRA accords state protection of IPs against discrimination. For instance, in employment policies, the government must ensure that nobody is discriminated based on his or her ethnolinguistic group.

IPRA recognizes state protection of indigenous cultures, traditions, and institutions. It recognizes the right to control and establish all educational systems. So far, there are no implementing rules and regulations on how this can be done. IPRA also talks about funds that should be given to IPs so they can manage their own heritage and archeological sites. In addition, IPRA guarantees the protection of cultural and intellectual property rights such as indigenous knowledge and technologies. These include genetic resources, literature, traditional arts and designs. We know that many of these are being pirated and patented by transnational corporations. The intellectual property rights of the scent of ilang-ilang belong to Yves Saint-Laurent.

The Bangsamoro people are excluded from IPRA. This is a problem because they are the ones who are in dire need of human security because of armed conflicts in their areas. IPRA specifies that IPs are those who have not been influenced by non-indigenous religions such as Christianity and Islam. But many Christian groups are included in the NCIP’s classification, such as the Ibanag, Isinais, Itawis, Gadang, and Ivatan. Ancestral domain is the last and final point of argument in the negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Of course, the Bangsamoro groups and non-Chirstian or non-Muslim IPs would have their views on what constitutes their ancestral domains.

A second problem is the conflict between IPRA and other laws such as the National Integrated Protected Area Systems (NIPAS) Act, the Mining Act, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, the Local Government Code (LGC), forestry laws, etc. The third issue concerns IP territories which are not yet fully identified and delineated by the NCIP. Only a very small percentage has been accomplished. Most of NCIP’s issuances are certifications of preconditions stating that there are no IPs in the area. The fourth issue is on the codification of customary laws. Many ancestral domains are no longer homogeneously occupied by IPs; rather, they are populated by migrants who are unaware of these unwritten statutes. However, there are some groups in the Cordillera that refuse to have their laws codified, fearing that outsiders will use and manipulate these laws against them.

Given that IPRA is a generic law, there is a need for culturally-sensitive and -specific guidelines in its implementation. One cannot assume that the situation in an IP community is the same for all the others. For all these issues, capacity enhancement of the NCIP is a huge necessity.

Our main concern is the dominance of the national security paradigm in addressing the issues confronting IPs. It seems that the government’s concept of national security refers only to the interest of the state. The state is the sole authority enacting security policies. This approach does not adequately fit the broader concept of human security. Human security should be approached as a collaborative undertaking whereby the state and the people work to provide security.

ZENAIDA BRIGIDA PAWID (Convenor, Cordillera People's Forum):

My experience with IPs began at birth. I am an indigene. My mother is Bontoc and my father is Ibaloi. The first time I realized I was indigene was when I stepped into the halls of the University of the Philippines and I was told that I was not an Igorot. I looked into the mirror and said, “What does an Igorot looked like? How come nobody believes that I am an Igorot?”

The purpose of culture is to enhance one’s vision of that synthesis of truth and beauty, which is the highest and deepest reality. Culture is something that everybody carries from the day he or she is born. It is passed on from one generation to another. It is not static; it changes everyday. It is influenced by the circumstances of one’s birth or upbringing.

Dr. Castro has shown us the difference between national and human security. Policy is supposed to strengthen cultural integrity and diversity. Government speaks of policy with a view from the top. I would rather talk about policy from the ground up. We should let the IP communities speak the harsh realities based on their experiences, if we truly wish to strengthen the integrity of their culture, and for diversity to flourish.

IPRA, the national policy that governs IPs, is neither known nor understood as policy by the indigenous peoples. What they are aware of are administrative and executive orders; implementing rules and guidelines, “free, prior, informed consent,” among others. Hardly do they undersand what these statutes and legalese mean. The track record of IPRA speaks for itself. The first Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) awarded by NCIP is in Bakon, Benguet in the Cordillera. The Bakon people rejected the CADT. Five out of the eight communities returned the CADTs. But only a handful of communities are knowledgeable or enthusiastic about the CADT process.

Dr. Castro said that it is in the Cordillera where you have a clear notion of what ancestral domain is compared to the rest of the IPs nationwide. In the Cordillera, there is a narrow strip that hems us in, and therefore we are very sure of what we own and where is it located. We know that the ancestral domain of the B’laans encompasses four provinces, thereby transcending political boundaries.

But the problem is not so much on the concept of ancestral domain. Why was the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) excluded in the IPRA when it was created? This is because Muslims were busy contending with their notions of autonomy. Those of us fighting for IPRA completely forgot about our brothers and sisters who are indigenous peoples within the ARMM. The champions of IP rights are mostly located in New York, London, Amsterdam, or Metro Manila. They are not in provinces where they are needed most.

Abject poverty, as defined by the National Anti-Poverty Commission, is the picture of most IP communities. However, if asked whether they are poor, an IP would say, “No, I am not poor but we would like something else.” There are no basic social services in IP communities. Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan program does not reach remote barrios where they are most needed. The children cannot go to school. Development projects to alleviate their impoverishment remain promises. IP communities are simply plotted on the maps of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau as green or red areas.

IPs remain the subjects of studies by the academe, and objects of development by the government and nongovernment organizations (NGOs). Rhetoric and advocacies for IPs are cheap. They are embedded and highlighted in policies and scholarly works. But without the budget, the personnel and the political will to empower the IPs, these are just documents.

Curiously, the twin national security threats of insurgency and separatism, when plotted on the Philippine politico-administrative map, are located in IP areas. This is something to think about. We do not use the term “self-determination” because it is equated with separatism and this is not the case for all IPs. Empowerment, on the other hand, remains at the level of the individual. It does exist on the communal plane.

The reality is that many IPs are trying to navigate three or four boats through one tumultuous river. There are too many national policies on every issue that concerns the IPs, but since they are outcomes of the majority-minority power structure of the elite, they seldom benefit the people.

There are two major issues that the NCIP must confront regarding the implementation of the IPRA. First, the diversity of IPs is huge. There are 110 IP communities or ethnolinguistic groups, or 11 to 12 million people. Secondly, the IPRA has become a gamut of implementing rules and guidelines.

What is IPRA as a policy then? If it is intended to improve and strengthen the cultural integrity of IPs in the Philippines, what is it supposed to mean in context? First, “land is life,” but unless you are an IP, you will never really understand what this means. If you take us out of our land, we are dead–life means nothing. This is supposed to be the core or essence of IPRA. Second, every IP community is different and that difference should be respected and honored. One cannot replicate the peace pact of Kalinga to the Maranaos. The customary laws of the Ifugaos cannot be applied to the Ibalois. This is what cultural integrity means. Completing the cornerstones of a good policy on IPs is the principle of self-determination. Land, cultural integrity, and self-determination–these elements are not to be taken apart; they have to be understood altogether.

Before we advocate or craft policies, maybe we should first ask ourselves the following questions. First, can there be a Philippine society that accommodates different cultures? Would that be possible? Or are we to look like we were all made out of one cookie cutter? Can Filipinos accept differences? If the answer is yes, the next question is: Can there be a Philippine government that recognizes inclusivity rather than exclusivity of people, where the majority is accountable, not oppressive, and the minority serves as fiscalizer, not the vanquished? The notion of “unity in diversity” tends to assume that all IPs are the same and they should be joining the majority of Filipinos. This should not be the case. Lastly, as far as policy goes, can process supplant substance? Can key result areas become the heart of the law? The answer remains with all of us.


SALVADOR RAMO (Tebtebba Foundation):

There is a need for the communities to empower themselves. During the first session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Declaration on IP Rights was discussed and subjected to a vote. This was a result of more than two decades of international unity and struggle for recognition of rights. When discussing policies for IPs, we must also situate it at the international level where there are instruments that could be invoked. Unfortunately, during the votation, the Philippines, which boasts of a law that recognizes IP rights, abstained.

DELBERT RICE (Director of Research, Kalahan Educational Foundation):

Let me first correct the impression that there is no school which was established by and for cultural minorities. There is at least one. In 1971, the Ikalahans took the initiative and established their own high school. Some of those who graduated became elementary teachers, training children from kindergarten through high school in their own culture, language, and customs. The result has been very good.

I do not use the term “cultural integrity” very much. It assumes that culture is static, but it is not. It keeps moving all the time. Thus, I call it “cultural continuity”. In public presentations, I have stated that any person who rejects his or her own culture is psychotic. As stated by Ms. Pawid, as far as your culture is concerned, you are formed even before you are born. The Tagalogs and the Americans have a problem with the concept of peace and security. Almost every word that is used is a negative word–no war, walang labanan. Ikalahan and Hebrew are the only two I know that have a very clear and affirmative statement–li’tang and shalom denote fullness of life. Even St. Paul had a hard time translating to Greek the Hebrew concept of shalom. He was stuck to using the term “peace,” but peace does not adequately translate to shalom.

The Philippine state will not be able to help the cultural minorities without respecting them first. They have their ways of doing things–government could learn from them.

Let me cite an example. A cow was stolen and the Ikalahans involved had to go to court. It took 11 years for the government court to decide that the man who stole the cow was guilty. If the case were in the hands of the tribal court, everything would have been finished in 30 days. Even cases of murder could be swiftly resolved in the tribal court. The recidivism rate in Ikalahan culture, according to statistics I have developed in the last 40 years, is about ten percent. In the Philippine justice and penal system, it is 98 percent.

What I am saying is that the customs and traditions of IPs are rich and they can solve, on their own, threats to peace and security. It is unfortunate, however, that others fail to see these and insist on civilizing the IPs based on their own perspectives.

MAILEENITA PEÑALBA (Instructor, College of Social Sciences, UP Baguio):

Human security, as explained earlier by Dr. Castro, seems to mean going back to the natives’ way of life where they can fish and hunt. On the other hand, Ms. Pawid mentioned that the IPs are left behind, and thus they should be given the kind of services that majority of the Filipinos are enjoying. But these will definitely make drastic changes to the lives of IPs. For instance, when IPs are given education, some of them leave their lands in pursuit of things that their communities cannot provide them.

Also, there seems to be a big difference between the type of state intervention that the IPs really need, and the kind that is being defined by the government and others for them. How can we define human security, given such contradictions? How can we strike the balance among all these perspectives?


As I have said, culture is not static. Therefore, cultural integrity does not mean the noble savage. That no longer exists. We do want Adidas. We would like to go to SM malls as much as you do. Human security is the ability of a person to make decisions for himself or herself. The only difference with IPs is that their identities come from their respective communities. Identity as community-based plays a big part in decision making.

When we talk of policy, we cannot exclude the state. It encompasses people and territory. Father Conrado Balweg coined the expression, “Cordillera and nation in the making”. It is how cultural integrity or “unity in diversity” should be. We are all heading towards a certain goal, but the pace is not the same for everyone. Some are left out. Even others disagree as to the direction we are taking. If there are 110 IP groups in the Philippines, it is possible that there are at least 110 nascent forms of government, people, and territory, as well as notions of sovereignty. In defining the Philippine state, these must all be taken into account. There must be flexibility and accommodation.

IPRA was crafted by and for the IPs, but the IPs were lost in the process of implementation.Unfortunately, it took the course the implementors wanted. Majority of parliamentarians, politicians, and administrators seek homogenization and fail to recognize differences of culture.


In my presentation, I tried to look into commonalities but definitely, there are differences. Many IP communities have organizations that have different agendas. It is wrong to say that all IPs have a single vision. There are those who are nativists and long to go back to the past. There are others who would really want to modernize and are very critical of policies such as the NIPAS Act which states, “IPs are only allowed to maintain their traditional practices.” Their response is: “Why would you want us to remain in the past, while the rest of the Filipinos are undergoing modernization?”

We should be aware of, and respect differences in opinions. Policies should be based on informed choices of the communities. There are a lot of cases wherein IPs decide based only on what is being fed to them. They are unaware of other options. The state and other actors, such as NGOs, must help in decision-making by laying out alternatives, rather than imposing their own positions. Ultimately, decisions should be made by the IPs themselves.


It is true that every community has its own definition of what human security is but there are common themes that we can pursue in terms of policies. Ms. Pawid mentioned about the right to self-determination. Dr. Castro pointed out the importance of helping IPs make informed decisions. In terms of operationalizing human security on the ground, how do we, in the academe and in the development world, work towards securing development choices that the IPs have made or are going to make?


We have heard what the IPs want. They are in the logframe, in the “problem tree,” and in the SWOT [Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats] analysis. I am not demeaning the work of administrators, development workers and academics, but these efforts have limitations in terms of knowledge and information.

If we talk of informed choices, you cannot do that overnight. You have to discuss these with the IPs and make sure that they understand them. More importantly, administrators, development workers and academics are not supposed to impose their own views. The problem is that you are talking to people who do not have the comprehension and skills that you have in making decisions.

Administrators and politicians would come to the communities and say, “Here is the list of priority pipeline projects.” They make the IPs choose between A, B, and C. This is not only true for IPs but for everybody. The same is true with the NGOs. They will stay in the community to a point that they even become a “native”. But when it comes to helping IPs make choices, they would say, “You know, the organization has funds available for this kind of project.” What is that? It is an interventionist scheme. In the end, the IPs are never encouraged to look for funds on their own. They are told to become somebody else, without being appreciated for what they can actually do. The intervenors have their own agenda, dictated by their political parties, funders, personal interests, etc. Development works in small, self-contained communities, not in an entire province or region. If one has the perseverance to work at that scale, then it would work.

LUNES TAOIL (Social Action Center Baguio-Benguet):

I live in the mountains of Abra and belong to the Mangyan tribe. I can hardly express myself in English or in Tagalog. I live in a community in the municipalities of Tubo and Luba, north of Mountain Province. In my tribe, I can say that we had security before. We did not have individual possessions. Everything was communal. We owned a piece of land. Actually, we saw ourselves as caretakers, who had the right to use and cultivate the land because we inherited it. The community owned the mountains and the valleys–god’s gifts. We helped one another. During harvest time, we did not calculate how many days each person has contributed. We reaped what everyone had sown. When I was in need of food, I could go to a neighbor and ask some. We gave and did not expect any payment. We all worked together.

Security for us is feeling a sense of belonging, being part of the community. Nobody is threatened when he or she is in the community because everyone will take care of him or her.

Incursion of other cultures is a threat to security. The introduction of a new belief system disturbed our spirit of belongingness. Outsiders come and teach us individual rights and make us disregard our way of life. We are taught to be greedy, suggesting that we can have our own lands and there is a right way of doing things. Everything can be measured; a piece of paper can tell you who owns what. The intrusion of big businesses became a problem as well. When a logging corporation came to Abra, they measured hundreds and thousands of hectares, and declared that the land belongs to the company. Hence, they had the right to harvest all the trees that was protected by the people of the community.

With these examples, I hope everybody agrees that injustice and destruction of the people’s security is already at work.

IPRA is not really a law that respects and recognizes our culture, our own concept of ownership. What is a land title? It means nothing. Whoever has exerted effort to protect and develop a piece of land has the right to use it. These lands would have never been what they are today without our care and protection. We have preserved them. Nobody has the right to own them.

AWEX SANTOS (Philippine Rural and Reconstruction Movement):

The coming of the Christian missions in IP communities has, in a way, damaged the already complete IP culture through the introduction of new worldviews. One is the imposition of the belief in the existence of God and the concept of salvation. Another would be the introduction of gender roles. My belief is that equal treatment between male and female is more valued based on the animistic beliefs of the IPs than in Christian tradition. I also agree with Mr. Taoil’s comment on the government, but would like to stress that the Christian colonial perspective has also damaged the cultural integrity of IPs.

GREGORIO ANDOLANA (Author, Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act [IPRA]):

Until now, the primary reason for passing the IPRA has not been achieved. Based on the 1987 Constitution, the policy of the state is to recognize and respect the rights of the IPs to their ancestral domain. In 1991, when we started debating the NIPAS law, we made sure that the recognition of the cultural communities is incorporated. This is also the case with the LGC. I was the one who proposed the provision that the local government units must ensure that the rights of the cultural communities are respected, and that the cultural communities are represented in the local government legislative body. To date, these provisions have not been implemented despite the state policy.

Together with Representative Guimid Matalam, I was co-author of the Organic Act of Muslim Mindanao. We ensured that legislative bodies craft ordinances on ancestral domain at the local level. Yet, up to now, the regional legislative assembly has not enacted anything. This is the reason why the Tidurays in Upi, Maguindanao continue to suffer and still cannot have their 200,000 hectares of land.

We must understand that the ancestral domain law does not grant titles. IPRA only ratifies the native title that IPs possess since time immemorial, even before the Republic of the Philippines was created. The concept of land titling, in this case, is wrong. CADT is just a formal recognition of the state that there exists an ancestral domain in the area. Ownership of the land cannot be conferred by government.

The reason why there are problems and conflicts on these matters is that the Land Registration Authority still adopts the Regalian doctrine, which states that all untitled lands in the archipelago is under the control of the Spanish Crown or the state and it has the right to dispense it. I agree with our brother from the Cordillera that these lands belong to generations of IPs and the title is merely a formality. Moreover, the domain is not only about the land. It covers the comprehensive rights of the people over their territory. The community has sovereignty and the Philippine state must respect this.

The law grants power to the NCIP, a quasi-judicial authority. However, probably due to the term of office or for political reasons and absence of political will, the NCIP has been inefficient. In the past, the plan was to make the NCIP an independent constitutional commission. Maybe that should be the policy direction–to make the NCIP, or any agency that looks upon the sovereign rights of cultural communities, an independent constitutional body, so that it is not held hostage by politicians.

To be secure is also about freedom and the right to self-governance. The right to enact an ordinance is very crucial in attaining human security. The law provides that there can be a tribal barangay regardless of the population and that there should be respect for customary laws. These provisions should be adopted by IPs in their own communities. IPRA says that “(n)o disputes can be raised before the courts without first being passed upon the community in accordance with their customary laws,” but this has not been observed.

Only when a community decides on conflicts and these are resolved in accordance with their customary laws can security be achieved. The people in the community are secured from the hazards of court litigation, a long process that causes money, time, and effort. That is also justice.

Human security covers security of tenure over ancestral domain, including the fruits or income gained from harvest of the land. How is this possible in mining and plantation areas? Cultural integrity is equally important. Secure the IPs in their ancestral domains and there shall be peace.

Human security is also the right to self-determination and political empowerment. It is about respect for the judicial proceedings of the IPs. If the 1987 Constitution is to be amended, then maybe we can have a federal form of government where there could be states established and controlled by the IPs.

BERNARDITA CHURCHILL (President, National Historical Society and Executive Director, Philippine Studies Association):

My concern is related to the history books that are being used by generations of Filipinos. It is almost exclusively the history of the Christian Filipinos and the majority of the population. That is not our history.

I have a challenge to pose. We historians cannot presume to have the knowledge to write the history of the indigenous peoples. I can study the documents and the materials but I am not one of you. The history of the indigenous peoples has to come from the indigenous peoples themselves. The IPs must study their history and let us know what that history is. Before I step down as president of the Philippine National Historical Society (PNHS), I would like, with my colleagues, to put together all the materials on local history that we have gathered, starting from 1978. My challenge to you is: Help us write the history of IPs.


I hope that everybody here picks up this challenge. The first problem is that the history of indigenous peoples is passed on orally. We have long memories, and we rely on our old people to pass on our history. If they die, part of the history goes with them. We are not knowledgeable with technology, so we need your expertise. Secondly, our history has been written; you will not really be starting from scratch. Of course, there are many “cracks in the parchment paper,” to borrow the phrase from William Henry Scott.

On behalf of the IPs, I also would like to challenge the PNHS. When IPRA was still under discussion, the IPs asked the National Textbook Commission to provide them copies of all textbooks that have funny representations of indigenous peoples so that they can have these materials expunged. The Commission does not even want to give us copies and that is why the biases and prejudices continue.


In documenting the history of IPs, we want not just the political but also the cultural aspect. The IPs have very rich oral literature.

ARCHIE CASEY, SX (Xaverian Missionaries):

I am encouraged to take part in this exercise with the affirmation that we are all indigenous peoples. I come from Scotland and have spent most of my life outside my own country and culture. I have spent only four years learning about the diversity of culture in the Philippines. Looking at the population, which is about 85 million, 12 million of which are IPs, the figure will probably double in 25 years.

Ms. Pawid expressed that, “Land is life but land is worthless without the people.” If land is life for these people, what will happen when multinational mining companies come? How would “prior and informed consent” be enacted?

We have had discussions with ambassadors of countries where these corporations come from and it appears that that there is no clear, transparent process in acquiring consent from the IPs. This might be a reflection of the variety of cultural and ethnolinguistic groups. There seems to be a lot of confusion on this issue at the moment. Nevertheless, there must be continued dialogue.

LETICIA GUTIERREZ-DURAN (Office of the Governor of the Province of Benguet):

I am an Ibaloi. I work as the Provincial Legal Officer of Benguet. For me, human security is very personal. As an IP, I feel secure when I am staying in my province. When I go out of Benguet, I feel apprehensive. I introduce myself as Igorot and people would say, “Are you Igorot, you don't look like one?” That makes me insecure. Non-IPs should also be educated. You must be aware of our culture and respect it. There must also be a law that mandates non-IPs to be informed about our customs and traditions.


I have gathered many relevant contributions from the floor and some concerns expressed by the participants. Definitely, religion plays a role in the erosion of indigenous culture. This is still happening. I am a member of the Pasig Diocesan Commission on the Cultural Heritage of the Church. In one of our parishes in the Municipality of Pateros, the parish priest banned the “dancing” around the patron saint.

This is likely to happen in IP communities, where the culture is different from that of the parish. All cultures change, however, and some indigenous communities have opted to become Christians and incorporated Christianity into their cultures. It is a matter of choice. I do not have any problem with this, as long as religion is not imposed on them.

With rergards the educational system, I fully agree with what was said, that non-IPs should be educated especially about cultural sensitivity. Being aware of different cultures should be part of the curriculum, from elementary to college. What seems to be happening now is that IPs are educated about IPRA, but non-IPs are not.

I also agree that in the implementation of IPRA, the bureaucratic procedures are more emphasized than the intent of the law. I hope that discussions about IPRA be published and distributed, not only the technical matter but also its intents and objectives.

I fully agree with the documentation of local histories. Local history is a very important contribution. It can be an opportunity to deal with one another and create a national consensus on who we are as a people. It will not be limited to certain individuals dictating what our culture or history is. The writing of local history will be based on mutual respect.

Our problems with human insecurity, as shared earlier, can be addressed at the local or community level, since IPs have their own customary laws. The question really is, how do we go about it? We need to understand from below the existing judicial systems and procedures, and conflict resolution and peace-building processes.


I remember talking to some old people in the communities about religion. One of the older people said to the bishop, “Before, you said it was pagan, so we were not allowed to do it. Now you say it is not pagan and we cannot do it in the church. Will you please make up your mind before you come here to deliver a sermon?”

Indigenous culture does not disappear because of the Catholic religion brought by the priests. It remains rooted in the communities. Prayer cannot put it out. Our culture may change, but our folkways will still remain in our midst.

The discussion today suggests that policymaking and implementation do not exist in isolated little black boxes. Policy must be understood as a form of praxis, and that it occurs on several levels. We need Congressman Andolana, the professors, and the priests to discuss IPRA, with all its imperfections. Law, after all, is a compromise. However, an uninformed Tiduray or Ibaloi cannot be brought to Congress to talk about the law. We need advocates who understand the IPs and have knowledge of the government policies.

The second level at which policy operates is the masa (masses). The masa does not understand the law. The law in the first place is in English–a comma makes a lot of difference. Unless there is commitment and heartfelt advocacy of policy, so that substance rather than process is brought down to the people, the masa will never appreciate it.

Furthermore, there is the absolute necessity to mainstream all things that sound strange, or "pagan," as the old Bontoc man said, into the formal educational system. The IPs need an educational system that does not divorce us from the culture that we grew up with. As Reverend Delbert Rice said, there are “schools of living tradition” all over the Philippines. Some schools of living tradition, however, only teach IPs how to dance, or how to weave their clothes in a certain way–as if they belong to the museum for people to stare at. That is not what “schools of living tradition” mean.

In relation to the mining issue, when people identify a territory and apply for a CADT, they will be issued titles stipulated on “free, prior, and informed consent.” What many people do not know is that NCIP has no money. The distribution of CADTs is funded by the Toronto Ventures Incorporated (TVI).

During a meeting with the IP community, TVI presented the mines as the future “Garden of Eden” of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Naturally, the people were enticed because TVI and government did not talk about destroying the whole concept of ancestral domain and its fruits. Rather, they asked, “Do you not want to have a school?” They know fully well that IPs yearn for a school.

So it has been agreed that the corporation and government will bring in the electricity. Provision of electricity is nothing for TVI, but for the IPs, electricity is like “god almighty”; it somewhat uplifts their lives. The road gets paved, which facilitates transportation, and consequently trade. With a motorcycle, families can start a livelihood and make money. What the IPs do not know is that once the corporation pulls out, it takes everything with it.

We need people who will go to the IPs and explain to them the value of what the corporation is taking from them compared to what it is giving. You have to give them options by telling them the specifics of the issue. It is not a simple asking for a “yes” or a “no”. Once you do that, you divide them right down the middle, and they start fighting. Ultimately, you destroy the community.

The effects of divisiveness are apparent in their way of thinking. How IPs think today is far different from older generations. I grew up in an area where we had mines for 100 years. The staunchest anti-mine advocates, our grandfathers and uncles, got sick from cancer of the lungs and tuberculosis. They died fighting for their cause. You do not see people like them nowadays. You cannot go to the community and just tell the IPs to “say no to mining.” Before you can obtain consent, they will ask for some sort of exchange, such as a 51-percent share of the mining company’s stocks, or a prominent position in a respresentative body for IPs. Apparently, the language of the IPs has been coopted by the language of the capitalists and bureaucrats.

The security of the IP is in their “community-ness”. Once this is broken or destroyed, they become vulnerable to other powerful entities. Unity should be maintained and preserved. Policy advocacy should underscore this in formulating strategies for the empowerment of IPs.

It would be nice to see a Philippine society as a rainbow or a kaleidoscope rather than one gray sky on a rainy day. What is happening is we are trying to make everybody look like each other. We cannot romanticize the noble savage. He is nowhere to be found. Tarzan was buried a long time ago, in the comics.

I will close by borrowing Bishop Francisco Claver’s perspective on human security. He says, “You want the IPs to survive? Don't put them in the museum. Make them globally competitive but culturally rooted.”

RUTH LUSTERIO-RICO (Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, CSSP, UP-Diliman):

The preceding discussion highlighted the following points:

Indigenous peoples have different perspectives on human security, but human security is mainly associated with freedom from situations that give rise to insecurities. These insecurities relate to livelihood, land, or even personal safety.
It was stressed that the meaning of human security should come from the people themselves or the community itself. For example, one of the concepts associated with security is the empowerment of indigenous peoples.

A very important idea that was shared to us is that human security is also related to the idea of culture. Culture should be seen as dynamic or changing. Human security is related to one's ability to make decisions for oneself, and taking into consideration the beliefs, views and intentions of his or her community.

Another insight shared by one of our participants has to do with the relationship of human security to the feeling of belongingness in a community. For example, intrusions or certain changes introduced into traditional practices, especially land ownership, make IPs feel insecure.

In addition, human security is felt at a very personal level. It may mean confidence about not being dispossessed of one's tradition and culture.

A large part of our discussion centered on IPRA, its impact on indigenous peoples and whether or not it actually promotes human security. As Dr. Castro mentioned, the provisions of IPRA protect the human rights of IPs. However, there have been many problems in the implementation of this law. As there were a lot of opinions about NCIP, particularly regarding its lack of capability to implement IPRA, many proposals point to institutional changes that can be introduced. NCIP should be a constitutional body, independent and free from the intervention of politicians. Another suggestion was the codification of customary laws of different indigenous people's group and coming up with more culture-specific guidelines in the implementation of IPRA. At a general level, it was suggested that promoting a more inclusive society should be undertaken by all, especially government. As such, government ought to learn from IPs.


The data and insights in this brief are based, in whole or in part, from the proceedings of the forum on Human Security and Culture: Towards Strengthening Cultural Identity and Diversity (Balay Kalinaw, University of the Philippines, Diliman, 29 August 2006), the third installment in the Third World Studies Center’s Policy Dialogue Series 2006: Towards a Human Security Framework. This brief was prepared by Trina Joyce M. Sajo, University Research Associate, Third World Studies Center, University of the Philippines-Diliman, Quezon City.

A Very Long Engagement: Securing Sovereignty and Cultural Integrity for IPs

To be secured means to have your territory. You must be sovereign in your territory. And by being a sovereign community in your territory, you have the right to enact ordinance or policy within your territory (which) the state must respect.”

– Gregorio Andolana, author, Indigenous People Right’s Act


Almost a decade after the passage of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA), the indigenous peoples continue to wage the struggle for the recognition and protection, not only of their rights but their identity and way of life. Abject poverty and the lack of basic structures and services are staple features of everyday life in these communities, manifestations of a system of governance that tends to cast a blind eye on the needs of the marginalized. Indigenous peoples (IPs) remain skeptical whether legislation really serves their interests, or wonder how far IPRA’s hopeful promises can gradually deliver them from political exclusion, to representation and recognition.

These concerns cluster around a broader problematique: Can there be a Philippine state that accommodates the diversity of indigenous peoples and cultures? Further unraveling the knot will show that, on one hand, indigenous peoples have their own culturally imbedded notions of human security and cultural integrity, which are intimately tied to the land and their territory in general, and which emphasize harmony and a sense of community. The entire notion of a state (with its corresponding systems and structures), let alone policy, seems quite remote from the indigenous worldview. How can policy then be reconciled with indigenous culture?

On the other hand, the recognition of the IPs and their rights cannot happen in exclusivity. It is imperative that IPs participate in the system, despite the hegemonic politics of the elite, if they wish to have a stake in the formulation and implementation of policies that sustain and protect their culture.

IPRA and Human Security

The passage of R.A. 8371, also known as the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997, was a pivotal event in Philippine legislation. IPRA seeks to protect lives, livelihoods, and communities, as it enshrines the fundamental rights of IPs, in particular:

  1. Rights to ancestral domains and lands;
  2. Rights to self governance and empowerment;
  3. Social justice and human rights; and
  4. Right to cultural integrity.

These basic rights are implicated in the provision of security. And security, IPs believe, is tantamount to or at least a parallel to land security. For IPs, land is life. Yet, as expressed by Brigida Pawid, convenor of the Cordillera People’s Forum,

(N)obody really understands when we say, ‘Land is life.’ (It) does not refer to a land title, either free patent, CADT, PCT, or OCT. It means that when IPs are taken out from the land, we’re dead. Have the land title without the people, it means nothing. That…is supposedly the core or essence of IPRA.

The passage of IPRA is only an initial thrust to its complete and sustained fulfillment. Almost ten years after its inception, IPs still experience the debilitating conditions that IPRA intends to alleviate or protect them from. This is brought on by the lapses in the national policy.

IPs are saddled with recurring problems such as insurgency, securing of ancestral domain rights, or the intrusion of capitalist ventures in their communities, for national policy falls short of creating a policy environment that accommodates, complements and supports their beliefs, practices, and social dynamics. In the final analysis, IPRA’s provision for security seems mere lip service.

From Substance to Implementation: Gaps in the Ancestral Domain Law

Gregorio Andolana, one of the authors of IPRA, pointed out the main problem in national policy: the original purpose of the law, which is “to recognize and respect the rights of the IPs on their ancestral domains,” did not materialize. Such underdevelopment has spilled over to other laws: “In 1991, when we started debating the National Indigenous Peoples law, we made sure that recognition of cultural communities is incorporated. Yet, when it was implemented, it never recognized the right of cultural communities.” Andolana also mentioned how RA 7660 in the Local Government Code only ensured in principle the representation of cultural communities in the legislative body. In addition, problems in implementation beset the Organic Act in Muslim Mindanao, which mandates an autonomous legislative body to enact the ancestral domain law within its jurisdiction. Until now, the mandate remains on paper.

The lapse in implementation stems from a more profound problem of substance. The certificate of ancestral domain titles (CADT), the core of IPRA’s provisions, was supposedly the foremost representation of sovereignty and cultural integrity. Yet the nuances of definition have posed implications in policy. As Andolana explained:

We must understand that the ancestral domain law does not grant title. It only ratifies the native title that the indigenous people own from time immemorial, even before the Republic of the Philippines was created. The CADT is just a ratification, a formal recognition of the state that there exists an ancestral domain.

From the IPs’ perspective, CADTs are glossy words over a hard reality. The issuance of CADTs, and in general IPRA, fails to provide them genuine ownership of their land. Part of the problem is because the law is patterned after the ancient Regalian doctrine, which accords the state power over all lands within its jurisdiction. Implicitly, such power makes the state capable of ignoring or disregarding indigenous political systems that sustain the IPs and their culture. Thus, conflicts such as the patents issued by the Bureau of Lands ensue and are never completely resolved. Rather than a duty-bound proviso, sovereignty and cultural integrity for IPs are mere rhetorics of the state. In effect, they are denied the right to their territory, a strong concern that resonates among IPs.

Engaging the Power Structure

In principle, IPRA, as expressed by one IP leader, is supposed to strengthen sovereignty and cultural integrity. A re-evaluation of IPRA according to the knowledge and understanding of IPs is imperative. Yet, before IPs can even step into the arena of policymaking, enabling mechanisms in the policy environment should be installed.

One important policy recommendation that emerged from the forum was to grant full autonomy to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) as an independent constitutional commission that is not beholden to any form of partisan politics. The NCIP should be restructured such that it would function effectively, and look upon the cultural communities with a view to substantively address their needs and providing palliatives to poverty and other social problems.

Engaging the power structure, particularly in the level of policymaking, could be highly contentious, given the competing interests of different actors involved. Thus, to complement the institutionalization of an authentic legislative body, a form of IP leadership with strong integrity should take a foothold in state policy. IP leaders in the state should have the unwavering commitment and sense of responsibility to their people, if they are to genuinely represent the interests of the IPs.

Zenaida Brigida Pawid, Convenor of Cordillera People’s Forum, lamented how struggle has become a reality for many IPs on the ground “because the policies are the outcome of power structures in this country.” Indeed, securing cultural integrity and sovereignty for and by the IPs is as arduous as propelling through the meandering waters of policymaking. By strengthening indigenous peoples’ participation from the ground up, the task promises to be a very long yet worthwhile engagement.

No comments:

Post a Comment