“Sandugo reflects the legacy and history of the valiant struggle of our ancestors and noble sacrifice of the martyrs who gave their lives in the defense of our ancestral lands and territories, identity, culture and way of life against the onslaught of colonization.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Indigenous peoples and Moros launched an alliance of national minority today, Oct. 15, as they vowed to intensify the defense of their ancestral lands and the struggle for self-determination.
The formation of Kilusan ng mga Moro at Katutubong Mamamayan para sa Sariling Pagpapasya (Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-determination), or Sandugo for short, was announced at the end of a two-day assembly by delegates of the 3,500-strong Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya who arrived in Manila between Oct. 12 and Oct. 13.
In Filipino, “sandugo” means “blood compact,” referring to the symbolic unity ritual held by leaders of different tribes, whether signalling a time of peace or a joint preparation for war. Sandugo conveners said its formation signals a more formidable, unified rank that will face destructive, foreign companies, which encroach into their ancestral lands, whether for mining, plantations, energy projects and other forms of development aggression.
It also signals how the fight against national oppression and discrimination by Moros and indigenous peoples has risen to a higher level, as they advance the struggle for the right to self-determination as part of the Filipino people’s struggle for national democracy and liberation.
“A blood compact united our ancestors way back in history. Now we are united again in one struggle,” said Amirah Lidasan, national chairperson of Suara Bangsamoro.
The Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu) and Suara Bangsamoro led the formation of Sandugo, which comprises of representatives of at least 26 of the 153 Philippine ethnolinguistic groups. Its allied groups include the regional Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), the biggest formation of Cordilleran groups, and Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad (Kalumaran), the Mindanao-wide alliance of Lumad groups.
“Sandugo reflects the legacy and history of the valiant struggle of our ancestors and noble sacrifice of the martyrs who gave their lives in the defense of our ancestral lands and territories, identity, culture and way of life against the onslaught of colonization,” said the Sandugo unity statement in Filipino.
“We became the minority because of the systematic policies and oppression by the state, and its discrimination which deprived us and trampled on our inherent right to self-determination,” said the Sandugo statement.
In reading one of Sandugo’s resolutions, Beverly Longid, global coordinator of the Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), said that aside from being the stewards of the country’s rich natural resources and diverse culture, the national minorities also have much to contribute to national development, as their collective way of life inherently values environmental protection and selflessness in the interest of the majority and the next generation.
Lidasan cited the “positive political climate” under the Duterte administration, and the strong, unified campaigns by indigenous peoples from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao in the recent years as the basis for the formation of Sandugo.
The Sandugo assembly adopted its first two resolutions:
1. To propose to the peace panels of the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to have a separate section on the national minorities in the draft Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Rights (Caser).
2. To propose to UP Diliman to put up a symbolic or non-symbolic kampuhan (people’s camp) for the national minorities, to serve as an alternative center for education, coordinate solidarity activities, and as part of the state university’s role in correcting the historical errors against the indigenous peoples and Moros.
In response, NDFP consultant Loida Magpatoc said the national minorities concerns were already included in the draft sections on the rights of the working people and on agrarian reform and rural development. Another peace consultant, Kennedy Bangibang vowed to assert a section for the national minorities in Caser.
UP Chancellor Michael Tan also agreed with the proposal for UP, adding that all students should have a subject in Philippine studies and Islamic studies to complete their education as Filipinos.
Also presented at the assembly were the convenors of Sandugo, representing the ethnolinguistic tribes. A number of advocates from church groups and the academe were among the convenors, including UP Chancellor Tan.