Matigsalugs to file case vs. ‘illegal occupants’

(First published at MindaNews.com) The Federation of Matigsalug-Manobo Tribal Councils, Inc. (Femmatrics) of the Matigsalug Manobo tribe has announced they are likely to go to court to force “illegal occupants” in their ancestral domain to a free and prior informed consent process (FPIC).

Femmatrics chair Datu Roelito Gawilan told this reporter they are preparing to file a case of illegal intrusion and illegal use of ancestral domain against some 20 individuals because of their refusal to go through an FPIC despite attempts of the group to formalize the request starting April this year.

He said they are filing the case against those who showed “no willingness” to go through the FPIC process, which is provided for in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997.

He said if pursued it would be the first case filed by a CADT-holding tribal group to course an ancestral domain conflict with non-Lumad occupants through the judicial process.

In a precedent-setting meeting in April at the Office of the Supreme Tribal Chief in Sinuda, Kitaotao, Bukidnon, at least 25 non-Lumad occupants of the Matigsalug-Manobo’s ancestral domain, led by then Presidential Legal Counsel Jesus Dureza, vowed to submit to the process of formally seeking the tribe’s consent for use of their land.

“I will be the example. Unahon nako akong sarili nga magsubay gayud sa inyong proseso (I will lead by following your process),” said Dureza, who has been operating the Seagull Mountain Resort in Lorega, in Kitaotao since 1994.

Dureza, whose resort of “at least 17 hectares” is covered by a special land use from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) until 2010, said he accepted the invitation of Femmatrics “to submit to the process laid out by the IPRA.”

Dureza is now the Presidential Assistant for Mindanao.

Femmatrics, holder of a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), recently sent out notices to at least 80 non-Lumad occupants within the tribe’s 102,324.8186-hectare ancestral domain, “for the purpose of upholding the right of ownership of the tribe and formalizing the recognition of existing property rights of non-members of the tribe within the domain.”

The CADT was issued on October 30, 2003 with 24,405 tribe members as beneficiaries. As of May 2009, Gawilan said they have invited around 80 non-Lumad occupants within their ancestral domain to discuss the FPIC process.

Femmatrics obtained its Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title to at least 102,000 hectares of ancestral domain in southern Bukidnon, parts of Davao City, and North Cotabato.

Gawilan said the non-Lumad occupants have been informed of the process but they have ignored it.

Five months after Femmatrics requested an audience with the occupants in Sinuda, no one has approached them and signified they wanted to go to the process, he said.

“Maybe they just don’t know what the first step is?” he added.

Gawilan said the FPIC process requires the occupants to present their project or intention in a meeting with the tribe’s council of elders.

The council would then deliberate on the proposal and call the attention again of the proponent.

In June, Gawilan told this reporter they were giving the occupants two options to stay within their ancestral domain, either they will lease land or agree to a joint venture with Femmatrics.

He admitted that the occupants “bought” properties in their communal ancestral domain from “tribal dealers”.

He also said local “migrant settlers” are among their problems.

Gawilan, who also sits at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan representing the province’s barangay captains, said they are still finalizing the list of respondents in the case.

He said they have organized a group called Bukidnon Davao Cotabato Settlers Association (Budaco) so that it would be easier for Femmatrics to deal with non-Lumad occupants.

He said a politician from North Cotabato is among those they are eyeing in the legal battle.

He clarified that Dureza is not in the list. He said he talked to Gawilan about waiting for the NCIP’s Ancestral Domain Office in Manila to initiate their FPIC.

“We will just wait for that. If he still won’t submit despite an ADO nod, then that’s the time,” he said.

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One response to “Matigsalugs to file case vs. ‘illegal occupants’”

  1. Chris Ramos says :

    The real problem in the realm of the FEMMATRICS, led by Chairman Datu Roelito Gawilan, is the leadership of the FEMMATRICS itself.

    On January 9, 2011, a meeting between FEMMATRICS members (without its Chairman Gawilan) and non-tribal, “illegal” settlers was held in the office of the Barangay Captain of Lorega, Kitaotao, Bukidnon. In the meeting it was agreed that a “census” of all non-tribal settlers was to be conducted, and that non-tribal settlers will undergo customary law or FPIC in “legalizing” their occupancy in the area. “Census” forms were then distributed among the participants in the meeting and a deadline was set for its submission – January 30, 2011.

    The non-tribal settlers then got the shock of their lives when FEMMATRICS Chairman Gawilan declared that the January 9 meeting was unauthorized, and that the census forms were illegal. He also furnished a DILG circular to the Barangay Captian of Lorega stating that “the barangay has no right whatsoever in settling land disputes as it was, according to the IPRA law, the sole responsibility of the tribal council.” Furthermore, reports that some FEMMATRICS members, especially the ones who helped the barangay initiate the January 9 meeting, were lambasted and “ex-communicated” by the Chairman.

    It is very sad to note that these FEMMATRICS members, all Datus or Bais in their respective rights, some of which have purely developmental intents, have the same rights as Tribal leaders as Chairman Gawilan yet trampled upon by the Chairman himself.

    Is Gawilan a god? Does he, through the FPIC process he religiously mentions in this article, practice his whim and excercise his wrath to whoever he pleases?

    In reality most of the Matigsalug Manobo people in the FEMMATRICS domain are so poor that they, together with some “illegal visayan settlers”, sell and resell ancestral lands to IPRA-ignorant non-tribal settlers, mostly rich families from Davao City and Bukidnon.

    They (the lumad and visayan settlers)then blame each other of illegal land sale, to the point the the FEMMATRICS chairman claimed (at least according to his “negotiators”) – “if they make money out of land sale, then why not FEMMATRICS itself benefit by doing the same?”

    Now, reports have surfaced that illegal settlers trying to legalize their presence – through this FREE AND PRIOR INFORMED CONSENT PROCESS (FPIC) being imposed by Chairman Gawilan, NOW HAS A PRICE – PhP 120,000.00 per hectare. At least this is what some of the Chairman’s negotiators, composed of both tribal members and even visayan setters, claim.

    What do the other FEMMATRICS think about it? Well, they were silenced by their Chairman.

    So it all, as is always the case in the Philippines, BOILS DOWN TO MONEY.

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