Conflict of Ideologies, Abuse of Authority, and Corruption
are the Causes of the Indigenous Filipinos’ Woes Today
by Apolinario Villalobos
When the Spaniards colonized the islands of the Philippines way back in the 1500s, the natives were clustered so that they can be easily “managed” which actually means, conveniently taxed. They were made to settle around the plaza with the church as the focal point of the community. To entice those who were apprehensive and afraid to come down from their mountain abode, joyful occasions such as fiestas were held by the friars. The same practice was employed by the Americans when they took over. Some regions were successfully developed out of clustering, although, some tribes who persisted in maintaining their values and culture remained steadfast in their ancestral domains. There was not much problem during those two regimes because, the natives had only two choices – either embrace the imposed authority thereby, live in “managed” communities, or live in the mountains, far from the colonizers, peacefully. Period.
Today, the native Filipinos who live in their ancestral domain are pitifully squeezed between three forces – that of the government forces, the land grabbers, and the subversives. The government has the duty to protect every Filipino, including the indigenous ones. To make it easy for the government to do it, clustering is again used, pulling the natives from their source of livelihood, in the process. The government had to do this because of the intrusion of the subversives into the ancestral domains of the indigenous Filipinos. Unfortunately, some military contingents became abusive. The land grabbers, meanwhile, using fraudulent documents are practically driving the natives farther into the wilderness. On the other hand, the subversives employ psychological tactics in winning the natives to their side, and in some instances, even with force.
In a not so distant past, some tribes were the ones that complained about the intrusion of the subversives into their midst. Their presence required support which of course meant, doubling of effort on the part of the natives to produce more from their tilled lands. It is only when they could no longer tolerate the mulcting of these subversives that they complained to the government authorities. This is the reason why the government came into the picture – to purportedly protect the natives, necessitating their presence in their communities. In cases of land grabbing, the natives approach militant groups for help, and most often, results are not encouraging due to inaction of the government agencies concernced, that is why, during anti-government rallies, this is among the issues being shouted, a sad reality because most land grabbers are government officials using dummies!
Aside from clustering, another effort of the government to provide protection is the organization of the local defense forces composed of the able-bodied male members of the community. The Abbu Sayyaf was “developed” in this manner. Originally envisioned to augment the government effort in fighting insurgency, it later became into what it is now because of many reasons blamed on the government. In the case of the displaced natives who are seeking the protection of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Mindanao, their community-based paramilitary group is called Alamara.
The latest news about the displaced 700 indigenous Filipinos who live under the protection of the United Church of Christ in the Philippine (UCCP), displaced from their ancestral domains for several months now is disheartening. The primary reason why the natives left their homes and farms, is the presence of the military in their communities. The question now is, “who” told them that such presence is not good for them? The quest for communistic ideology is far from being dead in the Philippines. Splinters of communistic groups are well distributed throughout the archipelago even the once-peaceful Bohol, Panay, and Palawan islands.
The issue on displaced tribal communities is not new, especially, as an effect of land grabbing which started when the Spaniards came, got complicated with the intrusion of Communism in the country, worsened by the politicians who use dummies in this scheme, and got further muddled by the abuse of some military contingents.
As a conclusion, for as long as there are adherents of Communism, land grabbers, abusive military contingents, and corrupt government officials, the problem of the indigenous Filipinos will not be solved. The consolation, however, are the religious groups, one of which is the UCCP, that provide support and affordable protection.