DATALBLAO VILLAGE, Columbio, Sultan Kudarat
B’laan natives of Sitio Lamalis here have rejected the bid of a mayoral bet defeated in the last May 14 polls to establish a tribal government in the municipality, as they stressed that it is only for his alleged personal interest.
The defeated mayoral bet reportedly tried to lure some tribal i organizations, through their leaders, to the municipality by promising the natives monetary assistance from the office of the President.
Datu Agustin Dabi, a tribal leader of the Lagfisan Tribal Council here, said defeated mayoral bet Tunggal Magundadatu is trying to establish the Municipality of Mamalu Tabunaway for the B’laan natives in town.
But Dabi said they are opposed to Magundadatu’s plan because he is not a full-blooded native and doesn’t live in Columbio but in Koronadal City. Magundadatu was a former councilor of this town, he added. “If the people had liked him, he would have garnered more than just 600 votes ( out of a possible 11,000) when he ran for town
“We will only agree to his plan if we B’laans, not he, will head the government, since he is a Muslim claiming to be part native by blood,” the tribal leader said
Dabi said Magundadatu reportedly proclaimed himself as the mayor of the tribal government in the municipality without proper consultation with his ‘constituents’. Magundadatu reportedly disclosed that he was supposed to have been vice- mayor of the tribal government, a position he claimed he later declined when he discovered it could mislead his people and also because of the strong opposition of his 1, 757 tribal council members.
“I was convinced by Jerry Sumugod, a defeated I1onggo councilor bet, to serve as vice-mayor because he knew that I have many constituents but I later withdrew because my men did not want to join them,” Dabi explained, adding that he had the B’laan’s support if he would be the mayor of the supposed tribal government.
The consultations among the other natives in the area are still going on since they started after the May 14 polls. According to Dabi, most of the natives are opposed to Magundadatu.
Fake documents and a ridiculous deal
To gain the support of the lumad, the defeated mayor reportedly prepared a document bearing forged signatures of
some tribal leaders in town, says Toing Yuba, whose signature was among those forged.
We were able to obtain a copy of the alleged bogus statement of support for Magundadatu. “We have agreed that Mayor Tunggal Magundadatu has guided us in our aspiration and that he, as mayor, will help us establish a tribal government for the B’laan natives. We therefore ask for his help so that we may be recognized by the local and national government,” the document read.
According to Yuba, he was surprised to see his signature affixed on the document as a tribal leader when, in fact, he is only a member of the council. “I did not sign that document and I don’t know what support Tunggal is talking about. We are opposed to that tribal government; we have never been consulted”, he said.
Dabi added that Magundadatu’s aide, Cesar Lasib, had once come to their village and asked the tribesmen to write their names on a sheet of yellow pad paper. The list of signatures, Lasib had said, was to determine the number of beneficiaries for some forthcoming medical supplies, sacks of rice, canned goods and noodles.
“I told my people not to sign because it was difficult to believe it was an official letter when it was only written on a sheet of yellow pad paper. So he (Lasib) left without the signatures of my people,” the trial chieftain emphasized.
Yuba also disclosed that Magundadatu and Sumugod had also tricked two tribesmen named Genek Malid and Malayon Malid into signing a document stating that they had received 50 carabaos from Sumugod, then a councilor of the municipality. Unknown to them, they had affixed their signatures to a paper donating 10,000 hectares of their ancestral land to Magundadatu.
“The two thought that it was an agreement saying that they have received the working animals but actually the document stated that they have donated their land to Tunggal,” Yuba clarified.
We also obtained a copy of the alleged fake “Deed of quit claim and to donate,” which states that the Malids have
donated the 10,000-hectare agricultural land of this village in June 23, 1981. Magundadatu was also then a councilor of this town, according to the natives.
Village chief Tog Magot said that he and all of his constituents are opposed to the establishment of another government within a government
“It is not acceptable to us and if I agree to it, I would become my people’s greatest enemy. So I should follow the will of my people,” Magot stressed in local dialect.
Dabi disclosed that he attended a consultation for the establishment of tribal government in Mindanao last May 28-30 in Bayugan-3, Agusan del Sur led by Datu Higyawan Na Holagayan.
During the consultation, he said, tribal leaders were encouraged to pursue the establishment of tribal municipal and provincial governments in their respective areas. They were also promised technical and financial assistance as soon as these governments start to function.
We obtained yet another document, this one titled “Tribal Government in Mindanao” by virtue of RA 8371
otherwise known as Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA). According to the document, the Mindanao tribal government is headed by Holagayan as governor and it claims to being supported by Ang Maastusong Amahan Inc., Mamalo- Tabnaway Organization, Philippine Builders Construction Corporation- Economic Research and Development Foundation, Mamanwa Tribal Council, Mamanwa-Kongking Tribal Council, Donggo- Anon Tribal Council, Kirentenken Tribal Council, Talaandig Tribal Council, Pulangihon Tribal Council, Higaonon Tribal
Council, Maasamnon Tribal Council and Holy Warrior-Alimaong Tribal Council.
In its manifesto, it says, “Cultural Communities in Mindanao, declare our God-given rights to determine our destiny as peace- loving people. Right and in our season in demand. And impatient as we are. Its fulfillment cannot be postponed and it must begin now. It cannot wait for the next generation. That is why we are acting courageously. From Mindanao up to Sulu comes the insistent clamor for self- determination expressed in voices that are increasingly revolutionary, a strange sound to the ears of the natives but more palatable to the taste of being recognized.”
Holagayan claims that the tribal government in Mindanao was organized in accordance with the IPRA and professed that they are committed to uphold the provisions not only on self- governance but also on preservation of their culture.
Tribal government ‘nuisance’
Fr. Peter Geremia, coordinator of the Tribal Filipino Program of the Diocese of Kidapawan, believes Magundadatu got his idea of establishing his own tribal government on Columbio from the tribes in Agusan.
But Geremiah said the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs (OPAIPA) does not recognize the claim of the tribes in Agusan del Sur and even in Columbio
We secured a copy of an OPAIPA memorandum stating that, even as “the nature and basis of such claim may be dismissed as ‘nuisance,’ the attention it is trying to generate may place the government in an awkward position in the future.”
“Other claims of the group may require careful validations to allow us to determine appropriate action on its requests. This include its claim of more than one million membership, which seems to be statistically improbable since no more than 500,000 IP tribe members belong to one group,” the memorandum, signed by Howard Dee, OPAIPA head, further states.
This is following the claim of the Holagayan that he has been supported by a million of tribes in his bid for the establishment of the “Tribal Government in Mindanao.”
OPAlPA furnished us with another statement, this one in response to Holagayan’s claim. The statement reads, “the idea of establishing a “tribal government” as another political structure has no legal basis either under the IPRA law or the Local Government Code. “In particular, the provisions of the IPRA law (i.e. Section 13 of Chapter IV) do not in any way allow the indigenous community to create another government within the territorial jurisdiction of the Philippine government.”