DAVAO CITY — At first glance, the figure looks like an octopus, with its multi-colored tentacles extending outward in all directions and giving birth to more tentacles that snake across the page.
However, a closer look at the digital illustration shows words and phrases at the end of each tentacle, which, taken in a broader context, tells the story of three of Mindanao’s indigenous peoples (IPs) tribes — the Mansaka, Mandaya and Manobo.
There is a common thread that weaves the narratives of the three tribes, and that is the peoples’ collective struggle to uplift their well-being, while facing the day-to-day challenges caused by the volatile peace and security situation in their communities.
Over the years, the IPs are among the most marginalized groups in Mindanao, having remained in the fringes of development and victims of constant harassment, armed violence and recruitment perpetrated by the Communist Terrorist Groups (CTGs), and the conflict between the government and the CTGs.
This is an unsettling situation which the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) would like to address in collaboration with its key stakeholders.
Using the octopus-like figure, which is actually a mind map that was developed using information gathered during key informant interviews (KIIs) and participant observations, the OPAPRU is formulating a Healing and Reconciliation (HR) Framework and Process for Indigenous Peoples for the Transformation Program for former CTGs.
During a writeshop organized early this month by the OPAPRU, personnel from the agency, representatives from the national government agencies (NGAs) including the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), provincial local government unit, as well as members of the IP tribes, shared their insights and recommendations based on the findings reflected in the mind map.
The observations of the participants, which largely focused on the peace and development interventions being carried by the national and local governments in IP communities and how they are implemented, served as inputs to the HR Framework.
Teresita Marcial of the Mansaka tribe noted that there is a need for implementing agencies to more actively engage IP beneficiary communities when carrying out socioeconomic interventions.
Marcial said that such assistance must be provided with “passion and the right intention,” adding that, “There needs to be participation when government offices think of projects for IP communities.”
Datu Allan Causing of the Manobo tribe lamented that his people only feel the presence of local government officials only when their support is needed, particularly during the campaign or election season.
“We are engaged by politicians during elections [especially when they] seek our support. But when they win, they don’t [fulfil] their promises. They don’t even visit us in the uplands,” Causing said.
Ednar Dayanghirang, administrator of the Provincial Government of Davao Oriental, shared that they have developed an effective system of project implementation wherein the impact of their livelihood interventions is more felt by the beneficiaries.
“In Davao Oriental, the beneficiaries are the ones who choose and source out the needed animals based on the resources of the local area. We have established criteria for beneficiaries who will provide guidance on the needed [production] requirements,” Dayanghirang said.
Meanwhile, Col. Achilles Dela Cruz of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ 10th Infantry Division said that his unit has already provided assistance to around 622 members of the underground movement (UGMO) who have returned to the folds of the law.
Dela Cruz pointed out that in the implementation of livelihood projects for former rebels and their supporters, it must be a “complete package,” in which their implementers must consider several factors such as the main purpose of the intervention, the exact number of beneficiaries, and the provision of training before the project is rolled out.
According to Rowena Lopez, acting head of OPAPRU’s Policy, Governance and Strategic Planning Service (PGSPS), the “agency” displayed by participants during the workshop is a testament of their desire to help improve the situation in IP communities.
“The presence of representatives from LGUs, the security sector and IP communities is proof that you want to bring forth changes on how we carry out peacebuilding and development interventions in IP communities,” she added.
She also highlighted the expanded mission of the agency and underscored the importance of using an inclusive and collaborative approach in addressing the challenges being faced by the IPs.
“OPAPRU’s mandate is to implement initiatives to foster unity and reconciliation. But our agency cannot do it alone. We need to utilize a whole-of-nation approach whereby all sectors – line agencies, LGUs, and the security sector will help in crafting this HR framework,” Lopez said.
The HR Framework will help inform the processes and interventions to be implemented by the agency under its Localized Peace Engagements (LPE), Social Healing and Peacebuilding (SHAPE), and PAyapa at MAsaganang PAmayanan (PAMANA) Programs.
The HR Framework has five phases: Trust-Building and Acceptance; Mainstreaming Systemic Conflict-Transformation; Implementing a Conflict-Sensitive and Peace-Promoting Results Framework; Learning Together; and Empowerment of Indigenous Peoples.
The Project Team is currently working on the narrative of the framework and process which will be presented to the stakeholders for vetting and endorsement. This document, which will be cascaded to communities for validation, is targeted to be finalized by August this year.