The indigenous peoples want to meaningfully participate in the peace process. They don't want to be treated as mere beneficiaries of the peace talks. After all, it is their sacred ancestral home where the war is being waged. They must have a say in the negotiations of a peace agreement between the parties waging the war.
In Mindanao, where a significant portion of the national patrimony remains intact and not yet sold to the highest bidder, the indigenous communities want to be included in the decision-making process regarding the proposed socio-economic reforms.
The indigenous peoples are deeply rooted in and connected to nature. They see themselves as stewards of our natural resources for the future generations. As stewards of the earth, they do not look at land as something to be exploited and destroyed for profit, but as a sustaining gift that will nurture their children and grandchildren.
On the issue of political and constitutional reforms, the indigenous peoples have plenty of sage advice for both the government and the NDF because they have been governing themselves peacefully, justly, and harmoniously for centuries.
With the paradigm shift in the peace process under President Rodrigo Duterte towards inclusivity and transparency, now is the time to showcase indigenous peoples’ leadership and meaningful participation in peace negotiations. They have a lot to teach our peace panels.
I think it is time to form an indigenous peoples peace table. And let both the government and the NDF panels sit there and learn. – Rappler.com
Patmei Bello Ruivivar is the Communications Director of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. She has served under 3 Philippine Presidents in various capacities including her stint as chief-of-staff of the Executive Office of the President of the Philippines. She's the first woman as well as the youngest and longest-serving chief-of-staff of the former Mayor of Davao City, now the 16th President of the Philippines, Rodrigo R. Duterte.
The government declared the month of October as "National Indigenous Peoples' Month."
(Editor's note: A version of this article first appeared in Mindanao Times. We are republishing it with the author's permission.)