EI- Indigenous People’s Rights Workshop

26-27 September 2019, Quezon City, Philippines

With Education International’s strong advocacy on ensuring that indigenous people’s rights should be upheld and protected, a capacity building workshop on Indigenous People’s Rights was held in the Philippines. It was attended by around 20 leaders representing the EI affiliates in the Philippines namely: Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), Federation of Free Workers (FFW), National Alliance of Workers and Office Workers (NATOW); and Teachers Organization of the Philippine Public Sector (TOPPS).

Sis. Pathma Krishnan, EI Regional Coordinator, set the tone of the activity by reiterating the Education 2030 Agenda , Target 4.5 states that, “ By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous people and children in vulnerable situations. Hence, the activity aimed to present the teacher union’s programs and initiatives in upholding the rights of our indigenous brothers and sisters in all aspects of human life.

The number of indigenous peoples in the Philippines is unknown, but it is estimated that between 10% and 20% of the country’s population. The Philippines has adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples but has not yet ratified ILO Convention 169.

No less than Mr. Norman King, the very first Aeta, the resource person in the two-day activity. He belongs to an indigenous tribe in the Philippines and he marks the first-ever Aeta student to graduate from the University of the Philippines. Bro. Norman experienced discrimination, poverty and natural calamities in his place. Amidst all these challenges, he was able to finish his education with the everyday guidance and wisdom of his mother, named Warlita.

Mr. King, lectured, with remarkable ardor, the salient parts of RA 8371, the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA), fully emphasizing the inherent rights of indigenous people to their land, livelihood and education. He also shared the current problem that they are facing with respect to the ownership of their land. It is liberating on his part to have reiterated to the participants of the seminar that even with the current plight that they have, they are pursuing the battle in a democratic way, still guide by our laws in the land, not using any form of violence to seek protection of their rights.

Participants from ACT, FFW, NATOW and TOPPS shared their various efforts and engagements with the IPs like our brothers and sisters from Lumad, Dumagat, Igorot, Gaddang and Mangyan . A research was conducted by Bro. Allen of NATOW, his undertakings on the various IPs within their province was used as a basis for identifying their needs and to come up with intervention programs for the indigenous community.

Sis. Ruby of ACT, shared their engagements with the Lumads, now facing challenges relative to their ancestral domain. They were also on the look-out on the mandate of RA 10533 (Enhanced Basic Education Act or K to 12 Law) that standards and principles in developing the enhanced basic education curriculum must ensure that it is inclusive, relevant, culture sensitive, contextualized, and flexible enough to enable and allow schools to localize, indigenize and enhance based on the educational and social contexts. The same efforts were done by TOPPS, FFW and NATOW who have co-teachers and students representing our IPs in their respective schools.

Sis. Rogelyn Buquing, a young teacher from San Beda Alabang, shared with enthusiasm, her insights for having attended the workshop, “Through the years, capitalist people have been coming and convincing them to sell their lands for mining or for land development. But for the IPs, the land is the people, and to destroy the land is to destroy the people. They are the protectors of our environment and our links to our roots. With so much little left to them, their fight for their lands is not just their battle to go alone. It is a call for everyone to take part in helping our IPs to preserve their land, our land, from the capitalists who are developing our country at the expense of our people.”

Indeed, the workshop has awakened our seemingly apathetic attitude to the concerns of our indigenous brethren. We cannot say that we are free as a nation if we cannot liberate ourselves from acts that trample on the rights of indigenous people. As educators, we have a responsibility to be at forefront of changing the indifferent mindset of the society towards indigenous people.

Pledge of commitment was forged to continue the current efforts of the affiliates relative to the promotion of Indigenous people’s rights and evaluate the teachers’ union initiatives in monitoring the effective implementation of the Philippine laws on IPs so as to make inclusive education a reality.

AWN Newsletter - December 2019