Monday, June 29, 2009
Mangyan, Politician and Election
I was surprised to see hundreds of Mangyan roaming around a compound allegedly owned by a political patron in Brgy. Labangan Poblacion in San Jose last week, until an informant told me that the mountain-dwellers are here for the on-going voters' registration for 2010 elections. They are from a nearby Mangyan community. Yes, for a mass registration to a local Commission on Election or COMELEC office. Their transportation, food and accommodation are free of charge courtesy of said political patron.
In 2007, Atty. Margarita Tamunda of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) who was assigned to monitor the canvassing of election results in Occidental Mindoro reported that Mangyan folk were being manipulated by big politicians in Paluan and Sta. Cruz. The Paluan incident was featured in a TV show “Imbestigador” over GMA 7. Imagine, the Mangyans were given free literacy education where they were taught how to write name of certain politicians on a ballot. My goodness!
“What’s wrong with keeping them during elections? They are not kidnapped. They have food and television and videoke entertainment there and they can get out of the place anytime they like…” Well, they’re right because under the present election code this practice is not illegal. But this line of thinking is not only exclusive to political partisans. Sadly, many of us Christians see nothing immoral with such practice.
As early as in the middle of 1920’s, Gov. Robert S. Offley undertook initial efforts to come into contacts with the Mangyans,- our indigenous brothers. That was during the American colonial period. Offley found out that the lowlanders exploited the Mangyans for a cheap labor source or manpower. The American governor absorbed them into the body politics and the tribes have to give up their cultural identity. Due to the Christians’ perceived “extreme backwardness” of the tribal members, through a Manila-initiated policy, they were separated from the “Tagalogs” or Christians.
According to author Volker Schult in his book “Mindoro : The Social History of A Philippine Island”, the first Filipino governor of Mindoro, Juan Morente, Jr., favored the strict separation of the Tagalogs and Mangyans. His motivations are not only paternalistic and humanitarian but also tinted with political reasons. The segregation, made through establishments of schools and reservations, was seen as incentive for migration or to attract many people from other neighboring provinces to come to Mindoro. Through this policy on reservation, the ancestral land and of the tribes was easily distributed to the migrants. The Mangyan leaders vehemently opposed the national policy and sought the intervention of the Supreme Court (SC) on the legal matter. Atty. Vicente Sotto represent the Mangyans in court but in 1919, five against four justices declared the Reservations legal. The SC then stated:
“And true indeed they are Filipinos, with many but not all the rights which citizenship implies. And true, indeed, they are Filipinos. But just as surely, the Manguianes are citizens of a low degree of intelligence. If the Philippines is to be rich and powerful country, Mindoro must be populated and its fertile regions must be developed…” (Supreme Court; Report of Cases; Vol. 39; March 17, 1919 pp. 713-719). And that is the main reason why Mindoro’s population became heterogeneous.Why the Mangyans were driven out of their lands.
Even today, they need to be integrated to mainstream society but without sacrificing their cultural identity. There must be a balanced process, a so-called “ethnical symbiosis” or mutually beneficial interactions between Mangyans and politicians. Concretely, there is a need for separate registration and polling places in every barangay where the non-Mangyans, except people from COMELEC, cannot intervene. Massive community-based voters’ education to be conducted by non-partisan groups specifically those organizations mandated by law for the promotion and protection of the IPs in cooperation with COMELEC. Through these simple steps, we could save them from the bane of local politicians. From the evils of politics.
Going back to this modern day practice of “school’ and “reservation” for our indigenous peoples,- to my mind, any local election held in under these circumstances is a vicious farce and most scandalous mockery of their dignity. They are taking advantage of the Mangyans’ sorry plight. And we cannot be a party to an act of blunders that degrades and debases the Mangyans,- the poorest of the poor among Mindorenyos. We are our brothers’ keeper, aren’t we? Now, tell me that there’s nothing wrong with this practice,- and there is definitely something wrong with your being a Christian…
(SSC File Photo : An anti-mining rally in Mamburao)