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DEA Ministry Context

Davao Episcopal Area is the lone area of the Philippines Central Conference that has footprints in all the major island groups of the country: the entire Mindanao, the Visayas group of islands, and southern part of Luzon—the Bicol Region. Of the country’s 81 provinces, 47 are within the jurisdiction of the area (58%). Population-wise, DEA’s AOR comprise 47.61% (50.71M) of the country’s total population of 106.5M. And in terms of geographical area, DEA has jurisdiction in a total of 187,188km2 (72,277mi2); about the size of South Dakota or Nebraska. Its total area is roughly 62.4% of the entire country.

On the resource side, the recent Family Income and Expenditure Survey by the Philippine Statistics Authority (formerly National Statistics Office) revealed that of the 20 Poorest Provinces in the country, 19 are in the AOR of DEA: 11 in Mindanao, 6 in the Visayas, and 2 in the Bicol Region. On the other hand, a large portion of DEA shares a significant contribution to the Philippines’ status as one of 18 mega-diverse countries in the world. The country is also among the most mineralized, and has considerable sources of renewable energy, marine and freshwater resources.

MAJOR THEMATIC CONCERNS OF DEA.

In order to systematically contribute to the attainment of the Four Focus Areas of the global church as well as the targets identified during the Inter-Agency Summit of the PCC held last January 2016, DEA has adopted what is dubbed as the 7K Programs, which shall be our counterpart focus areas within DEA. A narrative on the 7K Programs is attached, herewith.

Briefly enumerated, the 7K Programs are the following: KAPAYAPAAN (Peace Building Program), KARUNUNGAN (Knowledge/Learning Program), KALUSUGAN (Health Program), KAHIRAPAN (Pro-Poor Program), KABUHAYAN (Livelihood Program), KALIKASAN (Environment Program), and KOMUNIKASYON (Communication Program).

Peace, The LUMADs, and Environment.

LUMAD is a Bisayan term meaning “native” or “indigenous”. It is adopted by a group of 15 from a more than 18 Mindanao ethnic groups in their Cotabato Congress in June 1986 to distinguish them from the other Mindanaoans, Moro or Christian. Its usage was accepted during the Cory Aquino Administration when RA 6734, the word Lumad was used in Art. XIII Sec. 8(2) to distinguish these ethnic communities from the Bangsa Moro.

At present, Mindanao Lumads account for 2.1 million out of the total 6.5 million indigenous people nationally (1993 Census). These fifteen Lumads that joined the Cotabato Congress were the: Subanen, B’laan, Mandaya, Higaonon, Banwaon, Talaandig, Ubo, Manobo, T’boli, Tiruray, Bagobo, Tagakaolo, Dibabawon, Manguangan, and Mansaka. They are found in the following towns and cities of Cotabato, Tandag, Dipolog, Kidapawan, Marbel, Tagum, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Malaybalay, Pagadian, Butuan, Surigao, OzamisIpil, Digos, and Mati.

The “Lumads” are considered among the most peaceful and gentle, and the most vulnerable group.  The Lumads’ territories are rich in natural resources, especially minerals.  This is the primary reason why their ancestral domains are encroached upon by outsiders and have been subjected to development aggression[1].

They face a multitude of problems and struggles. From vested interests of big multinational mining firms to armed conflicts between government forces and rebel groups, from lack of basic social and economic services to violations of their civil and political rights. While a law has been passed that granted them control over their ancestral domain, actual implementation is also full of challenges.

[1] Excerpted from “A Briefing Paper On Lumad Issues”. Oct. 2015. Palaso, Center for Social Concern and Action, De Lasalle University.

In DEA, most Lumad churches are in the jurisdiction of the Mindanao Central East District of the Mindanao Annual Conference. There are, however, Lumad communities all throughout Mindanao.

DEA is also affected by frequent and recurring armed conflict between government security forces and communist rebels and Muslim secessionists, including infighting between various Muslim armed groups. While the government is hammering out a peace agreement with the communists and setting up the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region to improve the peace-and-order situation in Mindanao, the peace and order situation is far from ideal.

“Federalism is being proposed by the Philippine Government as the alternative to the prevailing overly-centralized power structure of the government and a solution to the peace and order situation in Mindanao. Especially for Visayas and Mindanao provinces, federalism’s lure has gripped the areas since President Ramos’ time. The main argument of federalism proponents is that it will make government programs and services more relevant and closer to the people. By strengthening local government powers, it will ultimately translate to positive outcome benefitting the local populace.  This argument, however, misses the reality that political clans continue to dominate local government units (LGU), so strengthening the local government consequently will also increase the power-base of these political clans. The reality of political clans finds relevance on the issue of security — in the provinces, whosoever controls the political power also controls the security institutions.

The current armed conflict in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) region is complex and layered.  While the government has been engaging the armed groups through peace talks (the Moro National Liberation Front/MNLF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front/MILF), such efforts only address the ‘vertical’ conflict between the state and non-state groups. Despite the peace agreements, the horizontal conflicts of clan feuds (or ‘Rido’ in the local dialect) will not be automatically settled. Add to this configuration is the presence of terror organizations — the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Maute group, the Rajah Sulaiman Group, the Black Flag Movement to name just some of the local terrorist organizations that operate in the area.

Complicating this situation a bit further is the fact that the ARMM region also sits on a large area of ancestral domain of indigenous peoples (IP).  Some IP leaders claim that the IPRA law (Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act) is the “peace settlement” of the government with the IPs and therefore must be treated on equal footing as that of the peace agreements with the MILF and MNLF.

In some provinces still in the ARMM, the communist’ New People’s Army (NPA) are also operating. (The MNLF and MILF desire more autonomy for the region, but the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA’s ultimate goal is to take over the Philippine government – alliances therefore among these groups remain only on the tactical level.)”[2]

Currently, Mindanao is under martial law since May 23, 2017 when ISIS-inspired Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists occupied Marawi City resulting in nearly five months of heavy fighting that left much of the city in ruins.

[2] Excerpted from “Federalism and Security Arrangement In Armed Conflict Areas. Oreta, JS. April 2017. Published in the Ateneo de Manila News Research webpage.