Tribal Governance Conference: Asserting Tribal Governance in Mindanao

The Tribal Governance Conference is a series of consultations culminating in a conference that brought together leaders–Datus, Timuays and Baes–of the various tribes and sub-tribes in Mindanao to discuss the prospects, issues and concerns affecting their governance within their respective tribes, among the different tribes vis-à-vis the Philippine government and the mainstream society and majority culture it represents.

As an institution advocating the indigenous peoples’ (lumads) struggle for self-determination and recognition as distinct nations in Mindanao, the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) intends to study and review existing concepts and practices in tribal governance among the various ethno-linguistic tribes in Mindanao. It argues that before the lumads can effectively participate in the current discourse on political options for Mindanao, they need to revisit their own form of political governance, consolidate it within and among the different tribes and subsequently propose a more unified and clearer political option for them in the mainstream governance. This process will bring about an ongoing discourse from the perspective of indigenous peoples grassroots–juxtaposing local tribal governance practice and the implementation of existing legislation on tribal governance.

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The Tribal Governance Conference is a series of consultations culminating in a conference that brought together leaders–Datus, Timuays and Baes–of the various tribes and sub-tribes in Mindanao to discuss the prospects, issues and concerns affecting their governance within their respective tribes, among the different tribes vis-à-vis the Philippine government and the mainstream society and majority culture it represents.

The conference looked into the current state of tribal governance among the lumads in Mindanao. Is it still existing and preserved among the traditional leaders? Can it be a viable form of political system for the indigenous peoples? Will it contribute towards the discourse on the political options that could bring us closer towards a resolution of the Mindanao conflict? How can we make applicable laws on tribal governance be more effective in strengthening the political leadership of the traditional leaders?

A total of seventy four (74) participants were involved in the entire process from the area consultations in February till March 2004 to the conference in April 21-23,2004 in Davao City. Traditional leaders from twenty four (24) tribes all over Mindanao were represented: seven (7) tribes for Central Mindanao, ten (10) tribes for Southeastern Mindanao, and seven (7) tribes for Northwestern Mindanao.

Among others, the process was able to draw out a consensus on a working and collective definition on Tribal Governance as “culture-based, integral to the entire indigenous worldview and that traditional structure is a combination of both spiritual and political manifestations.” The delegates also agreed initially that Tribal Governance is expressed in customary law, justice system and conflict resolution, defense, ancestral domain and political structure. Five case experiences were written and collated. These cases dwell on specific tribal governance concepts and experiences of Arumanen-Manobo, Ata-Manobo, Langilan-Manobo, Teduray-Lambangian and Talaandig tribes.

The co-organizers of the conference are PANAGTAGBO-Mindanao, Organization of Teduray-Lambangian Conference (OTLAC) and Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC). It is supported by the Canadian International Development Agency and Oxfam-Hong Kong.

Read Conference Declaration (in .pdf, 75 kb)

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