World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Philippines : Overview
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Philippines : Overview, 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4954ce2123.html [accessed 20 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
The Republic of the Philippines is an archipelago located in South-East Asia consisting of more than 7,000 islands. The country is divided into three major island groups: Luzon in the north, including the capital, Manila, the largest group; the island grouping in the middle, the Visayas, the smallest; and Mindanao, in the south. Its climate is mainly hot and humid, with tropical forests covering much of its mountainous regions.
Main languages: Tagalog (national language), Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon, Bicolano, Waray, Pampangan, English (widely used)
Main religions: Roman Catholic 83%, Protestant 9%, Muslim 5%, Buddhist, animist and others 3% (2000 Census).
Main minority groups: Cebuano (20.16 million), Tagalog (13.93 million), Ilocano (9.53 million), Hiligaynon (8.06 million), Central Bicolano (3.5 million), Waray (3.4 million), Kapampangan (2.6 million), Albay Bicolano (2.1 million), Pangasinan (1.6 million), Malay (1.2 million), Maranao (1.09 million), Maguindanao (1.07 million), Tausug (1.02 million), Min Nan Chinese (922,000), Masbateño (764,000). (Census 2000).
The vast majority of the population of the Philippines (some 76.5 million according to the 2000 Census), speak one of the approximately 171 languages native to the country, most of which are part of the Malayo-Polynesian language branch of the Austronesian language family. Some 70 minority groups are considered to be indigenous, about 27 of which are known by the Spanish name of 'Negritos', meaning little black ones. They clearly preceded the Austronesian groups in the Philippines. More recent minority-language arrivals include English, Spanish, Hokkien, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Chabacano.
Most Filipinos are Christians, but there is a significant Muslim minority, including a number of ethnic groups, known collectively by the Spanish term 'Moros', who make up approximately 5 per cent of the population (about 3 million) and are concentrated in the southern Philippines, mainly in Mindanao, Palawan and the Sulu archipelago. Some of the indigenous groups retain elements of animism, and there are also small Buddhist and Jewish minorities.
The original inhabitants are believed to have been Negrito hunter-gatherers, followed by different waves of Malay immigrants from what are now Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia.
In 1521, during Magellan's global circumnavigation, the Spaniards claimed the islands for Spain and named them Las Islas Filipinas in honour of King Philip II of Spain. The nearly three centuries of Spanish rule had two far-reaching effects: the introduction of Catholicism and a land-tenure system based on Spanish feudalism. Today, the Philippines is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, the only Christian nation in South-East Asia. When the USA defeated the Spanish in Cuba in 1901, Spain ceded the Philippines to the USA. The Filipino independence movement, which had started in the mid-1800s, continued its armed struggle. The USA brutally suppressed the nationalist movement and proceeded to rule for the next 50 years. It greatly expanded education and transportation, and encouraged agricultural and commercial production. Nationalists were co-opted into the political process, which was based on US constitutional practices. The Philippines finally became independent in 1946.
During the early independence period a communist insurgency developed in Luzon. This movement, known as the Huk movement, was defeated in the 1950s with US assistance. But a second communist movement, under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines established the New People's Army and, led by Huk elements and radical students, re-emerged in the late 1960s. Simultaneously, a Muslim insurgency developed in Mindanao after decades of a growing influx of Christian Filipinos and land policies that were perceived as disadvantaging or excluding Moro Muslims. These two insurgencies, and a desire to remain in office, led President Marcos to declare martial law in 1972. Marcos's authoritarian rule lasted until 1983, when opposition leader Benigno Aquino was assassinated on his return from exile in the USA. An election held shortly afterwards saw a landslide victory for his widow, Corazon Aquino. When Marcos refused to hand over power, a popular uprising, People's Power, forced him into exile in Hawai'i and Corazon Aquino became president.
The return of democracy led to a series of reforms strengthening human rights protection. However corruption, the Asian economic crisis, the downfall of President Joseph Estrada and attempted coups against the current administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have nevertheless all hampered the ability of the country's institutions – including the judicial system – from properly ensuring the implementation of the various rights enshrined in the Constitution and legislation.
Although democratic rule has been established for some years now, Filipino politics remain based on patron-client relations and dominated by a dozen powerful elite families. All the major landholding families and political figures remain mestizo (of mixed Spanish-Filipino descent). Legislation to protect indigenous land rights, such as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, has been very slowly implemented, if at all. Death squads have been operating to oppose land redistribution and have threatened, beaten or killed a number of farmers and activists in recent years.
Current state of minorities and indigenous peoples
The main threats to minority rights in the Philippines are faced by Lumad, Igorot and other indigenous communities, ethnic Chinese and Moros. Indigenous peoples continue to face the problems of land loss due to development projects, worsening poverty, government neglect and loss of culture. The Moros and the ethnic Chinese continue to be discriminated against by the majority population, with negative stereotypes being widely propagated by mainstream media.
Moro Muslims have for decades also been facing loss of their traditional lands, but they also feel that current language and educational policies – conducted until recently entirely in English and Tagalog and with a Christian-slanted curriculum – discriminates against them in terms of language, religion and culture. Despite the recent granting of a form of autonomy for the Moro in parts of Mindanao, there remain restrictions on teaching in their languages in public schools or to have their languages as co-official or working languages of administration.
The well-developed non-governmental organization (NGO) community has for years actively lobbied authorities to address the claims of by indigenous peoples and other minorities such as the Moros that they face discrimination and disadvantage in areas such as land ownership, education and language use.
A number of legislative changes and pilot projects have emerged in 2004 and 2005 to address some of these issues. An Institute for Indigenous Peoples' Education has also set up a handful of 'pilot schools' to respond in a more receptive way to the culture and traditions of indigenous peoples, and previously instituted institutions such as the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, and legislation such as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act 1997, have been operating now for a number of years.
The Philippines government's 35-year-long confrontation with Muslim separatists on its southern islands continued apace in 2007, despite ongoing peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). According to a July 2007 HRW Report, violent Islamist groups in the Philippines have killed or injured more than 1,700 people in bombings and other attacks since 2000. President Arroyo has received significant U.S. military support for her campaign against militants in Mindanao and around 120, 000 people have been uprooted by the fighting on the island. Government crackdowns against both the MILF and MNLF in 2007 have displaced some 40,000 civilians on the island of Jolo and 7,000 in Basilan. Some hope was held for peace in 2008 after the signing of a demarcation agreement in November between the government and the MILF to set boundaries for a Muslim homeland.
As for members of the economically successful Chinese minority, they continue to be targeted for abduction, but they no longer face direct discriminatory practices by state authorities.
Despite the positive developments such as the 1997 legislation, minorities continue to face serious obstacles and human rights violations: indigenous peoples and other minorities risk losing traditional rights to land and resource usage because of the slow pace and difficulties in implementing the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act 1997. This appears to occur when some officials and companies seem to operate in direct disregard of the law's requirements and 'niceties', such as the need for indigenous peoples' free and informed consent for development projects: there were reports in 2005 and 2006 of harassment, attacks on and even killing of NGO activists and members of indigenous and minority communities opposed to plantation or other major development projects. These development and 'beautification' projects (mines, roads or hydro-electrical dams) continue to have devastating effects, displacing hundreds of thousands of people in 2006, often members of indigenous and other minorities.
Finally, while Section 30 of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act 1997 clearly indicated that education must be provided in the language of and in a manner appropriate to their culture, the reality on the ground 10 years later is that there are only a few indigenous pilot schools or schools using an indigenous language set up by elders with little or no support from state authorities. The language policy of the Philippines is still English and Filipino-centred, and in effect creates obstacles for indigenous peoples in terms of education and access to employment opportunities, as their own languages remain largely unused or not recognized by Filipino authorities for official transactions or education. Indeed, the Filipino Department of Education in 2006 in effect made it difficult for private indigenous schools to operate because of restrictions required for their recognition.
In March 2007 the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people noted that the efforts deployed by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to promote the recognition of Certificates of Ancestral Domain continues to be under-funded, and the rate at which titles are granted every year is still very limited in relation to the number of requests. However even land recognised as indigenous under these certificates can still be lost to development projects, since they can be pursued if a certificate of 'Free, Prior and Informed Consent' (FPIC) is obtained from indigenous peoples. A number of indigenous groups have repeatedly claimed being deceived, and some individuals have been threatened and even assassinated in the pursuit of FPICs. The Rapporteur noted that more than 75 cases of extrajudicial killings of indigenous individuals have been reported by NGOs recently, many of which have not been thoroughly investigated.