Robin Padilla asks: Who forced tribal people out of their coastal home to live in a landslide-prone area in Maguindanao del Norte?

Senator Robin Padilla formally asked a Senate probe into the deaths of at least 24 members of the Teduray tribe in Maguindanao del Norte following landslides brought about by severe storm ‘’Paeng.’’

He said reports indicated that the Teduray tribe was forcibly relocated from Datu Odin Sinsuat town to a landslide-prone area at the foot of Mt. Minandar in Maguindanao del Norte.

Padilla filed Senate Resolution 280 to get to the bottom of the deaths of 24 members of the tribe and the injury to 30 others - and why the Teduray tribe's right to their ancestral domain was not upheld.

He also wants to know who was remiss in their mandate to ensure the rights of tribes to remain in their ancestral land - whether it was the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) or the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples' Affairs in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Earlier reports quoted Chieftain Timuay Alim Bandara of the Tribal Indigenous Group Community Teduray as saying the tribal community was forced out of their coastal homes to Sitio Tabunon, Barangay Kusiong, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao del Norte in 2020 despite their protests.

The reports said such forced relocation was allegedly caused by a "powerful person" who wanted to convert the place into a resort.

Padilla pushed for the probe to be handled by the Senate committee on cultural communities and Muslim affairs which he chairs.

"The right to stay in the territory and not to be removed therefrom is a guaranteed right pursuant to Section 7(c) of the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act. Where relocation is considered necessary as an exceptional measure, such relocation shall take place only with free and prior informed consent of the concerned Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/IPs), and whenever possible, they shall be guaranteed the right to return to their ancestral domains, as soon as the grounds cease to exist," Padilla said.

In his resolution, Padilla noted the area where the tribe was relocated at the foot of Mt. Minandar was "prone to landslide.”

He also cited reports that 127 of 300 families affected by the supposedly forced relocation in December 2020 had petitioned the NCIP and protested their transfer, but the agency did not respond.

Because of this, Padilla stressed the need to find out if the Teduray tribe's constitutional rights were violated.

"In view of the foregoing, there is a need to examine and review the IPRA as well as the mandate of the NCIP of protecting the rights and welfare of the IPs, with the end in view of amending the provisions of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA),” he said.