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Philippines to pay Mindanao villagers who lost lands

Publication Date : 12-10-2012

 

To ensure peace seeps down to the grassroots, Christians, Muslims, and lumad (indigenous people) in Mindanao who were unjustly dispossessed of their land will be compensated under the new autonomous Bangsamoro homeland, according to the Philippines' chief government peace negotiator Marvic Leonen.

Leonen said the government and the Bangsamoro would provide reparations for those who lost their lands in an effort to “heal the wounds” and end the perceived mistrust between the Christian and Muslim communities in the island.

Land ownership is a sensitive issue in Mindanao where Christians from the north have resettled in areas that were once dominated by Muslims.

“It will not be the (current) private property owner who will [provide reparations] but the national government and Bangsamoro government,” Leonen said.

“And it also cuts both ways. It’s not just (paying for) the Christian who grabbed another person’s property but also for the Moro who seized somebody else’s land,” he added.

Leonen said the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front would still have to discuss how to set up the compensation mechanism and its parametres, adding that this was important to address perceived historical grievances in Mindanao.

“The principle here is called transitional justice because we can’t have total healing without addressing these historical questions,” he said.

Leonen also emphasised that current land owners of disputed lands “will not be moved,” adding that the peace deal would not lead to the confiscation of any property.

The framework agreement between the government and the MILF states that “the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people arising from any unjust dispossession of their territorial and proprietary rights, customary land tenure or their marginalisation shall be acknowledged.”

“Whenever restoration is no longer possible, the Central Government and the Government of the Bangsamoro shall take effective measures for adequate reparation collectively beneficial to the Bangsamoro people in such quality, quantity and status to be determined mutually,” it added.

Evidence

Leonen said claimants would have to show evidence, like their Torrens title for the lost property, before they can receive compensation.

“It depends on what evidence can be presented … Vested property rights shall be respected. Any property right that was vested by Torrens title or by any contract with government is to be respected,” Leonen said.

“Also, reparation is not just about money. It could also come in the form of recognition that a historical wrong was committed,” he added.
Leonen also said that he was confident that the present Supreme Court would affirm the peace deal between Manila and the MILF.

He said the government peace panel consulted the country’s legal luminaries, including former Supreme Court justices, every step of the way to ensure the agreement would pass constitutional muster.

 

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