By Written by : Anabelle E. Plantilla
As early as 1923 Chief Deskaheh, speaker of the Council of the Iroquios, and W.T. Ratana, a Maori leader, were among the first who sought an audience with the League of Nations regarding issues that their tribes were facing, in particular, recognition for their people. But it was only in September 13, 2007 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), a major achievement for indigenous peoples (IP) worldwide as it reflects their aspirations for the recognition of their collective rights.
Some states, though, after the adoption of the UNDRIP have been using the non-legally binding character of the Declaration not to fulfill their commitment to implement the provisions of the UNDRIP. Professor James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and part of the team who drafted the Declaration, stated that the Declaration does not create special rights that are unique to indigenous peoples, but elaborates upon fundamental human rights of universal application in the specific cultural, historical, social and economic circumstances of indigenous peoples. Thus, implementation by States simply requires a commitment to uphold the basic standards of human rights, taking into account the specific circumstances of IPs and the collective dimensions of the exercise of those rights by them. Implementation of the Declaration should be regarded as a political, moral and legal imperative without qualification.
The Philippines is quite advanced in terms of legislation and policies on indigenous peoples rights. Even before the adoption of the UNDRIP, the government had already passed into law the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) in 1997. This law established the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) that is mandated to protect and promote the interest and well being of IPs in the country. But even with the IPRA and the UNDRIP, IPs remain to be part of the marginalized sectors of the society. For one, this is attributed to the lack of disaggregated data on indigenous peoples that should be the baseline data for the provision of essential social services for them.
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