ALABEL, Sarangani, June 11-- The assumption of office of the new Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) in Sarangani on Tuesday (June 4) was deemed as "another milestone of triumphs in the political struggle on Indigenous Peoples" in the province.
This, Tboli Datu Benjamin Donato, who was installed as the second IPMR to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, pointed out in his inaugural speech saying further "while far-fetched, but the journey is consistent until balance of power in governance will be achieved."
Donato, who suffered from racial discrimination in his childhood, became a student activist. This, he said, enabled him to gain "personal identity, empowerment and even trying to change the people directly and fight the government for social and political cause."
He was later appointed as municipal councilor in his hometown in Maasim in 1986 as an offshoot of the EDSA revolution and the government of then President Corazon C. Aquino and served for seven years.
Donato became a member of the Bangsa Moro Congress of the Selatan Kutawato Revolutionary Committee of the Moro National Liberation Front in 1992.
In 1997, he became liaison to the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) of the Sugoda Buayan Regional Committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Donato also served as municipal assessor in Maasim before he became Sarangani's provincial assessor for 14 years. He retired on May 31.
Donato is the second IPMR selected among the three major IP Groups in Sarangani- Blaan, Tboli and Tagakaulo. He said these groups hold diverse opinions with the same principle, but he stressed "the decision of majority must be just and right and the voice of the minority is well represented and be heard."
The government, he said, must treat IPs as partners in development. "They are not just beneficiaries but partners in development as powerful channel to societal change for a strong foundation of our Sarangani."
The provincial government of Sarangani was known to have been giving attention and support to IPs during the tenure of first Governor Priscilla Chiongbian when IP leaders espoused the organization of the Provincial Tribal Council.
Currently, the provincial government implements various programs under its flagship Sulong Tribu supporting the livelihood and cultural preservation of the different IP groups in the province.
Donato vowed to support the approval of the landmark legislation of the Ordinance Adopting the Comprehensive Indigenous Peoples welfare and Development Code in the Province of Sarangani which his predecessor Fredo Basino sponsored.
Among the legislative measures Donato laid down to sponsor are the ordinances on the operationalization of Indigenous Peoples Welfare and Development Division, the delineation of roles and functions and linkages between Indigenous Peoples Welfare and Development and IPMR for efficient programs implementation, and provision of support mechanism to accelerate development in declared ancestral domain areas. (Beverly C. Paoyon/SARANGANI COMMUNICATIONS SERVICE)