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Legal advocates: Hear out rights defenders

To act on often neglected human rights defenders, the Balaod Mindanaw along with various non-government organizations spearheaded a local media briefing for the joint action for land rights in Misamis and Bukidnon last July 11 to 13.

Balaod Mindanaw Executive Director Lawyer Normita Batula said the activity aimed for the media to gain a deeper appreciation and understanding on land rights issues, establish connections with the rights defenders, generate interest in informing and engaging the public about land rights issues, and identify issues, stakeholders and areas that may be featured in various media platforms.

On the part of the rights defenders, Batula said the media briefing will allow the rights defenders to understand how the media works, learn and sharpen their skills on how to write media briefs, and form partnerships with the media to help them in their advocacies on the ground.

Balaod Mindanaw, composed of alternative legal advocates for development, states that these rights defenders usually operate in remote, far-flung areas and are facing issues that are hidden from the public eye.

Hence, the Joint Action for Land Rights has been implemented by the Asian NGO Coalition (Angoc), Balaod Mindanaw, and Kaisahan tungo sa Kaunlaran ng Kanayunan at Repormang Pansakahan (Kaisahan), together with People in Need (Pin) to strengthen the work of civil society organizations with particular focus on the empowerment of the vulnerable groups to claim their land rights.

In Misamis Oriental, various organizations raised their concerns during the media briefing such as the Tinamay ARB Association in Sugbongcogon which brought up issues on land rights, illegal entry and confiscation of the produce.

Another issue raised was on the issuance of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) of the Ancestral Domain of Dulangan Higaonon Tribe in Opol, Misamis Oriental. Members of the tribe said that without CADT, they will continuously experience land grabbing, overlapping of tenurial claims and selling of lands within the ancestral domain.

As for the Pagatpat Farmers Association (Pama), land tenure security has been cited as their primary concern for many years.

As of press time, Balaod Mindanaw along with the other NGOs are working on the cases raised by the vulnerable groups in Misamis Oriental and are reaching out to concerned agencies to provide immediate response to such issues.

Malicay van Vugt of Balaod Mindanaw said that they have tapped the media to bring such issues to the public and eventually gain support from the government and other stakeholders. (pia x)

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