Delivered by Secretary Allen A. Capuyan, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples

Thank you, Mister Vice President.

In the Philippines, over 100 languages are spoken by various ethno-linguistic groups. The Philippine government reaffirms its strong commitment to the promotion and preservation of indigenous languages as this is integral in recognizing and respecting the identity, culture and customs of our indigenous peoples.

The rights of indigenous peoples to education is enshrined in the Philippine Constitution and the Indigenous Peoples’ Right Act of 1997. The government has adopted and been implementing culturally adaptive basic education strategies that integrate indigenous knowledge systems and practices. A mother tongue-based multilingual education where the first language or mother tongue is used as the language or instruction has been institutionalized in our public schools.        

With sensitivity and respect for the relationship between language and identity, we should be vigilant and condemn actions by any party that corrupt the meanings behind indigenous terms for unscrupulous ends.

We cite specific cases of the deliberate corruption of sacred meanings of indigenous words, committed by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), a terrorist group, and its front organizations against indigenous peoples:

  1. Bagani, a word signifying tribal defense and law enforcement, has been corrupted and used to name communist armed units “Pulang Bagani Command” or “Red Bagani Units” which fight against the government.    

  1. Salugpungan, a word signifying protection of the ancestral domain, has been exploited to refer to training schools for child combatants and warriors and to people’s organizations or NGOs headed by non-indigenous people for purposes of raising funds from international sources to serve criminal ends.
  1. Pantaron, a word signifying sacred place and paradise, has been misappropriated to refer to NPA encampment areas, headquarters, and the base of their national operational command. 

The Philippines remains steadfast in its commitment to promote and preserve indigenous languages, guard against disrespect for them, and protect the human rights of indigenous peoples.

Thank you, Mister Vice President.