By: Johnny R. Lee
By Johnny R. Lee, Ph.D.
Lest we forget, the creation of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) as Basic Law provides among others the Bangsamoro Identity which includes natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago; and without doubt the Badjaos are truly part of it. Also in its Article 5 Section 7 of said law under the Social Justice, says that: ‘the Bangsamoro shall establish a government that ensures that every citizen in the Bangsamoro is provided the basic necessities and equal opportunities in life.
Social Justice shall be promoted in all phases of development and facets of life within the Bangsamoro’. These provisions sit well with my proposition that the Badjaos could not just be neglected by mere reasons that they are inferior, primitive, ignorant, an outsiders and all the pejoratives thrown at them.
Some modern Badjaos of today did manage to climb the ladder of success in terms of social and economic stability. A number of their sons and daughters have graduated from the formal schools up to the collegiate level. But the social stigma remains because of the long-held notion that Badjaos do not deserve attention because they have never been politically united and their voices are only needed to prop up the images of land-based political groups. This writer reiterates that the BARMM government has the bigger responsibility if only they will review their mandate to look into the sad plight of indigenous peoples like the Badjaos. (Please read this writer’s suggested formula and mechanisms on how)
This writer has also lain on the table regarding the enlistment or integration of Badjaos (those who earned college degrees) to the Philippine military service and other branches of government. There should be government initiatives to reserve a small percentage for the Badjaos who are willing to serve in military establishment like the Philippine Navy and components of the Philippine Coast Guard and Maritime Industry Authority. Looking at the Philippine Coast Guard’s mandates and responsibility which is to ‘perform maritime search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, maritime safety, maritime environmental protection and maritime security’, the Badjaos are most fitted to be considered as part of this AFP establishment. Their ability as a ‘maritime people in a maritime country’ like the Philippines suits well to provide as part of the mandate knowing that they are the children of the sea.
The Badjaos, if given the chance to be enlisted in other branches of the AFP or the PNP could as well be effective because each of these branches has their components in rescue operations at sea and some other disasters that need divers and skills in water navigation. (To be continued in the next issues)