House leader hits expulsion of Badjaos from Iloilo
MANILA, Philippines — House Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman lamented Thursday the move of the Iloilo local government to throw out Badjaos from the province as he stressed that the indigenous people’s (IPs) rights and welfare should be protected.
The Basilan representative, citing reports, said the Iloilo City government has been sending mendicant Badjaos back to their home province of Sulu in Mindanao. Mendicancy or asking for alms is prohibited under the city ordinance of Iloilo, as well as by Presidential Decree No. 1563.
“Given this information, I urge the Iloilo City government to act with caution and care when dealing with the Badjaos, and that it should ensure that the rights and welfare of our citizens are protected and preserved,” Hataman said in a statement.
“Why send them back in a manner that strips them of their dignities?” he pressed, adding that the IPs should leave the area voluntarily.
The returning congressman pointed out that sending mendicants away from one’s area of jurisdiction does not address the root problems that forced some IPs to go to urban centers.
Many of Badjaos, or “sea gypsies,” were displaced by decades-old conflict in Mindanao and do not have access to health care, government social services or education, according to Hataman.
“These Badjao, like other IPs who are exploited into mendicancy, do not choose to beg. They are made into beggars by unscrupulous groups that prey on them. They need the protection of our laws through proper enforcement and dismantling the syndicates that prey on them,” the lawmaker said.
Hataman also called on local government units, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine National Police and other national government agencies to provide IPs like the Badjaos with long-term solutions that would protect their dignity and their rights.
“We need to act with compassion, understanding, efficiency, and integrity to stop the exploitation of our people for good,” he added.