Senator Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero speaks for the Indigenous Peoples



Senator Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero speaks for the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and vows greater concern and protection for them.

Vice-presidential frontrunner Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero  vowed to protect and improve the living conditions of the country’s indigenous peoples (IP), who live in extreme poverty and are often victims of discrimination.

“We will make sure that our IPs will have access to basic services. We want them to feel that their culture and tradition are not only respected, but their needs are also taken care of by the government,” said Escudero, who is running under “Gobyernong may Puso” of leading presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe.

Escudero made the assurance during a campaign sortie in Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat and Kabacan, Cotabato, which are home to many IPs whose origins date back thousands of centuries.

In its 2013 report, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples said that there are a total of 11.3 million IPs belonging to 110 ethno-linguistic IP groups. A large number of the population in Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat is composed of the lumads, the collective name for 18 indigenous groups in Mindanao.

Among others, “Gobyernong may Puso” is pushing for inclusive, rapid and sustainable growth where no one will be left behind including the IPs who, according to Escudero, “belong to the most disadvantaged, marginalized and excluded groups in the society.”

“It is unfortunate that our IPs still experience racism and disproportionate poverty,” Escudero pointed out.

The veteran lawmaker said Poe’s “Gobyernong may Puso” intends to include more IPs in the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program as part of its commitment to reach out to remote communities where people lack access to basic social services.

“The programs of the Gobyernong may Puso promise one that listens to the voices of the Filipinos regardless of how far they are from the center or the capital,” Escudero said.

He said they will also ensure the strict enforcement of Republic Act No. 8371, or The Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1997.

“The law guarantees IPs’ right to basic social services such as social security, housing, vocational training, employment support and even complete health coverage,” Escudero pointed out.

He added: “As a vulnerable group, the IPs should be given special attention for the immediate, effective and continuing improvement of their economic and social conditions.”

Sultan Kudarat is among the 15 poorest provinces in the country, based on the 2012 study conducted by the National Statistical Coordination Board.