DAVAO CITY -- Timuay Santos Unsad, a Teduray leader, knew Camp Omar ibn al-Khattab by heart, not as a camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), but as a site of a sacred stone that the Tedurays call "batew," a brown stone as big as a hill that never stops growing.
Unsad said the stone, an important part in the rituals of the Tedurays, now lay very close to the base of Camp Omar, one of the government-recognized camps of the MILF that is contiguous with Camp Badre, another government-recognized MILF camp along the borders of Datu Saudi, Datu Unsay, Datu Hofer and Guindulungan towns of Maguindanao province.
"It was only in 1996, when the MILF entered the area without the consent of the Tedurays," said Unsad, recalling how, in 1996, after his absence for so many years, he dropped by to visit his relatives near the Teduray ritual stone, and discovered to his surprise MILF checkpoints and how the MILF had established camps in the area.
Thumbing through the copy of a primer on the normalization annex to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, Unsad looked worried and disturbed.
"At stake here is the Tedurays' claim to the land," Unsad said.
"We want ourselves to be heard in the national level because if we keep quiet, the rights of indigenous peoples will be silenced forever inside the Bangsamoro political entity," Unsad said.