“Stolen valor” is a violation of the law in the US and the UK brought about by a false claim of military service, awards and decoration specifically to get money, property or even sympathy by making the false claim. It’s a relatively easy thing to get away with, given that most would assume truth and good intentions when someone makes a declaration like this.
Sadly, we are now seeing increasing cases where individuals claim to be a part of a certain group or sector, just so that they can reap the reflexive empathy that accompanies an association with them. Even more deplorable is the fact that Indigenous Peoples (IP) appear to be a common target of this modus. I learned from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) that their offices frequently need to verify claims of ethnicity – and yes, sometimes even tribal leadership or royal ancestry – put forth by people with agendas that are very much opposed to indigenous rights.
At present, there is a situation in Quezon, Bukidnon, where people claiming to be members of the Manobo-Pulangihon tribe are camping out beside one of the pillars of Quezon’s community: a simple cow farm or “bakahan” that is considered an economic driver of its municipality. These people in the makeshift shanties claim they were unceremoniously driven out from their ancestral homes near the river on the bakahan’s property and are unable to live anywhere else.
They have built lean-tos and hutches by the roadside, take forlorn and pensive photos for the press and researchers of local (and especially international) publications and, as an insider close to the issue says, tie their children to trees. They do this, so the source says, because they know it turns regular old squatting into newsworthy coverage. To this point, they are most certainly correct.
It would make for a heartbreaking yet terribly compelling photo to see children as young as five being tied to trees, cheeks stained with tears, mouths wide shouting their protests, indifferent parents’ faces caught in the flash as they continue to strap their children down as night falls upon the otherwise idyllic Bukidnon landscape. In fact, quite a few human rights reports have those photos emblazoned across the covers, or any other poverty porn variation thereof.
The non-government groups know those photos attract attention – and it is believed by many close to the issue that their children know well enough not to run into the road, especially at night. To circle back to the previous point, however, who in their right minds would call out an “indigenous person” of trying to land grab, using sensationalist stunts and unfair rhetoric to make their point? This would surely lead to much derision for the person asserting this view.
Nevertheless, there is still very pervasive (albeit hushed) talk that this is actually a large-scale land scam, being done by IP imposters, and backed by financiers who wish to claim the Kiantig property where the imposters are camped along the perimeter walls. It also bears mentioning that none of those in the encampment have ever even stepped foot onto their so-called “ancestral property,” as it has been solely occupied for literally a century by the Fortich family, who are descendants of the original owner of the land.
Made up mostly of Dumagats and Visayans, sources say that those in prolonged protest claiming to be IPs are in fact “victims for hire,” designed to elicit sympathy. Allegedly, they have been promised cash and housing if they can succeed in this campaign. Who hired them? Anyone who wants the 900 hectares that the bakahan is sitting on, with the money to sustain a group of professional land grabbers – but not enough money to buy the land above board.
Reports and broadcasts have noted 11 different groups claiming to be rightful heirs to the property, all with conflicting takes on the matter.
There is definitely something rotten at the very core of someone thought to impersonate an indigenous person, one of the most marginalized and disadvantaged sectors of society, just to earn a quick buck. I hope the NCIP and the IPMR can look into this, and pray that their officials immediately file appropriate cases in the event that any of their personnel are involved.
Credit belongs to : www.philstar.com