This Policy Brief was prepared by Alim Bandara. Download the publication here. IAG is committed to the development of public policies that promote and protect the rights and welfare of vulnerable groups, especially Indigenous Peoples in conflict and fragile environments. Learn more about our Indigenous Peoples Program.
This Policy Brief is a product of the “Usapang Indigenous Peoples (IPs) sa Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM)” roundtable discussion (RTD) series conducted by the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) in partnership with the Office of MP Romeo Saliga, involving IP leaders and other stakeholders and interest groups, from August to November 2019. The discussions included narratives, analysis of gaps and opportunities, and recommendations for moving forward the IP agenda in the Bangsamoro Parliament.
To begin with, the IP agenda in the GPH-MILF Peace Negotiations, and now in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), is a continuing narrative of assertion of rights both at the policy level and in the actual implementation of laws and agreements affecting the indigenous peoples. The core issue in this struggle is for the recognition, respect, protection, promotion and support of the state (BARMM) to the rights of IPs to their ancestral domains, customary laws and self-governance structures in addition to their civil and political rights as citizens of the BARMM and the Philippines, in general.
Since there are existing laws in the Philippines, both regional and national, and including declarations and charters in the international level recognizing the rights of IPs, the central message of IP peace campaigns and advocacy work in crafting the then Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was the “full inclusion of IP Rights in the Bangsamoro”. On the other hand, the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and now Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) is a product of the peace negotiations between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Philippines (GPH) to resolve the Mindanao conflict. At first glance, it appears that assertion of IP rights is a misplaced agenda in the GPH-MILF peace talks, but when going into the details, the IP peace agenda is an unavoidable issue to be addressed due to the presence of IPs and their territories in conflict areas affected by the GPH-MILF wars and the peace processes.
The contentious issues in this struggle include identity, ancestral domains and the recognition and application of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) in the Bangsamoro. Had there been no law for IPs before the crafting of the BOL, the IP debates could have been different today.
Recognition of IPRA in the BOL is a victory for the Non-Moro IPs in their lobby at the House of Representatives and Senate and not at the Bangsamoro Transition Committee (BTC) draft. It is now clearly stated in Sec. 3 par. 4 , Art. IX of BOL that, “This Organic Law shall not in any manner diminish the rights and benefits of the non-Moro indigenous peoples in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region under the Constitution, national laws, particularly Republic Act No. 8371, otherwise known as the “Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997.” Therefore, the minimum standard for the enabling law to be crafted by the Bangsamoro Parliament for the Non-Moro IPs in the BARMM is the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) to ensure non-diminution of rights already recognized by the state.
Furthermore, the ultimate goal of the GPH and MILF in their peace talks is to end the Mindanao conflict and to correct the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro to include the non-Moro IPs.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE RTD SERIES
First Usapang IP sa Bangsamoro RTD
The first “Usapang IP sa Bangsamoro” was on August 30, 2019 at the IAG Conference Hall in Cotabato City. At the outset, it was emphasized by IAG Executive Director Atty. Benedicto Bacani in his opening message that the continuing IP assertion of their rights in the Bangsamoro reflects the aspiration for an inclusive society and that the Non-Moro IPs could very well be the “symbol of inclusivity” in the BARMM.
IP Ad Hoc Committee
One of the issues highlighted in the first session was the establishment of ad hoc committees in the Bangsamoro Parliament where the major committees are being chaired by the Ministers. For the Indigenous Peoples, it is chaired by the Hon. Minister Melanio U. Ulama, a Teduray member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) under the MILF, while Hon. Romeo C. Saliga, also a Teduray member of the BTA under the GPH is member of the IP Ad Hoc Committee tasked to draft the IP Code. It was noted that IPs’ participation in crafting the bills should not only focus on the IP code but to all bills affecting the Non-Moro IPs.
Drafting the IP Code
The first draft of the IP Code labeled as Peoples Bill is entitled “AN ACT TO RECOGNIZE, RESPECT, PROTECT, PROMOTE, AND SUPPORT THE RIGHTS OF NON-MORO INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, CREATING THE MINISTRY FOR NON-MORO INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, ESTABLISHING THE IMPLEMENTING MECHANISMS, APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFOR, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES” is from the Teduray and Lambangian community initiated by the IPS (Timuay Justice and Governance) and the Organization of Teduray and Lambangian Conference (OTLAC), a multi-sectoral Indigenous Peoples Organization of the Teduray and Lambangian in Central Mindanao through workshops conducted by a Technical Working Group (TWG) organized by TJG and OTLAC for this purpose. The final draft was submitted to Hon. Romeo C. Saliga for reference.
The salient points in MP Saliga’s draft IP Code are the Title; then Chapter I on General Provisions; the definition of terms under Chapter II; the rights to ancestral domains or fusaka inged in Chapter III; rights to self-governance and empowerment in Chapter IV; traditional or Tribal Justice System in Chapter V; Social Justice and Human Rights in Chapter VI; cultural integrity and identity as Non-Moro IP (NMIP) in Chapter VII; the Ministry for Non-Moro IP in Chapter VIII; delineation and recognition of ancestral domains in Chapter IX; jurisdiction and procedure for enforcement of NMIP rights in Chapter X; ancestral domains fund in Chapter XI; penalties in Chapter XII; Inter-Governmental Relations (IGR) in Chapter XIII; and, final provisions in Chapter XIV with a total of 91 sections.
The Legal Team of Hon. Saliga reviewed the draft code and subjected it to a wider consultation before it was finalized and shared a copy to the Hon. Minister Melanio Ulama for his information and reference. On the other-hand, Minister Ulama also drafted his own version of the IP Code entitled “AN ACT TO RECOGNIZE, PROTECT, PROMOTE, AND PRESERVE THE RIGHTS OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES IN THE BANGSAMORO AUTONOMOUS REGION IN MUSLIM MINDANAO” and shared it too to MP Romeo Saliga for reference.
The Ulama IP Code draft meanwhile is outlined as follows: Section 1, title; Section 2, coverage; Section 3, declaration of policy; Section 4, recognition of rights; Section 5 is self-governance; Section 6 is relationship with barangay officials; Section 7 is establishment of tribal halls; Section 8 is resolution of conflicts; primacy of customary laws and practices; Section 9 is tribal courts/justice system; Section 10 is coordination/recognition by law enforcement agencies; Section 11 is recognition of IP holiday; and, Sections 12 to 15 are saving clause, separability clause, repealing clause and effectivity clause, respectively.
In an effort to harmonize the two (2) versions of the IP Code, the legal team of Minister Ulama and MP Saliga met on July 25, 2019 at the Al Nor Hotel, Cotabato City to discuss the two versions of the IP Code and come up with one harmonized version to be used in subsequent consultations. The unresolved issues like the use of the term “Non-Moro” in the title and in other provisions of the code, among others, were agreed to be left to the ad hoc body and to Parliament to resolve. Then on July 26-28, 2019, a workshop was jointly conducted by Minister Melanio Ulama of MIPA and MP Romeo Saliga at the Queen Bee Restaurant, Al Nor Hotel, Cotabato City where the harmonized version of the draft code was presented. However, no official copy of the draft IP code is circulated by MIPA until now (December 2019).
Establishment of a strong political party
It was also noted that the two (2) IP representatives in the BTA are not enough, because in the Parliament, it’s a numbers game. Atty. Bacani again emphasized that there is really a need to establish a strong IP political party. Particularly mentioned is the IP Democratic Party (IPDP), a political party initiated by Non-Moro IPs in Maguindanao with the hope that it will be registered and can participate in the 2022 BARMM regular elections. This will open the possibility for IPs to increase their seats in the Parliament from the two reserved seats prescribed by the BOL.
Engagement with NCIP
Another very important highlight in the first session was the engagement of the IP leaders with the NCIP Commissioners during the En Banc meeting in Davao City and Koronadal City, South Cotabato last August 23 and 28, 2019, respectively. Issues presented to the en banc meeting were about the fast-tracking of the Teduray and Lambangian ancestral domain delineation; the issues and concerns on the two (2) major MILF camps within the Teduray and Lambangian ancestral domain; the four (4) Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) within the ancestral domain and mechanisms on the Inter-Governmental Relations (IGR) between NCIP and MIPA.
There are other issues that are worrisome to IPs communities like the continuing recruitment of IPs as member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) in some barangays of Upi; the establishment of new MILF satellite camps within the Teduray Lambangian ancestral domain that resulted to many issues of land conflicts and killings of IP leaders. TLADC record shows that in the first year of BOL (July 2018-July 2019), there were eleven (11) murdered IPs in Maguindanao related to land issues.
Second Usapang IP sa Bangsamoro RTD
The second RTD took place on October 9, 2019 in Cotabato City. Fr Eliseo Mercado Jr., Senior Policy Adviser of IAG, noted the ongoing assertion of IPs with the Constitution as their benchmark and the importance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the IPRA as landmark legislations for the recognition of IP rights in the country, both of which are a product of legal battle.
MP Romeo Saliga for his part provided updates on the BTA-proposed Resolution 104 which was adopted as Resolution No. 38 known as “Resolution Protesting the Delineation process in Maguindanao province urging the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to Cease and Desist the delineation process and the proceeding for the issuance of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title in the province of Maguindanao, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao”.
Prior to the adoption of Resolution 104/38, MP Saliga proposed that NCIP officials and representatives from the claimant organization be invited to present their own views on the issue but failed. Aside from this, there was already a discussion between NCIP Executive Director Jing Bantayan and NCIP 12 Regional Director Jeanne Anne Zoilo with Minister Melanio Ulama on July 26, 2019 at the Al Nor Hotel in Cotabato City for NCIP to write a letter to the Interim Chief Minister, Al Hadj Murad Ebrahim, thru the office of Minister Ulama, requesting the Chief Minister for a meeting on the issue of land possession among Non-Moro IPs in the BARMM.
Meanwhile, Atty. Leonor Quintayo, legal consultant of MP Romeo Saliga, said she is confident that NCIP Chairman Allen Capuyan will act on the matter.
Salient points of Resolution 104/38
In Atty. Quintayo’s opinion, the following are the salient points of Resolution 104/38:
Limitation under BOL among others:
Section 3 Art IX par 3;
“any measure enacted by the Parliament shall in no way diminish the rights and privileges granted to indigenous peoples by virtue of the UNDRIP and the UNDHR , and other laws pertaining to indigenous peoples in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Regions”
Clearly, Resolution 104 has the effect of diminishing the Rights of the non-Moro IPs in the BARMM in violation of Sec. 3 of Art. IX of the BOL itself.
Section 4 Article XVI 0f the BOL- functions and priorities of the BTA
“...a) Enactment of priority legislations…enact a law to recognize, protect, promote and preserve the rights of the IPs in the BARMM. UNTIL THE LAW IS ENACTED SUBSISTING REGIONAL LAWS on IPs in the Bangsamoro shall be operational.
Resolution 104/38 was issued without ready alternative or mechanism to process recognition and protection of ancestral domain of the IPs.
These are Atty. Quintayo’s recommendations:
- For NCIP to take a stand vis-à-vis the protest/CDO;
- Raise the matter before the Intergovernmental Relations Body;
- Strengthen Collaboration , cooperation , coordination between MIPA and NCIP to promote (not prejudice) IP rights.
Regarding the current community issues and concerns raised in the session, the expansion of MILF camps within the different parts of the ancestral domain areas and movement of armed MILF and Bangsamoro civilians to IP areas claiming ownership of the lands are becoming very alarming this time. These were raised to OPAPP for clarification if these movements are part of the normalization and decommissioning processes, but no answer yet as of October 9, 2019.
Third Usapang IP sa Bangsamoro RTD
The center of discussion in this RTD is BTA Resolution 104/38 for NCIP to Cease and Desist in the TLADC delineation and CADT processing in Maguindanao province. This resolution is met with different reactions from the community especially after several radio interviews of Minister Melanio Ulama of MIPA and Parliament Majority Floor Leader Hon. Lanang Ali, Jr. saying that 80 percent of Maguindanao are claimed by the Teduray and Lambangian. This information created tensions in the social media from both the Moro and Non-Moro IPs.
According to TLADC head claimant Alim Bandara, a letter was sent to Minister Ulama on October 15, 2019 by Non-Moro IP leaders seeking for an audience to be clarified on the impact and effect of Resolution 38 to the IP communities and for the Hon. Minister Ulama to also be clarified on the actions taken by the IPs. This was followed by a separate letter to Majority Floor Leader Atty. Lanang Ali Jr. dated October 28, 2019 seeking his assistance to facilitate a dialogue with Minister Ulama but there was no response as of October 30, 2019.
However, in MP Saliga’s update, there is a resolution to create a mechanism for the BTA to dialogue with NCIP, MIPA, Ministry on Interior and Local Government (MILG), OPAPP and IP Leaders and Ancestral Domain Claimants, but there is no timeframe yet as of October 30, 2019. NCIP Commissioner Era España of Central Mindanao Ethnographic Region, however, said she is very positive that NCIP National Chairman Allen Capuyan will be willing to convene a national roundtable discussion on intergovernmental relations and the role of MIPA and NCIP as a way forward to resolve the problem.
MP Saliga emphasized the importance of finalizing the draft IP Code which is now at the Office of Minister Ulama. However, MP Saliga is worried because the drafting of the priority bills is being transferred to the statutory body where he is not a member. He added that he authored several resolutions, re: IP holiday in BARMM; Recognition and respect to traditional boundary pacts or agreements among Moro and Non-Moro, and non-selling of the ancestral lands but are still pending in the Bangsamoro Parliament for deliberation. He stressed that the provisions of the BOL are really for the protection of IP rights in the BARMM and this should be manifested in the enabling laws and resolutions to be passed by the Parliament.
Alim Bandara, head claimant of the Teduray and Lambangian ancestral domains, also clarified during the RTD that it is not true that the Teduray and Lambangian are claiming 80 percent of Maguindanao province. The truth is only 80 percent of the original fusaka inged of the Teduray and Lambangian are left to them now, and within that 80 percent, almost 50 percent are now occupied and titled to Non-IPs (either Moro or migrant settlers from Luzon and the Visayas). These are important information to be given to the members of Parliament for their reference. In addition, ancestral domain claim is not based on the political boundaries but is based on the native title concept or fusaka inged, a pre-conquest rights of the IPs recognized by law.
However, the final say for Resolution No. 38 is NCIP according to Alim Bandara. It is addressed to them so they should have to respond the soonest possible time. The IPs are just waiting and are very supportive to both the NCIP and BARMM in resolving the issue.
Fourth Usapang IP sa Bangsamoro
The two major discussion points in the fourth IP in the Bangsamoro RTD were the BTA and MIPA Budget by MP Romeo C. Saliga and an input on lobbying and advocacy with Fr Eliseo Mercado Jr as resource person.
According to MP Saliga, the BTA approved budget for 2020 is P65,663,947,977.59. Of that amount, P99,635,217.70 is the budget allocation for the MIPA.
The breakdown of MIPA budget is the following:
When asked about the basis of MIPA budgeting, there was no clear answer from MP Saliga. In the first place, he was not consulted in the budgeting of MIPA and participated only in the plenary debate, other than the fact that there is no approved administrative code yet for the BARMM. On the question whether MIPA budget is enough or not, there were varying responses, re: not enough because there is no allotment for legal assistance; support for the Indigenous Political Structures (IPS) and supposedly enough budget for scholarships. On the other hand, TJG Titay Bleyen (Assistant to the Timuay Labi) Santos Unsad raised the issue on the absorptive capacity of MIPA. He suggested that this should also be looked into if the office through its personnel can deliver the services as budgeted.
Another unanswered questions were related to who will approve the BTA-approved budget. Is it Malacanang? Department of Budget and Management? Or similar to ARMM that the BARMM leadership will request it through Congress?
BTA Resolution No. 38 revisited
Sec 3 par 4 , Art. IX of BOL states that “This organic Law shall not in any manner diminish the rights and benefits of the non-Moro indigenous peoples in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region under the Constitution, national laws, particularly Republic Act No. 8371, otherwise known as the ‘Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997’”. This contradicts with BTA Resolution No. 38. The same is true with IPRA as a settled issue in the BOL, including a brief discussion on a jurisprudence which states that “in case of conflict between National Laws and Special Laws or Laws of Local Application, the former shall prevail”. A quick revisit to BTA Resolution No. 38 gave the Non-Moro IPs high moral ground to keep on guarding and protecting their rights.
Fr Eliseo Mercado Jr emphasized the importance of having a good lobby and advocacy work to popularize the positions of non-Moro IPs in every issue affecting them. This includes lobby work at the corridors of powers like the Office of the President, Congress, BTA/Parliament, the Interim Chief Minister, CBCP-ECIP and others. The effective use of social media and mainstream media and networking with CSOs, academe and business sector are also effective ways to influence the decision makers.
Abolition of the ad hoc Committees and the statutory body in play
The abolition of the IP ad hoc Committees, including the transfer of the drafting of the IP code to the statutory body, is an unwelcome development for the Non-Moro IPs. The concerns of different IP leaders is, first, there is already a harmonized draft IP Code at the Office of Minister Melanio Ulama. It is feared that the harmonized version will not be considered in whole given the attitude of Minister Ulama towards the draft IP code and his seeming hesitance to convene the two (2) legal teams (Ulama and Saliga legal teams) since July 2019 until the abolition of the ad hoc committees in August 2019.
BTA Resolution No. 38
The coming out of BTA Resolution No. 38 otherwise known as “Resolution Protesting the Delineation process in Maguindanao province urging the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to Cease and Desist the delineation process and the proceeding for the issuance of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title in the province of Maguindanao, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao” is a big surprise to many Non-Moro IP leaders, especially the Teduray and Lambangian in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces. The said resolution was adopted on September 25, 2019 amidst the many cases of unresolved killings of IP leaders due to land conflicts within the ancestral domain claim areas of the Teduray and Lambangian in Maguindanao. Moreover, the Teduray and Lambangian survey returns is currently under review at the NCIP Ancestral Domains Office (ADO) in Manila since September 2, 2019.
The Teduray and Lambangian Delineation Process by NCIP started last January 2014 through NCIP En Banc Resolution No. 06-001-2014 or “Resolution to address the condition of the Teduray, Lambangian and Dulangan Manobo for the recognition and protection of their rights the ancestral domains”. There was no BOL yet at that time.
The process is governed by the 2012 NCIP Omnibus Rules on Titling and Delineation with the Regional Legislative Assembly Resolution adopting IPRA in the ARMM, so there is no legal impediment.
Clearly, Resolution No. 38 has the effect of diminishing the Rights of the non-Moro IPs in the BARMM in violation of Sec. 3 of Art. IX of the BOL itself. It was issued without any ready alternative or mechanism to process the recognition and protection of ancestral domain of the IPs in the BARMM.
Continuing BIAF recruitment and establishment of satellite camps in IP territories
There are reports of BIAF recruitment in barangays Rempes and Rifao and the establishment of satellite camps, also in the same barangays. Mayor Ramon A. Piang Sr. of Upi, however, is doing his best to stop said recruitment by calling the attention of concerned barangay officials and the involved individuals.
IP leaders’ dialogue with the Bangsamoro Chief Minister
One of the most proposed recommendations in the RTD series that has yet to be realized is a dialogue with Chief Minister Murad Ebrahim and the MILF leadership. Attempts that were made through Minister Ulama for such a meeting have all failed so far.
Enabling laws for the IP provisions in the BOL
The crafting of the enabling law for the IP provisions in the BOL is an opportunity for the BTA to prove that BARMM is really inclusive. The end result is again an opportunity for the Non-Moro IPs to fully participate and support the affairs of the BARMM.
Now that the drafting of priority bills are under the statutory body where Minister Melanio Ulama is a member, he can take this opportunity to finalize the draft and submit it to the Parliament without delay.
Completion of the TLADC delineation
Furthermore, the completion of the TLADC delineation prior to the legislation of the IP Code is another opportunity for both the MIPA and the Teduray and Lambangian because the MIPA can focus on the development aspect of the Teduray and Lambangian fusaka inged (ancestral domains) if the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) is awarded with his support.
Intergovernmental Relations (IGR)
As early as July 26, 2019, there was already a discussion between Minister Ulama and NCIP Executive Director Jing Bantayan on the issue of IGR to resolve the issue on land possessions of the Non-Moro IPs in the BARMM. The same issue was raised by the Non-Moro IP delegation to the NCIP En Banc meeting on August 23, 2019 and August 28, 2019 in Davao City and Koronadal City, respectively. Furthermore, during MIPA’s ancestral domain assessment and evaluation on September 19, 2019 in Nuro, Upi, Maguindanao the same recommendation was forwarded by TLADC Head Claimant Alim Bandara to Minister Ulama.
Now that there is really a need to link to other agencies of government in order to fast track the services to the people, the creation of the mechanisms on the IGR is an opportunity not only for the IPs but for all the Bangsamoro constituents.
The Statutory Body
Despite all doubts about the attitude of Minister Ulama towards the harmonized version of the IP Code, the statutory body can still be an opportunity for the Non-Moro IPs in crafting the IP code especially so that MP Saliga is also a member. According to MP Saliga, the reason why the BTA transferred the drafting of priority bills from the ad hoc committees to the statutory body is to fast track the priority bills and submit it with no delays before December 2019.
Given the current status of the draft IP code, it is not difficult for the statutory body with Minister Ulama and MP Saliga and their legal teams to finalize the draft. This is a big opportunity for the statutory body to shorten their work and an opportunity for the IPs to give more inputs to the proposed bill.
On IP Code
There are two tracks forward for the IP Code:
- For MP Saliga to finalize his original version of the IP Code and submit it as a separate bill from that of Minister Ulama’s, and
- Push for the completion of the draft IP Code pending at the office of Hon. Minister Melanio Ulama.
On Resolution No. 38
- For NCIP to take a stand vis-à-vis the protest/Cease and Desist Order,
- Raise the matter before the IGR Body, and
- Strengthen collaboration, cooperation, coordination between MIPA and NCIP to promote (not prejudice) IP rights;
- For the non-Moro IPs to prepare a Legal Brief.
Completion of TLADC delineation during the transition period
- For the NCIP to approve and validate the TLADC survey returns now at the Ancestral Domains Office (ADO) in Manila, and
- Establish the IGR mechanisms between NCIP and MIPA for the awarding of CADT. Further delay in the delineation and recognition of the IPs ancestral domain is not conducive to unity, peace and justice.
Dialogue with Interim Chief Minister Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and the MILF leadership
- Coordinate the initiative of Hon. Mayor Ramon Piang Sr. of Upi and other facilitating groups (MIPA, NCIP 12, IAG, MP Saliga) for the realization of the proposed IP dialogue with the Chief Minister and MILF leadership.
Support of IAG to facilitate RTD on the IGR
- For IAG in partnership with NCIP national office to support and facilitate a roundtable discussion to be attended by ADC claimants, BTA, DILG, OPAPP and MIPA on the IGR for the Indigenous Peoples.
- To create the Non-Moro IP Panel or Team to participate in the normalization process affecting IP communities.
Lobby and Advocacy
- Build strong constituency on IP rights;
- Presence in the corridors of power by doing lobby and advocacy work; and
- Strengthen collaboration, cooperation, coordination among civil society organizations and between MIPA and NCIP to promote IP rights.
Official title of MP Romeo Saliga’s draft IP Code
 Minister Melanio Ulama’s draft IP Code
 Native Title (inged) - refers to pre-conquest rights to lands and domains which, as far back as memory reaches, have been held under a claim of private ownership by ICCs/IPs, have never been public lands and are thus indisputably presumed to have been held that way since before the Spanish Conquest.