By: CMFR Staff
Posted on: September 20, 2023, 9:26 am
CHEERS TO Philippine Daily Inquirer for a report that opens up the world of Indigenous communities in Zamboanga province, describing the work of a dedicated Filipino to enable his community to live more fully with official documentation of their birth.
What's the Story?
Anyone living in urban areas may take for granted the relative ease of applying for school, work, and access to public services and benefits and collecting the official documents required. But Indigenous communities are confronted by barriers in accessing critical social services. Among the most basic is the lack of official documentation or civil registration of their birth. In the case of Zamboanga, geographical distance, poverty, war, and displacement pose significant challenges.
Julie Alipala's September 10 report introduces Jaafar Kimpa, a 70-year-old who retired from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and began his Kataranggan sin Paggunting (Tausug for baptismal certificate) project in 2006. A member of the organization called the Interreligious Solidarity Movement for Peace, he realized that poor and young Muslim Filipinos have been denied academic scholarships because of the lack of birth certificates, a basic documentary requirement to prove the identity of a prospective scholarship applicant.
Actually, the lack of a birth certificate prevents any individual from proceeding to live as a citizen, with rights and privileges, along with responsibilities; keeping them from participating as adults in society.
Kimpa begins the long process of preparing the Tausug equivalent of a baptismal certificate; collecting the personal details of the newborn at the paggunting, an Islamic rite that gives the child a name. After attending the baptismal rite, Kimpa interviews the parents, makes five copies of the document on his typewriter and delivers the copies to the families to be signed. The documents then go to the village's religious leader or imam for authentication. Finally, Kimpa then delivers one copy each to the family, the civil registrar, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, and the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos. He keeps the last copy for his own files.
For over 17 years, Kimpa has facilitated the registration of nearly ten thousand individuals in Zamboanga City.
What the Report Got Right
Indigenous communities are hardly seen in the news unless they are victims of disaster, the casualties of war, caught in the crossfires of conflict between the military and insurgents. They are vulnerable in so many ways, just because they are on the margins without the means to hold off more powerful forces around them.
This report takes a novel approach as it gets into the ordinary lives and needs of the Tausug community, discussing an aspect of how set apart they are from the mainstream of national life.
Alipala used photographs to illustrate the detailed description of the process which Kimpa must undertake in order to produce the document of birth. She interviewed various individuals to show the larger community into which the children are born, quoting family members relatives, legal professionals, and civic groups who testify to the integrity of Kimpa's work.
Christopher Ignacio, a lawyer, described Kimpa's work as "saving" undocumented Muslims "from the atrocities of civil nonexistence and the barbarities of statelessness." Eric Elias, the city civil registrar, has collaborated with Kimpa and welcomes his work.
Why is this Important?
Kimpa's commitment inspires, but the story stops short of blaming government's inattention and its failure to open up the process to ease the inclusion of the marginalized in its procedures so they can be part of the larger society and the national community.
The story shows how media can be more inclusive in its coverage, opening the news agenda to the stories of how marginalized Filipinos are left out and consequently deprived of their rights and benefits. The failure makes ironic the advancement of communication technology and the broad reach of information facilities that government and media can use to ensure that no Filipino is ever left out.