The indigenous peoples are composed of a number of tribes found in various parts of the archipelago, mostly in the hinterlands, where they are closest to nature. On account of centuries-long isolation, they have generally fallen behind the mainstream population in terms of socio-economic development because of massive exploitation of discriminatory laws and development has become a special concern of the government.
During the American regime, these particular groups Filipinos were referred to as “non-Christian tribes” and the colonial government sought there integration into the main body politics. A special government body known as the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes was created for the purposes. This was afterwards replaced by the Office of the Commissioner for Mindanao and Sulu when the Commonwealth government was established.
After the grant of Philippine independence in 1946, the Congress then in place, cognizant of the need to speed-up the development of these communities and hasten their integration with the mainstream population, created the Commission on National Integration (CNI) by virtue of Republic Act No. 1888. The Commission existed for about ten (10) years and was able to make some significant gains in its bid to attain its objectives before its functions, in so far as non-Muslim minorities (PANAMIN), an agency created under P.D. 719. The CNI continued to operate for some time but only for the Muslim communities. Not long thereafter, its remaining functions were absorbed by the Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA) and later, by the Ministry of Muslim Affairs (MMA).
The PANAMIN pursued the same policy if integration with respect to the non-Muslim tribes until it was itself abolished in 1984. It was supplanted by the Office of Muslim tribes until it was itself abolished in 1984. It was supplanted by the Office of Muslim Affairs and Cultural Communities (OMACC) which was created by virtue of Executive Order No. 969. The OMACC was structured after the CNI. It had both Muslim and non-Muslim communities as its clientele. But again this office was not to last long because following the 1986 February Revolution, the agency was among those abolished during the government reorganization.
In its stead three (3) distinct offices, all attached to the Office of the President were created, namely the Office on Muslim Affairs (OMA), the Office for Northern Cultural Communities (ONCC) and the Office for Southern Cultural Communities (OSCC). These offices were created by virtue of Executive Orders 122-A, 122-B and 122-C respectively.
The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was created in 1989 pursuant to R.A. 6743, otherwise known as the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Consequently, in 1991, Executive Order 462 was signed and approved, devolving some powers and functions of the Office for Southern Cultural Communities to the Autonomous Regional Government of the ARMM and creating the Office for Southern Cultural Communities of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OSCC-ARMM).
The office is operating until now with a meager budget and few personnel complement covering the five (5) component island provinces of the autonomous region under a poor management strategy.
In 1997, R.A. 8371 was signed into law creating the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and in effect merged the ONCC and OSCC to form the organic offices of the Commission. Its mandate is primarily to protect and promote the interest and well-being of the indigenous peoples with due regard to their beliefs, customs, traditions and institution. As such, it shall serve as the primary government agency responsible for the formulation and implementation of pertinent and appropriate policies, plans and programs to carry out the policies set forth in the new law.
In ARMM, OSCC-ARMM is still existing and operating without strong mandate to protect and promote the rights of the indigenous and tribal peoples in ARMM.
In August 15, 2003, the Regional Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (RLA-ARMM) has adopted R.A. 8371 as the legal framework to recognize and protect the rights of the indigenous cultural minority in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
In October 29, 2003, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been forged by and between the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the Autonomous Regional Government of the ARMM to established mechanisms for the creation of NCIP-ARMM.
Consequently, a Joint Technical Working Group was created to draft the Executive Order for the creation of NCIP-ARMM. Eventually, and Executive Order was drafted in December 2003 and was submitted to the President for signing and approval.
Apparently, the draft Executive Order is under evaluation and review by the National Technical Working Group of the Oversight Committee.