Human Rights and the Periphery: Righting the Deprivation of the Sama Dilaut as Indigenous Maritime Peoples in the Southern Philippines

Kriselle Marie Calica Aquino


The Sama Dilaut identify their source of homeland and identity as peoples of the sea. Despite their procedural rights guaranteed under international and domestic legal instruments, they remain in the periphery within the informal hierarchy of ethnicities, not because they are resource-poor but because they are capability- and freedom-deprived. As opposed to material deprivation, this study focuses on rights deprivation, that is, the alienation of their indigenous context and perspective in human rights interpretation and fulfillment. Using qualitative methods specifically phenomenology and key informant interviews, it first queries their lived experiences of deprivation on land, at sea, and horizontal (community) and vertical (State) levels. Second, it critically examines pathways and solutions to enjoy their rights and freedoms fully. The results focus on their concept of human rights (kapatut manusiya) and their communally-identified four significant lived deprivations vis-à-vis desired freedoms. These are related to knowledge and education (pangalaman or panghati), indigenous culture and spirituality and religious beliefs (pangaddatan and pag-omboh or pag-paybahau), traditional and diversified economic life (pag-usaha or pagkalluman), and socio-political leadership and participation (panglima or nakura). This study contributes to putting the international human rights landscape into perspective through the lens of the Sama Dilaut, who are freedom-deprived yet rich in (maritime) culture and worldview.


deprivation; indigenous maritime peoples; Sama Dilaut; sea nomads; Southern Philippines

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