Militarization of IP Territories – Violation of the U.N. Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Northern Dispatch
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Militarization of indigenous peoples’ territories is not isolated to Mountain Province or the Cordillera region, but is happening nationwide. Beverly Longid, Katribu partylist president and first nominee, said intensive militarization of indigenous peoples’ (IPs) communities serves both for counter-insurgency and for securing the interests and properties of foreign investors. Most indigenous peoples’ lands are rich in mineral and non-mineral resources, which are frequently coveted by local and foreign economic interests.

As IPs assert their rights to their ancestral land, they are being tagged as anti-government and thus targets for military operations. IP communities are also being militarized because the government considers them as NPA rebels or sympathizers simply because they live in the hinterlands, Longid said.

Militarization not only results in human rights violations. Longid said the recruitment of natives into Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Units and other paramilitary groups fuels inter-tribal conflicts and wars. Added to this, the arming of civilians provides unrestrained power, as clearly demonstrated in the Maguindanao massacre where 57 civilians were killed all in one day by members of a civilian volunteer organization, which was used by the Ampatuan clan as a private army and which the government recruited and armed using public funds.

Because of this, Longid reiterated Katribu Partylist’s demand to stop the AFP from recruiting civilians and IPs into CAFGU and other paramilitary groups.

Militarization and economic forays into IP communities by foreign interests also often result in their dislocation, Longid said. Many members of IP communities are being forced out of their communities by bombings. Economically, their livelihood activities are adversely affected as they find it hard to seek pastures for their cows, gather firewood, harvest logs in their woodlots for house construction, and do some traditional mining because of military operations.

On top of all these, said Longid, most IP communities are difficult to access. Government and even private institutions’ services seldom reach them. Military operations further worsen it especially when blockades are being done. IPs are forced to endure periods of starvation as food fail to reach their communities.

Longid urged the government to stop militarization of IP territories to comply with its obligations to international instruments, which the government has signed. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) clearly states that the armed forces must respect Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of IPs not only with regard to government and foreign projects, but also with regard to military deployment.

Under this international humanitarian law, Longid explained bombings of civilian places and use of bombs and other inhuman military operations are prohibited. “Government and its armed forces must respect and uphold the laws which they themselves have signed.” (Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat)

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