Indigenous Peoples Deliver Agenda to President Aquino

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MANILA — There’s another curious house call for the President.

A group of indigenous peoples from different parts of the country, dressed in their traditional garb of g-strings and colorful headgear attempted to enter Malacañang Palace today to give President Benigno Aquino III the Indigenous Peoples’ (IP) Agenda, a list of demands of the indigenous peoples sector.

“The IP Agenda is neither a suggestion nor a request,” Piya Malayao, Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp) spokesperson said. “This is the inalienable demand of indigenous peoples, which we struggled for for decades.”

The IP Agenda was formulated by Kamp’s member organizations around the country, summing up the indigenous populations urgent demands to the Aquino presidency.

“The struggle of indigenous peoples is for the genuine recognition of their rights to their ancestral territories and to self-determination,” Malayao explained. “Their collective rights to own, use, and manage resources found therein is the main source of oppression especially during the Arroyo administration.”

The Arroyo administration has sold off vast tracts of mineral lands to foreign transnational corporations, most of them ancestral lands of indigenous communities. According to Kamp, mining is the largest cause of distress among indigenous peoples in the Philippines.

However, human rights issues are becoming more urgent according to Kamp.

“Weeks into the Aquino administration, human rights issues are surfacing,” Malayao said. “In the indigenous peoples sector alone, we have a political prisoner, 3 extrajudicial killings, and internal refugees.”

Three Katribu Partylist members were gunned down last February 19 in Montalban, Rizal, while another member of the partylist group was charged with an allegedly false case in Tanay. Several from Montalban were also forced to leave their homes after being harassed by military members. All victims are from the indigenous Dumagat tribe.

Kamp believes that Aquino’s non-reaction over human rights issues may indicate the killings will not end. “If he does not abandon Oplan Bantay Laya, he will walk behind Arroyo’s path.” Malayao said. (Northern Dispatch/Posted by Bulatlat)

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