By LYN V. RAMO
MANILA — The European Union through its Manila office, the Delegation of the European Union in the Philippines, and Dinteg, the Cordillera Indigenous Peoples’ Legal Rights Center, recently launched a five-year project that will enhance the capacity of indigenous peoples for a more consolidated political participation and representation in development.
“This project will upgrade the capacity of ten indigenous peoples in the Philippines to monitor human rights violations inflicted against their communities and their persons in the course of pursuing so-called development projects in their territories,” Rhoda Dalang, project coordinator, said. Dalang is a Kankanaey of Mountain Province in the Cordillera region.
Dinteg, an Igorot term translated literally as law, has been advancing indigenous peoples’ rights since 1994. With a group of Igorot lawyers, anthropologists and activists in its core, Dinteg offers assistance in legal and policy research; public advocacy; education and training; legal aid; and solidarity campaigns.
Its track record dating back to the times when the Philippine counter-insurgency program Oplan Lambat Bitag was inflicting various forms of human rights violations against the Cordillera peoples in the 1990s, Dinteg found it fit to enable communities now experiencing similar difficulties with Opan Bantay Laya (OBL) 1 & 2 under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“The situation has never improved even with the new administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III,” said Joseph Torafing, Jr. Dinteg’s administrative officer. He cited the spate of extra-judicial killings during the first few days of the Aquino government. OBL has lapsed technically on June 30, when Arroyo stepped down from Malacañang.
Torafing is from the Sadanga tribe of Mountain Province.
Counterinsurgency Program as a Backdrop
In the forum on the occasion of the World Indigenous Peoples’ Day at the University of the Philippines on August 9, Joan Jaime, national coordinator of the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp) cited the summary execution of three Dumagat tribesmen from Rodriguez, formerly Montalban, in Rizal Province on July 19.
A report from Central Luzon also mentioned that an Aeta leader was missing as of August 8, at the height of the Kamp and Katribu partylist national council of leaders’ meetings.
Lumad representatives from Mindanao talked about fake datus being introduced to the communities by transnational companies seeking the indigenous peoples’ free, prior, informed consent (FPIC).
“These are all in the context of utilizing the rich resource base within the traditional ancestral domain of indigenous peoples with the military doing counter-insurgency operations as a backdrop,” said Torafing.
IP Territories as Resource Base
Several active mining operations are in the territories of Cordillera Igorot peoples. Three of the most profitable mining ventures are in Benguet, while several mining applications are in five other provinces of the Cordillera.
The Agno River, which finds its headwaters in Mt. Data at the Benguet-Mountain Province border, has been dammed three times for hydro-electric power, now being harnessed by private companies SN-Aboitiz Power (SNAP) and San Roque Power Corporation (SRPC).
Big road and infrastructure projects displace Aeta communities in Zambales, Pampanga and Tarlac in Central Luzon, according to Nelson Mallari of Kamp in an earlier interview.
Despite IPRA and UNDRIP
Mindanao Lumads have similar stories of rights violations as so-called development projects encroach into their territories and in the course of obtaining the FPIC as prescribed in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and as provided for in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The Philippines is a signatory to the said international policy.