By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Indigenous peoples groups sought the intervention of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) on the escalating human rights violations against indigenous peoples in the country in the ongoing meeting of the 12th Session of the UNPFII in New York, USA this May 20 to May 31.
In the intervention, Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) chairman Windel Bolinget pointed out that despite the Philippine government’s adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and other human rights treaties, the escalating human rights violations perpetrated against indigenous peoples in the country are alarming. He mentioned the continuing violations on the collective rights of indigenous peoples, which is embodied in the UNDRIP “in the name of development and for peace.” He was also representing the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan sa Pilipinas (KAMP), the national alliance of indigenous peoples in the country.
Bolinget said that the present administration of President Benigno Aquino III gave priority to foreign investments in extractive and destructive industries like mining, energy and industry projects over the rights and welfare of indigenous communities. He added that along with these destructive projects is the militarization of indigenous communities through the implementation of the present administration’s counter insurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan.
“Indigenous peoples are opposed to such projects because these will displace us from our ancestral lands and territories that is tied to our culture, and will rob us of our livelihood and natural resources. To indigenous peoples, land is life,” he said. He disclosed that military troops are deployed to indigenous communities as investment defense forces to protect the extractive industry projects and quell the resistance of indigenous peoples.
According to CPA data, Oplan Bayanihan resulted to 35 cases of extrajudicial killings of indigenous peoples and one enforced disappearance since 2010. This include the massacre of the pregnant wife and two young children of Daguil Capion on October 18, 2012 and the killing of five tribe leaders from March to October 2012 in Southern Philippines. Daguil and his wife opposed the proposed Xstrata open-pit mining operations in South Cotabato. The indigenous leaders were opposed to different corporate mining and oil palm plantation projects.
The same data show that from July 2010 to October 2012, more than a thousand families and 600 individuals had to forcibly evacuate from their villages in order to save their lives from the massive aerial and ground military operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which also resulted in economic dislocation.
In 2012, seven indigenous children below 15 years of age were killed, and two minor girls were raped by an Army official in the Cordillera. Military encampment in schools, day care centers and public facilities violates children’s rights and affects their psycho-social development, the CPA said.
Bolinget added that red baiting of indigenous leaders and activists continue. He cited the psychological and physical torture of a resident of Tinoc, Ifugao in the hands of soldiers in July 2012. In October 2012, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) received a Target List with logos of Charlie Company of the 86th Battalion of the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army. The Target List bears 28 names of civilians, including the secretary general of the CHRA Jude Baggo.
The CPA and KAMP forwarded their recommendations to the UNPFII for the Philippine government to uphold UNDRIP and fulfill its international human rights obligations; to end Oplan Bayanihan and pull out military troops from IP communities; for UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People Prof. James Anaya to visit the country and conduct investigations; to push for an effective and speedy mechanism of prosecuting and convicting perpetrators of rights violations;
The groups also called for the revocation of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and Executive Order 79 and enactment of an alternative people’s mining bill and to support the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples are considered in the peace negotiations. Northern Dispatch