“With the continuous mining in our communities, the indigenous women and the whole community continue to fight.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Indigenous women led by Bai Indigenous Women Network (BAI) protested at the Chino Roces Bridge (former Mendiola Bridge) on Thursday, Nov. 27 condemning rights violations committed by state security forces.
Wearing their traditional clothes, the Indigenous women of Dumagat, Igorot, Tumanduk, Ayta, and Lumad marched through Mendiola despite the rain.
They called for justice for those who were killed and victims of human rights violations as they protect their ancestral land. The women also supported the call for the ouster of President Benigno S. Aquino III who they described as a disaster to the indigenous people for permitting big foreign companies to plunder on the country’s natural resources.
The protest action is part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign in connection with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (IDEVAW). It started on Nov. 25 and ends on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.
With feet red with paint, the indigenous women performed a war dance on an illustration of Aquino. The group said the red footprints symbolized the blood of indigenous women martyrs and the continuing resistance against the killings and the violations of human rights of indigenous peoples committed by the Aquino government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“On this day, indigenous women rise for justice. We face the militarization of our communities and suffer from human rights abuses. We are impoverished and made landless because of the plunder of our ancestral lands. These are biggest forms of violence against indigenous women that should be put to an end,” Kakay Tolentino, a member of the Dumagat tribe and the national coordinator of BAI said.
Violator of indigenous women’s rights
It is the government who is the gross violator of human rights, said Tolentino. She said the Aquino government’s economic policies such as the Public-Private Partnership Program, especially in mining, energy, and other extractive industries, worsen the situation of indigenous women and their families in rural areas.
“Big businesses in our lands, most often large-scale mining, disrupt and upset the economic situation in indigenous communities. Because feeding and caring for the family fall on the shoulders of indigenous women, they are the first to be burdened by the loss of their land and livelihood,” Tolentino.
Jocelyn Agdahan, secretary general of the Tribal Indigenous Oppressed Group Association (Tindoga) said their land is where they get their food, medicines and “hardware” or construction supplies. But the government prefers to have big foreign companies plunder the natural resources in Mindanao, leaving the people poor as big companies have taken away their livelihood. Many were displaced from their communities, and worse, some have been killed for fighting for their right to ancestral lands.
“Aquino is a disaster. He should be ousted!” Agdahan said during the protest action.
Meanwhile, in the Northern part of the Philippines, Mila Singson, chairwoman of Innabuyog Gabriela, said women and children too have suffered due to the heavy militarization of communities.
Singson said in Abra province, communities in the towns of Lacub and Malibcong were bombed by the military. “With the bombings, their routines were ruined. They cannot go to their farms because they are afraid if the soldiers will see them, they will be bombed again,” Singson told Bulatlat.com.
Some soldiers also court women leaders to make them stop opposing mining companies from entering their communities. “They know that the women leaders are staunch fighters of their right to land. Some leaders who are in the forefront of the struggle are being wooed by the soldiers.”
Singson, who is from the Guinaang tribe in Kalinga province, also experienced harassment from state security forces in April for actively opposing mining in her community.
“We opposed the entry of Makilala Mining Company in our company. They used the paramilitary forces and the intelligence units of the military against me. They vilified me in the community. They threatened to bomb us – me and my relatives — if we are not going to let the mining company enter our community.”
The indigenous women have filed cases before the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) and submitted their case in the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (UNSRRIP).
“On the commemoration of International Day against the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW), we demand that any form of violence against women be stopped. Just recently Engineer Fidela Salvador was brutally killed in Lacub, Abra. She was killed for helping the peasant and the indigenous people in Lacub, Abra. We have to seek justice and we will continue to seek it for this senseless killing,” said Singson.
‘Unite and fight’
“With the continuous mining in our communities, the indigenous women and the whole community continue to fight. Those who are fighting are being killed just like Juvy Capion and her family in 2012. This is the basis why we should unite and fight for our rights,” said Anelfa Hamilo, spokesperson of Kaluhamin-Socksargen.
Capion, and her two sons were massacred allegedly by the 26th Infantry Battalion in October 2012 in Tampakan, South Cotabato.
The women’s group said that under the Aquino administration, 50 indigenous people have been killed by suspected AFP and paramilitary groups.
“Of this number six are indigenous women while seven are indigenous children.”
BAI also expressed concern over the 55 combat battalions reportedly deployed in Mindano, amounting to 46,000 to 50,000 troops. Just this Oct. 30, the group said 446 families or 2,184 individuals from 14 communities in Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur fled from their homes due to military operations.
“The militarization of Mindanao will only bring about more killings and violations of human rights among indigenous peoples and other vulnerable sectors. The Aquino administration has turned the island into a warzone, rather than pursue long-lasting peace in Mindanao,” Tolentino said.