“With 31 reported killings in 2015, the Philippines has one of the worst track records in the killing of human rights defenders (HRD) worldwide.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – A church-based agency from Germany has brought the issue of Lumad killings before the 31st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva Switzerland, human rights group Karapatan said in a statement.
“With 31 reported killings in 2015, the Philippines has one of the worst track records in the killing of human rights defenders (HRD) worldwide,” Bread for the World said in its statement during the interactive dialogue with Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders last March 4, 2016.
Bread for the World is the social service agency of the Protestant churches in Germany. It has projects that deal with food security, promotion of health and education, respect for human rights, promoting peace and the integrity of creation, among others in over 90 countries.
The group cited the infamous killing of two tribal leaders and one educator last Sept. 1, 2015 in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. The attack has resulted to the forced evacuation of at least 2,000 residents.
“Although the perpetrators have been identified, no arrests have been made,” the group added.
Michelle Campos, daughter of slain tribal leader Dionel Campos, also attended the UN Human Rights Council session, along with Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.
In a statement, Karapatan said they appreciated the report of United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders Michel Forst in the 31st UN Human Rights Council on the cases of attacks against human rights defenders in the Philippines last March 3.
In his report, Forst said the Lianga killings are part of the “aggressions suffered by human rights defenders in rural areas and indigenous communities in response to violations committed in the course of environmentally dubious mining operations, wide-spread development of monoculture plantations, land grabs and territorial disputes.”
Forst also urged the Philippine government to “take every possible measure to ensure that these extrajudicial killings do not remain in impunity, for fear of the potential encouragement a lack of justice would provide for any potential perpetrators of such acts in the future.”
Burning down of Haran
Apart from the killings, Karapatan also submitted a letter complaint before UN Special Rapporteur on Rights of Internally Displaced Persons Dr. Chaloka Beyani on the burning down of the mission center of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Haran, Davao City, where at least 700 Lumad are seeking sanctuary.
The incident, which took place last Feb. 24, left five Lumad injured, two of whom were children.
The evacuees hailed from various communities in the region who were forced to leave their homes due to intense military operations in their areas.
In 2015, Beyani visited the Philippines to look into the conditions of internally displaced persons who were affected by Typhoon Haiyan and communities that were affected by big mining corporations.
In his exit statement, Beyani said he was “alarmed that tribal leaders reported that their communities were consistently being manipulated and divided and that they had been harassed and received threats when they expressed their opposition. Indeed, some leaders and members of the indigenous communities have been killed over the past years, reportedly due to their anti-mining activities.”
Karapatan said that the military “twisted” Beyani’s statement to further harass the Lumad in their “vain attempt to divert the issue.” The UN Special Rapporteur later refuted the military’s statement and said that it was a “gross misrepresentation.”
Palabay said the continuing harassment on the Lumad evacuees seeking refuge at the UCCP Haran, and the state agencies’ insistence to forcibly send them back to their communities, “show a lack of understanding of their plight and a lack of concern for their safety and welfare.”
Impunity under Aquino
Campos, for her part, assailed the continuing impunity under President Aquino.
“Six months after the incident, not one of the three named perpetrators has been arrested. This is the kind of impunity that is perpetrated by the Aquino regime and the Armed Forces of the Philippines – they do not arrest criminals in their ranks and among paramilitary groups. They even have drinking sprees with them,” she said.
She also criticized the “elusive justice” in the killing of his father, Datu Juvello Sinzo and Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development executive director Emerito Samarca.