Statement on the celebration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines

By | 9 August, 2016


Statement of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the celebration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, August 9, 2016

Today, August 9, we celebrate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples which was declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 1994 through Resolution/48/214. This is an opportune time to look at the situation of indigenous peoples in the country and to come up with concrete proposals on what actions should be taken to address the challenges they face.

My mandate as the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples requires me to examine ways and means of overcoming existing obstacles to the full and effective protection of the rights of indigenous peoples” and to ” to formulate recommendations and proposals appropriate measures and activities to prevent and remedy violations of the rights of indigenous peoples.”

For so long, many indigenous peoples in the Philippines suffered from discrimination, from dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, violation of their rights to their cultures, extrajudicial killings, forced displacements and sexual violence against women and girls, food insecurity, among many others. These human rights violations continue to persist.

The extrajudicial killings of the Lumad in Mindanao which took place under the previous governments are still happening now according to the latest two allegations I received. These are the killings of 3 Lumad persons, members of the Sitio Inalsahan Indigenous Peoples Organization, on 12 July 2016 in Barangay Lupiangan, Sumilao, Bukidnon. The alleged perpetrators were security guards hired by RAMCAR Inc., the company which encroached in the Higaonon ancestral domain. The other incident took place on 20 July 2016 in the community of the Tigwahanon in Sitio Tibuwagan, Barangay Kawayan, San Fernando, Bukidnon. At a wedding party it was alleged that members of the 8th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) and the New Indigenous People’s Army for Reform (NIPAR) strafed the community leading to the instant death of a pregnant woman and the wounding of 5 children and 2 adults.

The spate of killings which happened in 2015 and the subsequent evacuation of the Lumad have not yet been resolved. I sent a communication to the Government of the Philippines on 21 September 2015 on the extrajudicial killings in Lianga, Surigao del Sur of Samarca, Campos and Sinzo, allegedly by the members of the Magahat Bagani and the massacre of 5 civilians in Mendis, Pangantucan, Bukidnon allegedly by 3rd Special Forces Company of the 1st SF Battalion of the Philippine Army. Before this, I sent a communication on the closing of indigenous schools and the occupation of these schools by the military and paramilitary forces.

According to the report of the UN Special on human rights of internally displaced persons on his mission to the Philippines in 2015, “From January 2015 to early October 2015, 10 internal displacement incidents involving Lumads and related to activities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and paramilitary groups were reported in Regions X, X1, X111 and the ARMM…Some 1,750 families (estimated 8,679 persons) remained displaced as of early November.”

This same report also stated that “the Department of Justice ordered an investigation and an arrest warrant was issued on 28 September 2015, with the names of the alleged perpetrators, as some villagers identified the paramilitary group. However, as of February 2016, no arrests had been made and the displaced persons do not feel safe to return. Approximately 2,621 Lumads reportedly remained displaced and were receiving assistance in the municipal stadium in Tandag.” Furthermore, this report highlighted that Lumad groups have publicly protested against being caught up in a conflict, which is not their own, which is being carried out on their ancestral domains and in which they are manipulated and exploited by both parties to the conflict.

The impunity of the violence and criminal acts against indigenous peoples are clear violations of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The IPRA provisions include Sec. 22. Rights during Armed Conflict.- ICCs/IPs have the right to special protection and security in periods of armed conflict. The State shall observe international standards, in particular, the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, for the protection of civilian populations in circumstances of emergency and armed conflict… and Section 7(c) . Right to Stay in the Territories..and not be removed therefrom. No ICCs/IPs will be relocated without their free and prior informed consent, nor through any means other than eminent domain.

Many of these displacements and extrajudicial killings are directly linked to counter-insurgency operations and the encroachment of mining companies, agribusiness corporations and illegal small scale mining and logging done mainly by paramilitary groups. In many cases there have been blatant collusion between some corporations, politicians and some personnel of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and other government agencies. Manipulative ways are employed such as dividing indigenous peoples amongst themselves to obtain their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).

Fortunately, indigenous peoples in many parts of the country are determined to take action to assert their rights. They are doing these by mapping their own territories and continuing efforts to acquire ancestral land titles, strengthening the traditional sustainable management of their lands and territories, reinforcing and transmitting their traditional knowledge and cultures, and their indigenous governance systems. It is to their credit that there are still remaining forests in the country as maps will show that better sustained forests and biodiversity hotspots in the Philippines overlap with their ancestral domains.

I am pleased with the announcements made by President Duterte that he will support the return of the displaced Lumads to their territories and his recognition of the provision of ancestral land titles to some indigenous peoples. However, I would like to state that many indigenous peoples still do not have titles to their ancestral domains. Even those who have their titles are still not secure because of the lack of support for them to productively use their lands according to their development visions and priorities and the persistent threats they face from economic and political interests who covet their lands.

I call on the Government of the Philippines under the leadership of President Rody Roa Duterte to undertake investigations on the extrajudicial killings of Lumad members, to end such killings and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

I call on the government to put a stop to military operations, such as Oplan Bayanihan, and to adhere to its obligations to international human rights law and international humanitarian law. I also call for the dismantling of the paramilitary groups like Alamara, Magahat-Bagani, NIPAR, among others.

I support the plans of the government to resume the peace negotiations with the CPP/NDF/NPA (CNN). I urge both the government and the CNN to ensure the inclusion of indigenous persons in their panels and include in their agreement measures which will ensure the protection, respect and fulfillment of indigenous peoples rights. Mechanisms for participatory consultations with indigenous peoples should be established.

As far as the Bangsamoro Basic Law is concerned, I call on the government to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples living within the claimed Bangsamoro territory will be fully respected and protected.

I support the declaration of President Duterte to bring back the internally displaced Lumads to their lands. Their right to continue to live in peace and feel secure in their traditional territories should be protected and their basic humanitarian and social needs should be addressed.

I strongly support the efforts of the government to stop mining operations which have adverse social and environmental impacts and its call for audits of mining companies. Such audits should also include agribusiness expansion in indigenous peoples’ territories. Impartial and independent actors should be commissioned to assess the impacts of mining and agribusiness corporations on indigenous peoples.

In relation to the extrajudicial summary executions of suspected drug pushers and drug lords I support the call to put a stop to these. The government should file cases against those who are in the lists and the declaration of President Duterte that he will follow the rule of law should be practiced. I am also against the plan to reinstate the death penalty.

It is my hope that the announcement of the government to open again the indigenous schools which have been closed and to provide support for more indigenous schools to be established will materialize. The theme for this 2016 International Year is education and the joint statement I made together with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has expounded on this.

I fully support the plans of the Commission on Human Rights to establish an observatory on the rights of indigenous peoples and to undertake a national inquiry on the land situation of indigenous peoples in the Philippines. The monitoring of the effective implementation of indigenous peoples human rights should ensure the participation of indigenous peoples.

Finally, I find hope in the efforts of indigenous peoples to know more about their rights and to assert and claim these. I find hope in the increasing support from other sectors of society to their struggles to become more empowered and to be self-determining.


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