Tuesday, September 25, 2007

In commemoration of the Intenational Day of Indigenous Peoples

August 9, 2007

Indigenous leaders slams GMA’s mining and military policies

Indigenous leaders from various provinces in Luzon gathered in Manila today to call upon the Arroyo administration to stop all State-perpetrated human rights violations, which they say occur upon the implementation of the President’s national economic programs and military policies.

In a statement issued by the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), a federation of indigenous peoples organizations in the country, the leaders said that Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s programs on corporate large-scale mining and similar destructive “development” projects have met wide condemnation from various indigenous communities around the country.

“We are stripped off of our lands, our livelihoods and our future. When we resist the lopsided policies and projects of the government, we fall prey to the worst kinds of human rights violations like extrajudicial killings,” the indigenous leaders declared.

“It is beyond doubt that the state of human rights of the indigenous peoples in the country worsened under the Arroyo presidency,” declared Himpad Mangumalas, a Lumad and the national spokesperson of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), a federation of indigenous peoples organizations in the country.

Mangumalas cited the recommendations brought forward by United Nations Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples, Prof. Rodolfo Stavenhagen, in March 2003 which called upon the Arroyo government to respect the rights of the indigenous peoples. In a follow-up visit by the UN expert this year, the Special Rapportuer observed that the pattern of human rights violations against indigenous peoples continued and that there had been an increase of incidents as reported to him by indigenous peoples groups.

KAMP is more than ever alarmed by Pres. Arroyo’s pronouncements that in order to achieve national economic progress, the Philippine government also has to aggressively implement the Human Security Act of 2007, a law that greatly mirrors the U.S. government’s ‘war against terrorism.’ This is most evident in Pres. Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA),” Mangumalas added.

Vernie Yocogan-Diano, a woman Igorot leader from the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), further cited the report made early this year by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Prof. Philip Alston, part of which included the extrajudicial killings of Rafael “Markus” Bangit and Alyce Omengan-Claver. “Bangit and Dr. Chandu Claver (husband of Alyce) were very vocal against the lopsided policies of the Arroyo administration, making targets for ‘neutralization’ by the Arroyo government,” added Diano.

“Neutralization” is a by-term of the State policy, Oplan Bantay Laya, a counterinsurgency program of the Arroyo government that have met wide condemnation having included in its targets unarmed civilians belonging to legal organizations. KAMP believes that the Human Security Act of 2007 is the “legal version of Oplan Bantay Laya.”

“To date, our organizations have monitored 130 killings against indigenous peoples, including the massacre involving nine persons that occurred in June 25, 2007 when combined forces of the police and military indiscriminately fired towards the residential houses in Sitio Malapiat, San Pascual, Rizal, Kalinga Province,” said Diano. The perpetrators, who were part of a demolition team allegedly sanctioned by the town mayor, was not able to show the residents any demolition order.

“The victims did not expect any eviction because the land dispute covering 2,934-hectare agricultural estate was pending in court. More appalling, in a report aired by a local television network that day, a spokesperson of Philippine National Police (PNP) in Kalinga claimed that the incident was an encounter with the New People’s Army (NPA),” disclosed Diano.

“This is just a small case when compared to human rights violations that occur in the implementation of Pres. Arroyo’s revitalized mining policy,” Mangumalas said. “Of the 24 priority mining projects of the Arroyo administration, 16 of them can be found in indigenous territories. We are aware that the government is hell-bent in pursuing this program. They do not want anyone to get in the way.” The transfer of authoritative powers from the DENR to the Philippine Mining Development Corporation (PMDC) attests to the desperate desire of the government to fast-track mining applications. “The government unabashedly vends our patrimony to a few profit-hungry mining companies,” Mangumalas added.

“We are made ‘squatters’ in the lands that are rightfully ours,” complained Nelson Mallari from the Central Luzon Aeta Association (CLAA). Apart from killings, Mallari disclosed that indigenous people also fall prey to intensive surveillance, intimidation and grave harassments like mauling by “unidentified men whom we believe have been sanctioned by the military.” CLAA is alarmed that Pres. Arroyo has declared Central Luzon, including their territories in Mt. Pinatubo and its periphery, as prime tourist destination.

Dumagats and Remontados are also alarmed by the impending construction of the Laiban Dam located in the boundary of Rizal and Quezon provinces, which the government claims will solve the water crisis in Metro Manila. “To this day, no justice has been rendered to the extrajudicial killing of my husband, Nicanor Delos Santos, who has openly condemned the revival of the Laiban Dam because it will directly affect eight barangays and submerge the farm lands of peasants and indigenous peoples,” Adeling Delos Santos, a Remontado, from Bigkis at Lakas ng Katutubo ng Timog Katagalugan (BALATIK) said.

The gathering of Luzon-based indigenous leaders is part of a commemoration of the Aug 9 Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. In Manila, Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon indigenous peoples organizations will troop to stage dialogues and pickets in various national government agencies this week. Other activities to commemorate Indigenous Peoples Day will also be staged by KAMP’s affiliate organizations in Baguio City, Tuguegarao, Ilo-ilo and Davao City in the next few days.

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