United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Eleventh Session
United Nations Headquarters, New York
May 7-18, 2012
Intervention on AGENDA ITEM 4: Human Rights: (a) Implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, (b) Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Submitted by: Mr. Windel Bolinget, Cordillera Peoples Alliance
Thank you Mr. Chairperson. Greetings to everyone especially our indigenous brothers and sisters.
Despite the enactment of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997, the passage of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007 and earlier international human rights instruments to which the Philippine government is a signatory, the indigenous peoples in the Philippines continue to be subjected to various forms of human rights violations. Considering that there are many forms of human rights violations committed against our people, let me focus on the human rights impacts of ‘development aggression’ and militarization to our individual and collective rights.
The operation and numerous applications of large-scale mining by local and transnational corporations is the biggest threat to the right to ancestral land and to self-determination of indigenous peoples. Taken from government data, there are at least 184 approved mining applications in areas occupied by indigenous peoples covering an estimated 595,058.11 hectares of ancestral lands in 28 provinces. Nationwide, five of the six Financial Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAA), 118 of the 338 approved Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA), 39 of the 89 Exploration Permit (EP), and eight of the 49 Mineral Processing Permits (MPP) are located within the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples.
For indigenous peoples, large-scale mining activities are threats to their survival and bring about irreparable damage to the environment. In some cases, mining activities impinge on sacred sites, burial grounds and cultural beliefs and practices.
The right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) legally protected under the IPRA, the UNDRIP and other UN instruments is manipulated, either blatantly or through subtle means, and in many cases, through coercion and use of the military and paramilitary.
A classic case is a mining application in Bakun, Benguet in the Cordillera. Australian mining company Royalco Philippines Inc. was granted a mining exploration permit for more than 5,400-hectares covering Kankana-ey ancestral territories, despite sustained opposition from the community. The FPIC process was flawed. Compounding the outright violation of the right to FPIC, corporations engage the use of military, police forces, paramilitary groups and other state-sanctioned armed groups to quell opposition. How can there be a democratic process for FPIC free from fear and manipulation if the communities are militarized? Another example on FPIC violation is the building of a dam project of the government in Iloilo province that will dislocate at least 11 indigenous communities. The project has started without, first, undergoing the FPIC process.
The formation and recruitment of indigenous peoples to paramilitary groups to augment military operations or to protect corporate interests is another phenomenon exacerbating the violation of the rights of indigenous peoples. Despite the recommendation of then UN Special Rapporteur Rodolfo Stavenhagen on indigenous peoples rights for the Philippine government to end the use of paramilitary groups, the current administration of President Benigno Aquino continues to sanction paramilitary groups.
The most recent action of the Aquino administration in promoting paramilitary groups is an agreement entered into with the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA), making the CPLA a formal partner of the government in the implementation of socio-economic projects in their communities. The CPLA acknowledged their accountability for the extrajudicial killing of indigenous leaders like Daniel Ngayaan of Kalinga and Romy Gardo of Abra in 1987. The government of President Benigno Aquino III has once again given the CPLA privileged positions and committed millions of pesos for their so-called socio-economic projects, ignoring their accountability for the killing of indigenous leaders and numerous other violations.
Other atrocious paramilitary groups are found in Mindanao: the Wild Dogs, now known as Salakawan in Agusan del Sur, Bungkatol Liberation Front (BULIF) and ALAMARA. These paramilitary groups are operating in Northern Mindanao forested area, which is being eyed by corporate firms for plantations and mining business. In June 2011, Arpe “Datu Lapugotan” Belayong of the Higaonon tribe and his nephew were killed by members of Salakawan. Wounded in the incident are his two children.
The spate of extrajudicial killings among indigenous peoples continues as the Philippine government aggressively encouraged foreign enterprises and transnational companies to invest in the country’s resources, which are largely found in indigenous peoples’ territories. During the time of the former Arroyo administration, there are 151 indigenous persons who are victims of extrajudicial killings. In the first year administration of the current Aguino government, 13 indigenous peoples have been victims of extrajudicial killings. Until now, Cordillera indigenous leader James Balao remains missing since his enforced disappearance in 2008. The Aquino government continued the draconian Oplan Bantay Laya of the former Arroyo government with a new name Oplan Bayanihan. As the government’s counter-insurgency strategy, this is the root cause of impunity and spate of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, militarization, and other forms of massive human rights violations in the country.
The escalation of military operations in indigenous peoples’ territories had in several cases led to forcible evacuation. From January 2008 to November 2011, there are 41 documented cases of forced evacuations of Lumads, the indigenous peoples in Mindanao. Some communities evacuate repeatedly, such as in Agusan del Norte. Members of the Mamanwa tribe in Agusan del Norte evacuated four times since May 2010, three of these occurring in six months in 2011. Militarization of the Zapanta Valley is linked to the on rush of mining applications in the mineral-rich land. Agusan del Norte has 15,530.65 hectares of approved mining applications, which are being opposed by the indigenous communities. Repeated military operations in communities pose serious threats to the mental and physical health of residents. Forty-three evacuees have died in evacuation centers, and 3 children died in the course of evacuation. Evacuees also suffered subhuman conditions in evacuation centers.
On February 17-20, 2012, a 16-year old girl in Mankayan, Benguet was raped by Captain Lalin of the 5th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Medical findings show she was raped by more than one man. Time and again, this is a classic case of militarization resulting in serious human rights violations when the military is deployed in indigenous communities to protect extractive industries, in this case the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company and South African mining company Gold Fields, and suppress community resistance. Hence, mining companies are accountable for their human rights violations and militarization. Another serious case of human rights impacts of setting-up military detachments inside indigenous communities to indigenous children is the latest incident in a Tumanduk community. On March 11, 2012, a six-year old girl was killed and a four-year old girl was injured when a grenade was fired from an M-203 grenade launcher belonging to army soldier Corporal Willy Faulo assigned to the army detachment in the Province of Capiz.
The abovementioned issues on development aggression and militarization and human rights violations are, in fact, concrete manifestations of the enduring impact of the doctrine of discovery as imposed through the Regalian Doctrine in the historical experience of the Philippines.
For indigenous peoples in the Philippines to live with dignity as distinct peoples, these urgent issues must be addressed immediately. The way forward for a just and lasting peace and development for indigenous peoples in the Philippines is the genuine recognition of their collective rights to ancestral land, territories and resources, right to self determination and basic human rights.
In this context, we call on the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues to act on the following recommendations:
- Urge the Philippine government to implement the recommendation of the former UN Special Rapporteur Rodolfo Stavenhagen during his country visit in 2002 to cease from using paramilitary groups and push for the dismantling of paramilitary forces.
- Take concrete steps for the abrogation of the colonial and oppessive Regalian Doctrine resulting in land laws and extractive industries grossly violating our basic human rights as indigenous peoples. Review and revoke laws anchored on the Regalian Doctrine and other discriminatory legislation, especially, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, to be consistent with the UNDRIP.
- Establish a speedy and effective mechanism of prosecuting and convicting perpetrators of human rights violations against indigenous peoples in order to ensure justice to the victims and stop impunity in the Philippines.
- Support the peace negotiations of the government with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to pave the way for addressing and resolving the roots of the armed conflict. Implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) to ensure that civilians including indigenous peoples are protected in the course of armed conflict.
- Withdraw the Oplan Bayanihan as the government’s counter-insurgency and policy favoring corporate business interests. Pull out State forces in indigenous communities. In particular, demilitarize communities affected by so-called ‘development’ projects undergoing the process of FPIC.
- Conduct international investigative missions and call for the UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya to look into gross human violations committed against indigenous peoples in the Philippines.
- Review and revoke projects that have violated the fundamental right to FPIC as enshrined in the UNDRIP.
Thank you for your attention and consideration.