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December 17, 2007

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Taiwan Committee for Philippine Concerns protests Austronesian Forum 2007, calls for "Stop the Killings in the Philippines"

The Chairperson of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) of the Philippines, Mr. Eugenio Insigne, was met by an unexpected protest at the opening ceremony of 2007 Austronesian Forum held in Taipei on December 11. Immediately after the forum host introduced Mr. Insigne, a group of protesters rose up and shouted "Philippines-Stop the Killings!!" This protest was organized by Taiwan Committee for Philippine Concerns (TCPC), a network of individual human rights defenders in Taiwan concerned about the human rights situation in the Philippines. During the protest inside the forum, TCPC members held photos of the victims of extrajudicial killings and distributed statements among the audience and the press. After a few minutes, TCPC protesters were forced by the security to leave the conference hall. As the media followed the protesters, TCPC took this opportunity to hold a brief press conference outside the Austronesian Forum venue.

According to TCPC, the Austronesian Forum is initiated by the Council of Indigenous Peoples of the Executive Yuan in Taiwan to enhance the world's awareness and respect of indigenous people. In August, 2007, the Palau Declaration was signed by representatives from eight countries in the Pacific region. To uphold the human rights of indigenous peoples is one of the goals specified by the Forum for cooperation among Austronesian countries. Human rights should be the ultimate concerns for Austronesian Forum, especially for this year's conference, which was held right after the International Human Rights Day. Ironically, TCPCemphasized, as a member of the preparatory committee for the Austronesian Forum, the Philippine government has been found responsible for appalling extrajudicial killings and human rights violations!!

From January 2001 to July 31, 2007, at least 886 people have become victims of extrajudicial killings. Among them, about 130 were indigenous peoples and 36 of them were from the Cordillera region. Other than this, 179 people have become victims of enforced disappearances to this day. No case has been solved and no single perpetrator convicted despite evidence pointing to the accountability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the State.

Threats continue to haunt people's organizations and institutions critical of government programs and policies are branded as "sectoral front organizations" of the underground revolutionary movement and thus targeted under the government's counter-insurgency program called Oplan Bantay Laya II. The countryside continues to be highly militarized because of this counter-insurgency program and the imposition of the government's development agenda which is highlighted with corporate destructive mining, agribusiness and large dams in Northern Luzon.

The implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Law or the Human Security Act of 2007 is a virtual declaration of Martial Law with its provisions that run counter to the respect of our human rights. It is in violation of the Bill of Rights in the Philippine Constitution and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

As TCPC pointed out, many international human rights organizations have already publicly condemned the Philippine government for human rights violations. For example, the UN Special rapporteur delivered a critical speech during the UN Commission on Human Rights against the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. The report mentioned that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the Philippine military accountable for extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations from 2001 to the present. Similarly, the US based Amnesty International's report to the US Congress in March 2007, and the Permanent Peoples Tribunal, held in the Netherlands last March 2007, both found the Philippine government and military accountable for gross violations of human rights of the Filipino people.

TCPC deplores the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Regime for the extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and the systematic violation of human rights. To uphold the human rights of indigenous peoples in Austronesian countries, TCPC demands the Austronesian Forum to denounce the series of human rights violation in the Philippines.
One international delegate of the Austronesian Forum who followed the TCPC protesters and joined the brief press conference said, "December 10 is the International Human Rights Day. We should be all concerned about human rights situation in other countries. If there is any human rights violation, we should all speak up against it!!"

When interviewed by the press after the protest, Mr. Eugenio Insigne said that the Philippine government will never violate human rights, and if there is any case of human rights violation, the Philippine government should immediately launch investigation. Mr. Insigne requested to explain to TCPC as he believed there is misunderstanding. However, TCPC responded that it is not necessary for Mr. Eugenio to explain because many international human rights organizations already found the Philippines government accountable for the political killings. More importantly, TCPC believes that if Mr. Eugenio sincerely cares about human rights of indigenous peoples, he should stand up and demand the Philippine government to stop the political killings, rather than constantly denying the facts of human rights violation.#

Yunaw Sili

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