On President Aquino's First State of the Nation Address: A Call to Vigilance to All Indigenous Peoples
The new administration of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is still basking from the hangover of his electoral victory, even with the question on the integrity of the first automated elections from which he benefited from. The new regime has created an illusion of change and hope, yet Noynoy has much to prove under his term, and on his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), indigenous peoples must remain vigilant as we demand from the new administration our agenda for the recognition of our individual and collective human rights.
The Arroyo regime has left a crisis-ridden government, manifested in the economic crisis, high rate of unemployment, growing number of Filipinos working abroad, poverty and hunger. In 9 years, the GMA regime failed to deliver concrete solutions to the problem of land reform. Hacienda Luisita, owned by the Cojuangco-Aquinos, remains unresolved and is now in the hands of Noynoy as president.
The new administration must not let off GMA easily, with the issues of graft and corruption involving the former president and her family, such as the ZTE NBN deal and the fertilizer scam. The past regime is equally accountable for over 1,000 extrajudicial killings and some 200 cases of enforced disappearances through Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya. While Arroyo harped on economic development under her term, this was hardly felt by the poor majority who have long been calling for economic relief.
Arroyo liberalized the mining industry, resulting in massive environmental destruction, climate change and violation of indigenous peoples ancestral land rights. The Cordillera region remained a resource base for profit, plunder and exploitation both by the State, local and foreign capitalists. Sixty-six percent of Cordillera land or 1.2 million hectares of the total land area of 1.8 million hectares is covered with various mining applications, on top of the existing mining applications. Cordillera provinces continue to be heavily militarized, resulting in various forms of human rights violations, especially in areas where there is opposition to destructive projects. Oplan Bantay Laya claimed 33 innocent lives in the Cordillera and the enforced disappearance of James Balao, who remains missing for over 600 days since September 17, 2008.
While there are indications that the Aquino regime will continue some policies of the past administration, seen in the absence of clear policy statements on human rights, unjust agreements like the Visiting Forces Agreement, and the recycling of economic managers under Arroyo, we still challenge the new administration to address the above issues by responding to the people’s demands for immediate economic relief and development, promotion of human rights towards just and lasting peace, national sovereignty and protection of the environment, and the prosecution of GMA for her crimes against the Filipino people.
We ask for the marching order from the president against the plunder of natural resources which threatens indigenous peoples’ territories. In particular, we call on the Aquino administration to scrap the Mining Act of 1995 and provide concrete measures to prevent further violations of indigenous people’s rights.
We challenge the Aquino administration to immediately prosecute GMA and her cohorts. Aside from the dismantlement of wang-wangs, this administration should address the dismantlement of killing machines targeting progressive and legitimate organizations. We demand for a categorical order from the president to stop political killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations.
Amid the illusions left with the recently concluded elections, we call on the public to act towards meaningful social change, which can only be achieved through people’s vigilance and sustained collective actions.
Basagin ang Ilusyon! Militanteng Harapin ang mga Bagong Hamon!
Tongtongan Ti Umili
Cordillera Peoples Alliance