BAGUIO CITY, Philippines- The filing of a petition in court by the Philippine state prosecutor under the Department of Justice seeking to have a number of indigenous leaders and human rights defenders declared as terrorists and outlaws pursuant to the National Security Act of 2007 generated outcry and widespread solidarity support from a broad range of organizations and institutions around the world.
The Indigenous Peoples Major Group (IPMG) on the UN SDGs, in collaboration with indigenous peoples’ organizations, initiated an appeal calling for the delisting of 31 indigenous peoples human rights defenders included in the petition filed by the Philippine government. The global response to the appeal received overwhelming support. As of March 21, the letter of concern has been endorsed by the Saami Parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, The Saami Council, 51 organizations from the Philippines, 15 global organizations, 11 regional organizations, and 205 organizations from over 40 countries including Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Central America, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, and Myanmar.
Further, 93 Solidarity Statements and letters of concern were issued by 10 UN Agencies/Bodies including those relating to indigenous peoples such as the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP), the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UNREDD; 21 International human rights, environmental and support organizations, 3 legislators from the Philippines, 1 media outlet, 12 regional organizations from Asia, Latin America, Nordic Region, Asia Pacific, Africa and the US; 2 donors/Funding institutions; 14 Philippine-based IPOs, and organizations and institutions from 19 other countries including the Netherlands, Burundi, Australia, Canada, Fiji, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Micronesia, Nepal, Nigeria, Paraguay, Peru, Taiwan, UK, and the US.
As of March 21, a total of 7,471 individuals from 113 countries have endorsed the appeal for support through the online petition and more individuals are signing up.
The statement of the UN Environment Programme states that “it is deeply concerning that authorities have routinely responded to the expressions of environmental and human rights defenders by criminalizing and delegitimizing their voices. The shrinking space available to independent people to carry out legitimate work and to speak on behalf of many voiceless indigenous and local communities globally is an issue that must be addressed through increasing openness and participation.”
Further, the EMRIP called upon the Government of the Philippines to “guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples, and particularly indigenous human rights defenders, in line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international human rights instruments, including the human rights treaties.”
According to Kerlan Fanagel, chairperson of PASAKA Confederation of Lumad in Southern Mindanao, an alliance where 17 of the indigenous peoples named in the DOJ Petition are members of, “we are raising legitimate concerns such as protection of our ancestral domain from mining and plantations, and our schools and communities from militarization,” and that dissent should not be equated to terrorism.
The Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN), representing more than 2,000 indigenous communities throughout Indonesia expressed their concern on seeing “how the Philippines, once an inspiration to indigenous organizations throughout the world, with the passage of the 1997 Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, has descended into being a virtual police state, where any individual or organization who challenges the Executive is accused of terrorism.”
Support from within the Philippines is also increasing with the City Council of Baguio issuing a resolution on March 19, 2018 calling for the dropping of the names of Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Joan Carling, Joanna Cariño, Jose Molintas, Jeanette Ribaya-Cawiding, Windel Bolinget and Beverly Longid, who are legitimate residents of Baguio City.
Ms. Joan Carling said “it is humbling and comforting to receive this broad support as recognition and affirmation of the hard work and sacrifices of human rights defenders who are vilified by states in their refusal to be made accountable to their human rights obligations. We shall continue to demand the respect for the fundamental rights of citizens and the rights of indigenous peoples who are also at the forefront of protecting their land and the environment. We remain seriously concerned on the physical safety of those in the terrorist list particularly our indigenous sisters and brothers in Mindanao who remain vulnerable to extra judicial killings and arbitrary arrest in the face of Martial Law in Mindanao and the aggressive recruitment of paramilitary forces. We thank the global community for their support and to continue to stand with us in this campaign to end impunity and to ensure the protection of human rights defenders in the Philippines and elsewhere.”###
Ms. Joan Carling, co-convenor of the IPMG, email@example.com
Raymond de Chavez, Tebtebba Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bestang Dekdeken, Cordillera Peoples Alliance, email@example.com
Pya Macliing Malayao, Secretary General, Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, firstname.lastname@example.org