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June 29, 2010

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Noynoy Must Live Up To His Promises and Commitments

President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III must be ready to live up to the string of promises he made during his campaign, including the prosecution of former president Arroyo for her crimes of graft and corruption and gross violation of human rights. For the Cordillera indigenous peoples who suffered greatly from the Arroyo administration’s unleashing of national oppression, seen through violation of ancestral land rights, militarization of indigenous communities, among others, we expect that GMA will not be let off easily or quietly as she steps down from the presidency. The Cordillera Peoples Alliance reiterates its Declaration to Advance to Politics of Change—its agenda to the new administration. 

Desperate Face-Saving Exit
Days before her term ended, GMA launched a TV-ad campaign singing her own praises about what she has accomplished during her term, towards making the Philippines a “first-world” nation by 2020.  But infrastructure development projects alone do not make life better for the masses of Filipino people. . More basic social services should   have been delivered to remote and depressed communities if the GMA regime and the former first family had not plundered national coffers for personal benefit. It is for the Filipino people to say if economic relief was felt at all under Arroyo’s term. GMA’s track record of gross human rights violations, from extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, political repression and many more, justify her desperate face-saving exit. 1,190 cases of extrajudicial killings (34 in the Cordillera)  and 204 enforced disappearances (1 in the Cordillera, which is the case of James Balao)  mar her 9-year term.  Most of these were not genuinely investigated, and the perpetrators remain unpunished. Even cases backed by clear, strong evidence such as the testimonies of the Manalo  brothers and the case of Jonas Burgos were not heard. We hope that with former CHR Chairperson Leila De Lima now taking on as secretary of the Department of Justice, concrete steps will be taken to prosecute those behind the unresolved political killings and disappearances. GMA’s accountability as the former commander-in-chief of the armed forces and military involvement in the killings must be investigated. Under GMA’s term, we lost many of our finest local leaders—Albert Terredaño, Pepe Manegdeg, Markus Bangit, Alyce Claver and Jose Doton—all of whose cases were never resolved. James Balao’s case of enforced disappearance has not prospered , inspite of the Writ of Amparo granted by   the court . To this day, justice remains elusive. President Noynoy must dismantle and end the Oplan Bantay Laya, pullout military troops in indigenous communities and implement  the Comprehensive Agreement on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), and all  other international agreements it is a party too. 

Worsened National Oppression
The Arroyo government treated the Cordillera homeland as a resource base for  plunder, profit and extraction, as seen in the flood of mining applications in the region. 1.2 million hectares or 66% of the Cordillera’s total land area is covered with various mining applications, which is on top of the existing mining operations.  National oppression worsened under Arroyo’s term, with  national policies and programs that violated the Cordillera peoples’ rights to land and self-determination.  Transnational companies and their subsidiaries drilled and explored Cordillera  ancestral lands, in violation of the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent and in cahoots with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). This happened in Baay Licuan, Abra; Bakun and Itogon in Benguet; and Conner, Apayao, to name a few.  Most areas of mining applications were also  militarized to quell the local opposition.  In the course of military operations, human rights violations were committed such as the killing of farmers-hunters by the military in Abra and Kalinga. Shortly before the national elections on May 10, a local resident of Lacub, Abra was slain by the military. With these, we strongly urge the incoming Aquino administration to ensure the protection and promotion of indigenous peoples rights. The Philippine government must implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which it voted to adopt. Serious steps must be taken to stop the plunder and destruction of indigenous communities by mining companies. Concrete measures must be undertaken by the government to mitigate the impacts of climate change , with the full participation of indigenous peoples, who are among the most affected.

Crucial First 100 Days
It will indeed be a crucial first 100 days for President Aquino. With the world’s eyes set on him, his plans and priorities, Aquino must be true to his word to bring true change to the Philippines. True change should mean a change in the government programs and policies that go against the interests of the Filipino people. True change should mean a stop to the violation of indigenous peoples rights and other democratic rights. True change should mean government reforms to address the people’s basic needs. We will remain vigilant and watchful as we hold the Aquino presidency to his campaign promises and commitments. #

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