Posted: February 8, 2007
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UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples: The Pattern of Human Rights Violations of Indigenous Peoples Continues


Quezon City - “I am sorry to learn that the pattern (of human rights violations) continues, and that there is an increase of these incidents,” Mr. Rodolfo Stavenhagen said, the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples.

Mr. Stavenhagen is here in Manila for a national consultation with the Indigenous Peoples, a follow-up visit from his official one in 2002. According to Stavenhagen, “even if they have been denounced internationally, they continue to happen.” Despite the occurrences and reporting, “there is relatively little progress to stop this violence,
insufficient investigation of these,” and the perpetrators “have not been prosecuted and brought to justice.”

The land issues heighten, as there is no genuine free and prior informed consent (FPIC) from the Indigenous peoples on development projects and infrastructure where they are affected. Thus, more protests from the communities are being seen. The incidents of violence as a response to these protests “continue to reflect the process of criminalization of protest activities.” All of these, according to Stavenhagen, he has already pointed out to the UN Human Rights Council and the Philippine Government in 2002.

However, the stories and testimonies presented to Stavenhagen by the indigenous leaders show that nothing has been done by the Philippine government to abate the increasing violence, land grabbing, deforestation, displacement and other forms of human rights violations against the indigenous peoples. “The continuing violations, and continuing impunity of the perpetrators exhibit the lack of political will, and political competence of those responsible for the protection of human rights,” said Stavenhagen.

Itik, a 6 year old Aeta boy, held a photograph of his father, Nicanor de los Santos, while his older brother was telling the story of how their father was shot dead by armed men, five years ago in the Rizal Province. “Pinatay nila ang tatay ko, NPA daw siya, pero siya ay lider na tumututol sa Laiban Dam, lider katutubo sa Rizal, pinamatay ng mga militar sa ilalim ng task force panther.” (“They killed my
father, they said he was an NPA but he was a leader of those opposing Laiban Dam. He was killed by the military under the Task Force Panther.” Until now, no one has been prosecuted with the killing. “At ngayon, pinagpapatuloy naming magkakapatid ang laban ng nalabi naming ama, para sa aming lupa.” “Today, my brothers and I will continue to fight for our land that our father began.” The Laiban Dam is a project of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Other cases of killings of indigenous leaders who were protesting and leading actions of opposition against development projects, mining and forestry projects were reported. The Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Watch, a network of IP networks and non-government organizations working on human rights, has documented 123 killings of indigenous persons under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, from February 2001 to January 11, 2007. According to their written report submitted to Stavenhagen, eighty four (84) of these occurred beginning January 2003, barely a month after the Special Rapporteur’s official visit to the Philippines in December 2002. The highest incidence of state-perpetrated killings of indigenous peoples was in 2006, which lists 42 individuals.

Rafael “Markus” Bangit, 46 years old, and a tribal leader of the Kalinga Malbong tribe in the Cordilleras, was one of those killed in 2006. Agustina, Markus’ widow, said that in Arroyo’s state of the nation address last year, Arroyo condemned the political killings happening. “However, nothing has yet been done in the killing of my
husband.” “I stand here on behalf of the others who have lost their loved ones. We hold the Arroyo government accountable for these killings; for not being able to protect the lives of good people like my husband.”

The current policy environment poses further threats to the human rights of indigenous peoples. “The proposed anti-terrorism bill will add ammunition to the already fully-armed military and paramilitary groups to threaten, harass and commit human rights violations against those who continue to fight for their right to give or not give their consent to projects in their lands, and those who defend their lives,”
warned the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC-KSK) in its policy update to Stavenhagen. “With the Arroyo government adopting the ASEAN Mining Framework, we would see more approvals of large-scale mining companies, one of the largest threats to IP rights.”

In his press statement, Stavenhagen said that the “in some respects, the human rights situation of indigenous peoples has deteriorated.” Furthermore, he said that “even more worrisome is that the legal framework of current economic policies favors the dispossession of indigenous lands and resources for the benefit of a handful of
international corporations or other private interests.”

”It is very likely that this pattern of human rights violations victimizing human rights defenders, social activists, community leaders and other innocent civilians alike, is seriously undermining the international standing of the Philippine government.”

However, the indigenous leaders have expressed to continue their struggle, to resist and defend their rights.#

For more information -
judy a. pasimio (LRC) - / 09062568341
Voltaire Tupaz (EED Partners-TFIP) - 09066603572
Raymond de Chavez (Tebtebba) - /09175072789

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