I come from a region in the Cordillera, Philippines where criminalization has been going on for a long time. It started as early as the 1970s when indigenous activists opposing the construction of 4 dams along the Chico River were harassed, arrested, detained and killed just because they were defending their lands and their right to self-determination. Today, criminalization is not just happening in the Philippines. Human Rights violations against indigenous peoples are rampant in many countries in Asia. Our land, territories, resources and our people are under attack. The accounts and figures gathered by the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact and IPHRD network are alarming:
Tyrannical rule in many countries, particularly targets indigenous organizations and communities, branding them as communist fronts. Their members are vilified as terrorists through social media and distribution of black propaganda. Intensified military operations augmented by armed paramilitary groups sow terror, leaving indigenous communities vulnerable to violent attacks. Whole communities and thousands of indigenous peoples have been forced to evacuate, leaving behind their homes, schools, farms, animals and properties for fear of their lives.
In the Philippines, State terrorism is continuing against innocent civilians until today. Institutions like the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA) and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) composed of almost all national government agencies have been established making the government overly aggressive and conscientious in vilifying and filing trumped-up charges against hundreds of indigenous leaders, activists, progressive lawmakers, NGO workers and human rights defenders. The military is holding briefings all over the country maligning prominent indigenous leaders as communists, saying that they have infiltrated the UN system. This is particularly dangerous in light of findings that: The Philippines ranks No. 4 (behind India, Syria and Yemen) on a list of countries where civilians are most unsafe as a result of “targeted attacks” arising from government policy.
Why do we need a global campaign to address criminalization and attacks against IP's?
The odds are stacked against indigenous peoples. State machineries all over the world are being used to attack indigenous peoples and violate our rights. We need to unite and make our voices heard above the din of anti-terrorism and red-scare tactics. We should all crack our heads and come up with bright ideas for an effective global campaign to stop criminalization and impunity against indigenous peoples.
What recommendations do you think are essential to make the global campaign effective?
We need to have a clear and concise message that we want to get across, one that is catchy and memorable: Ex. Indigenous peoples are not criminals.
We need to brand our campaign and tie all our actions together, through common slogans, calls, logos, wide projection through social media.
We need to target and win over to our campaign not only IPs, but also advocates, support organizations, champions in government and in the UN system.
We need a concrete call to action for individuals or groups who want to join our campaign and let the voices of hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples around the world be heard.
Armed Conflict Location and Event Project (Acled), a United States-based research and analysis group.
* This speech was delivered by Ms. Jill Carino, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (TFIP) on the side event on global campaign to address and prevent criminalization and impunity against indigenous peoples held during the 12th Session of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, July 16, 2019. Cariño is the Vice-Chairperson for external affairs of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance.*