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Joint Statement by Philippine Indigenous Peoples' Human Rights Defenders Network on the Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in the Philippines

June 30,2020

Human Rights Council
Forty-fourth session
Agenda Item 2

Joint Statement by:

We fully welcome the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in the Philippines, and support recommendations especially the following on indigenous peoples:

  1. Fully and comprehensively implement the Indigenous People’s Rights Act and address, together with affected communities, the major challenges impeding its proper functioning;
  2. Ensure full respect for the principle of free, prior and informed consent and meaningful participation at all stages of development projects that affect indigenous communities;
  3. Ensure universal access of indigenous children to quality education in line with their cultural identity, language and values.

The report also states the following recommendations regarding National Internal Security policies and the recommendation on the disbandment of paramilitary groups that have long been a recommendation of different United Nations mechanisms:

  1. Rescind Memorandum Order 32; Ensure emergency measures are necessary, proportionate and time-bound, limited to those strictly required by the exigencies of the situation;
  2. Urgently disband and disarm all private and State-backed paramilitary groups;
  3. Review Executive Order 70 and its implementation to ensure compliance with the rule of law and international human rights norms and standards, and that political and socio-economic grievances are tackled through meaningful, participatory consultation;

However, we are deeply concerned that the Philippine government will not fully comply with the recommendations saying that these are premised on “faulty conclusions” . The chairperson of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) former General Allen Capuyan further released a response letter stating that its submissions and recommendations were not considered, in particular affidavits of Lumad leaders claiming to have been connected with the CPP-NPA-NDF and citing their association with leaders of the Cordillera People's Alliance and Lumad organizations and associating lobbying at the UN and Lumad-initiated schools and several other legal and legitimate activities to the effect of having been worked out by the CPP-NPA-NDF.

There has been no let-up in the violation of human rights in the Philippines. Updated reports we received since March 2020 show that the government’s militarist approach to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to even more human rights violations against indigenous peoples . Notable are the continuing arrests and unjust detention, indiscriminate bombings of communities, internal displacement, continuing political vilification and red-tagging of leaders and members of IP organizations especially those resisting dam and mining projects and those who are critical of the Philippine government’s pandemic response. Alarmingly, the Anti-Terror Act has already been passed by Congress and merely needs the signature of the President before becoming a law. This, despite its unconstitutional provisions and strong opposition from different Philippine institutions and the civil society organizations.

From the Human Rights Council Report, we would like to reiterate and add to the following recommendations:

  1. that not only must universal access to quality education be granted to indigenous children but must be in accordance with UNDRIP on right to establish and control their own educational system. We call to immediately rescind the closure order against these institutions established as manifestations of the right to self-determination;
  2. that as concrete steps to the implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, we call for review in conjunction with indigenous peoples all applications on mining, geothermal, water resource and hydropower development and agri-business ventures; that endorsements be withdrawn from those with severe environmental, social and economic impact or which are not consistent with the priorities and strategies for development of indigenous peoples especially the Kaliwa Dam affecting Dumagats in Quezon, the OceanaGold Mining Operations in Nueva Vizcaya and the New Clark City in Central Luzon.

We support the OHCHR for its call to collaborate with other UN Human rights mechanisms, to continue monitoring and documenting the situation of human rights in the Philippines, and to regularly report to the Human Rights Council on the Philippine government’s compliance with the United Nations High Commissioner’s recommendations.

We further urge the OHCHR to utilize other mechanisms such as international commission of inquiry, fact finding missions and investigations as mechanisms to address the concerns by the Philippine Government of the conclusions and recommendations by the High Commissioner.

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