What the NCIP Should be Calling Out For
December 27, 2017
Cordillera Peoples Alliance strongly condemns the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in its ploy to yet again inflict human rights violations among indigenous peoples (IPs) by planning to tap IPs versus the New Peoples Army (NPA), as stated in a news article published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on December 19, 2017. The article specifically mentions that “300 lumad or IPs would be sent to their communities in Southern Mindanao to guard their ancestral domains from communist insurgents”. This move will only heighten the fascist attacks to the people, indigenous peoples especially. There is already a nationwide mass murder of indigenous peoples with the reign of terror of this US-Duterte regime, and the AFP is highly accountable.
On this same development, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) issued a statement calling out on the military, calling out on government agencies. But it falls very short on categorically calling out for justice for indigenous peoples, for a stop to Oplan Kapayapaan and all ‘counter-insurgency’ policies of the regime; for martial law to be lifted from Mindanao. If the NCIP were true and sincere in standing for the rights of indigenous peoples, it should condemn the atrocities of the military against indigenous peoples. But it does not, making it equally accountable.
We would like to remind the NCIP of the unpeace and the attacks that are happening in indigenous communities. For decades, mining and energy projects accompanied by militarization caused divisions in communities, human rights violations such as harassment, intimidation, illegal arrests and detention, torture, extrajudicial killings, filing of fabricated charges, and political vilification. The NCIP did not make a categorical positioning in all these. In fact, it served as an institution to further systematically oppress indigenous peoples by conniving with both the big businesses. Twenty years of the NCIP enough, such that indigenous communities are calling for its abolition on the very basis that it is an istrument of national oppression, or the systematic violation of indigenous peoples’ collective right to self-determination by the State and ruling classes. In these critical times of human rights defense against a fascist regime, NCIP’s inaction is clear and apparent in the case of human rights violations against indigenous peoples. All the more that it is accountable. All the more that it should be abolished.
What the NCIP should do is to heed the demands of IPs and also demand the government to stop its attacks against IPs in the whole country. The government’s militaristic and tyrannical approach in addressing the root causes of the armed conflict in the country (poverty, joblessness, non-recognition of human rights and peoples’ rights) through recruitment of IPs and deployment of government troops in IP communities, martial law, counter-insurgency operations, Oplan Kapayapaan and All-Out War will not bring just peace in indigenous communities and the country but will instead lead to perpetrating more extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations with impunity. History and experiences prove that this approach worsens economic and social conditions especially among the marginalized IPs, which in some cases prompt armed resistance.
KATRIBU reports state that from July 2016 to December 5, 39 indigenous leaders have been killed while 21, 966 people were forced out of their communities due to heavy military operations. Fifty-four are illegally arrested, 21 are classified political detainees, and over 100 IPs face false criminal charges. In Mindanao, 34 lumad schools have been closed. How many more before NCIP calls out for justice for slain IP human rights defenders? For a stop to the killings and massacres? For a stop to Oplan Kapayapaan? For martial law to be lifted? For justice to all indigenous peoples slain by this fascist regime? More than ever, now is a time to stand for human rights and justice.
We call on the government to resume the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Philippines (GPh) as a genuine step in truly addressing the armed conflict in the country. We also challenge government soldiers, especially IP soldiers, to always look back to their roots and values, and reflect on the true ways of protecting our ancestral domains and our very existence as indigenous peoples. ***