States Hear Human Rights Challenges in the Cordillera due to Philippine Policies
UNPO Member CPA participates in inaugural UPR Pre-Session in Geneva, an event bringing together states and civil society to share information for the UN's Universal Periodic Review process.
Below is a statement delivered by Cordillera Peoples Alliance representative Beverly Longid at the UPR Pre-Session Discussion of the Philippines, 3 April 2012, Geneva:
Thank you for this opportunity to discuss with you on the current human rights situation in the Philippines particularly on our situation as indigenous peoples (IPs). We look forward to a fruitful exchange and actions on our concrete recommendations for actions as we work to address human rights concerns especially of IPs in the Philippines.
Violations of peoples’ rights continue under President Benigno Aquino III’s Administration. Contrary to government pronouncements, the current counter-insurgency policy, called Oplan Bayanihan (Cooperation), is no different from the policies of previous administrations that have led to various human rights violations.
Documentations and our experience show that the Philippine Government has failed to comply with its human rights obligations as provided for in the Philippine Constitution and national laws, and as protected under various UN human rights instruments it has signed. Despite its pledge of support to various UPR recommendations in 2008, it has not taken decisive steps to adequately address the recommendations set forth in the said UPR.
It has also failed to take action on indigenous peoples concerns that we forwarded in various petitions, letters and documents submitted since 2010 to the Office of the President and concerned government agencies. Of which a major concern is the respect for indigenous peoples' human rights, and to end the militarization of indigenous communities.
EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS, ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES and IMPUNITY
In the UPR 2008, the Holy See recommended to, “Completely eliminate torture and extrajudicial killings,” with Switzerland recommending further “to intensify its efforts to carry out investigations on extrajudicial killings and punish those responsible.” These recommendations enjoy the support of the Government of the Philippines. However, our records indicate that there have been 20 (extrajudicial) killings of indigenous peoples from January 2008 - July 2010, and 14 killings since Pres. Aquino took office – making a total of 34 extrajudicial killings of IPs. The latest victim Jimmy Liguyon, an indigenous church leader in Bukidnon, Mindanao whom paramilitary troops killed on March 2012.
The numbers speak for themselves. However, one killing is one killing too many.
The Philippine government has not brought a single perpetrator of these crimes to justice.
There has been neither prosecution nor convictions.
James Balao of the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA) remains missing until today despite the issuance of a Writ of Amparo in his behalf. It is of great disappointment, two years after that the Supreme Court reversed the said decision.
State agents have vilified all as enemies of the State, openly tagged as New People’s Army (NPA) supporters or red fighters. In 2006, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) released a power point presentation ‘Knowing Thy Enemy’ that lists legitimate organizations including IPs organizations as enemies of the State. Thereafter, the AFP Northern Luzon Command published a book ‘Trinity of War’ containing the same list. These documents have served to justify violations against individuals and organizations expressing dissent or critical to government policies and programs.
The Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Detentions recommended in April 2008 “to immediately direct military officers to cease from making public statements linking political or other civil society groups to those engaged in the armed rebellion xxx.” It states that, “vilification is being used by State security forces to legitimize the commission of human rights violations against those they tag as “terrorists” or “enemies of the state.”
It is unfortunate that the Government of the Philippines does not support this recommendation and the related recommendation of the Netherlands in the UPR 2008 for a “follow-up report on its efforts and measures to address extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances xxx.”
Vilification of activists and other civil society organizations continue with the filing of trump - up criminal charges that includes innocent civilians. In the Cordillera, the military charged with rebellion and murder four (4) civilians leading to their imprisonment. Two are women (2) recently released for absence of evidence. The other two males (2) are mentally ill with one a diagnosed case of schizophrenia. Both are now out on bail.
State security agents do not even spare from such attacks students scholars of progressive party lists education programs that they similarly vilify. The scholars experienced threats, harassment and intimidation from the military that label them as NPA scholars and worse offer them money to work undercover as intelligence informants against their fellow scholars and members of youth organizations.
Vilification not only affect civil and political rights, it adversely affects economic rights. Vilification worsens government neglect of IPs. National surveys and studies report that human development indicators are lower with IPs and poverty indicators are higher than the rest of society such as periods of hunger, high mortality and infant mortality rates, illiteracy, and the serious lack of basic social and other services.
In Mindanao, military offensives and vilification has forced many literacy and numeracy schools in indigenous communities to close and stop providing education services, denying indigenous children of academic learning. In the Cordillera, the military brands socio- economic projects implemented by civil society organizations such as waterworks for irrigation and community electrification, rice cooperatives, distribution of farm tools as projects in support of red fighters , denying the community necessary support for food security and better economic livelihood.
This contrary to the recommendation of Nigeria in UPR 2008 and with the support of the Philippine government “To set -up efforts to meet the basic needs of the poor and other vulnerable groups.” We remain the poorest of the poor despite our contribution to national wealth from the extraction of mineral and other natural resources largely found in our ancestral lands. Vilification and militarization further aggravates our poor and marginalized situation.
MILITARIZATION – WOMEN and CHILDREN
The State has also failed to protect women and children from State atrocities. “Wooing women and girls has become a macho soldier subculture and sly strategy to build and maintain rapport with the community.” This February, Capt. Danilo Lalin of the Philippine Army raped a minor from Mankayan, Benguet. Further documentation indicates his involvement in another rape involving another minor. This case is not isolated with cases of rape and other sexual violations against women and children in other Cordillera provinces.
In indigenous culture, rape and sexual violations are grave crimes not only against the individual but also against the community or tribe she belongs to.
On 11 March 2012 in Panay, Visayas, after an explosion from an army detachment 200 meters away – shrapnel hit sisters Rodilyn and Baby Aguirre, 6 and 4 years old. Rodilyn died on the way to the hospital and Baby seriously wounded.
We hope that the UPR and the Philippine government address the protection of women especially minors in situations of armed conflict – where violations against them have become weapons for counter- insurgency. In the Cordillera, soldiers target organized women and female children of activists and leaders.
MILITARIZATION – FORCED EVACUATION
The escalation of military operations in IPs territories force communities to evacuate – run for safety – repeatedly for some communities. Like the Lumad - Mamanwa in Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, Mindanao who ran from their homes five times since May 2010. The latest this March after military operations started again on March 4. The mountains range connecting these provinces contain large mineral deposits and covered by mining applications that the Lumad - Mamanwas are opposing.
Like in many cases, the military set camp inside civilian communities, occupy public building or grounds. They conducted indiscriminate aerial strikes and bombings that have forced the evacuation of 233 families or 737 individuals; more than half are women and children. Of this, 10 are pregnant women, 35 are nursing mothers, 165 are children who hiked 10- 20 kilometers, and others walked for a day to seek safety from military operations.
Militarization and the continued recruitment of IPs into the military or paramilitary formations and groups to augment military operations or protect corporate interests exacerbate the violation of IPs rights.
In the UPR 2008, the government of the Philippines supported the recommendation of Canada to “Ensure that measures of the security forces are trained on human rights and on their responsibility to protect human rights and human rights defenders.” The above cases show the low regard of State forces’ for the respect of human rights, especially the military. It also puts into doubt the sincerity of government to fulfill its obligations for human rights standards it has signed and consequent pronouncements of support to recommendations arising from such mechanisms.
ANCESTRAL LANDS and FPIC (free-prior-informed consent)
The operation and numerous applications of large - scale mining, both by local and transnational corporations, is another threat to the right of IPs to ancestral land and self-determination; and bring about irreparable damage to the environment.
Our experience has shown that the letter and spirit of the law is much different from its implementation. The FPIC is a legally protected right in IPRA and the UNDRIP but is manipulated either through subtle means of bribery or promises of financial and material benefits, or coercion through military means. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) – the government agency mandated to supervise the FPIC process – is instrumental in the said manipulation and violation.
Compounding the outright violation of the FPIC is the State - sanctioned use of military and armed groups to quell opposition to said mining operations and applications.
Aside from the recommendations contained in our shadow reports, we highlight the following recommendations on the protection of indigenous peoples – a marginalized and underrepresented sector.
Pull-out State security forces in indigenous communities especially those covered by mining applications and in areas where the FPIC process shall be or being or soon to be conducted. This is to ensure that the FPIC is free from manipulation, intimidation, and coercion. The presence of the military and detachments creates a climate of fear, undermining the spirit and intent of FPIC.
Acts of sexual violations against women and children, and continuing violations such as threats, harassment, and intimidation, vilification, extra- judicial killings are more than enough reasons for the pullout of AFP forces and dismantling of military detachments in indigenous communities.
Stop recruitment of indigenous peoples into and dismantle all paramilitary groups. Call for the Philippine government to implement and the UPR to encourage its compliance to the recommendations of UN Special Rapporteur Rodolfo Stavenhagen concerning paramilitary groups.
Enact measures to stop the practice of criminalizing and branding activists as terrorists and enemies of State, and the use of places of learning for military activities, and the continuing issues of abuses by State security forces.
Enact positive legislation against vilification of social participation including describing communities in the hinterland especially indigenous communities as “red areas,” “communist-infested” or “rebel/insurgency-controlled areas;”
Officially withdraw the AFP ‘Knowing Thy Enemy” and its Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) book ‘Trinity of War’ and delist legitimate organizations as enemies of the State contained therein specific ally the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance and the KAMP;
Institute stricter measures to prevent the coddling and the practice of transferring deployment of State perpetrators to evade arrest and culpability to their crimes against civilians and civilian communities. Strengthen witness protection to assist in the prosecution and conviction of perpetrators.
Call for the Philippine government to implement and promote observance to the recommendations of UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston on vilification of activists and related recommendations from the 2008 UPR.
Execute a moratorium on large - scale mining pending deliberations of an alternative mining bill. Initiate the cancellation of mining applications, permits or contracts without the genuine FPIC of affected indigenous communities. Ensure that all projects and investments in indigenous territories truly secure FPIC. The reported new FPIC government guideline should correct the substantial flaws and blatant violations of this right.
Beverly L. Longid
Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance