Philippines: Indigenous people's group alarmed at rising human rights violations
Attacks on the human rights of indigenous peoples has been rampant this past few weeks according to indigenous peoples' organization Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP.) "The Aquino adminstration seems to tolerate the human rights violations done against the people. In lieu of justice, we find our human rights situation deteriorating," Bontoc-Igorot and KAMP spokesperson Piya Macliing Malayao said.
KAMP cites the recent human rights violations reported from various indigenous communities nationwide. "There is no truth in the 'human rights-based approach' of Aquino's anti-insurgency scheme Oplan Bayanihan. Token social services given by military personnel is insufficient to mask its brutality," Malayao added.
No let-up on human rights abuses
Kamp cites several cases of human rights violations this month, to draw a picture of human rights situation of indigenous peoples. "Since Aquino took power in mid-2010, there have been 15 extrajudicial killings of indigenous persons, and the attacks against our rights are continuing. There is no let-up in human rights abuses." Malayao claimed.
Last March 5, Lumad datu (chieftain) Jimmy Liguyon was shot dead by a paramilitary group in San Fernando, Bukidnon. Liguyon led local indigenous Ata-Matigsalog organization Kasilo, that advocated the rights of indigenous peoples to ancestral lands in the resource-rich area. He gained the ire of paramilitary group New Indigenous People's Army Reform (Nipar), who pushes for mining operations in San Fernando.
On March 11, in Tapaz, Panay Island, 6-year-old sisters Rodilyn Aguirre and 4-year old "Baby" Aguirre, Tumandok children, were struck by shrapnel when an M203 grenade exploded less than two meters from their home. Locals believe that the blast came from members of the 61st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, who operates in the area. Rodilyn died because of injuries to her neck and face. Baby was injured but survived.
Meanwhile, in Zapanta Valley, Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte, 429 lumad-Mamanwa indigenous people and peasants fled their homes last March 11, 2012 after combat operations of the 30th IBPA and 3rd Special Forces of the 402nd Brigade. The military units fired indiscriminately, bombed, and launched airstrikes simultaneously in nearby areas, prompting the villagers to leave. The same community evacuated in June 2010, and in April and June 2011 because of military operations and resulting human rights violations.
Earlier in February 28, 276 individuals including lumad-Mamanwa people evacuated their communities in Alegria, Surigao del Norte when 80 elements of the 30th and 38th IBPA launched Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD) and combat operations in the area. Even as the villagers trekked the 18 kilometers to another village to find relief from military presence, the soldiers inserted themselves among the refugees to avoid rebel attacks.
Kamp points out that all these abuses stem from counter-insurgency operations and mining interests in ancestral lands. "Aquino's Oplan Bayanihan runs in conjunct with business interests, especially of large-scale mining. State forces and paramilitary groups are the demolition teams and mercenaries of large businesses, clearing out obstructions," Malayao said. The group said that the Oplan Bayanihan does not differ from past brutal anti-insurgency campaigns. "The Oplan Bayanihan is a lot more dangerous. It is treacherous and deceptive."
The borders of Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Sur is laden with mineral deposits, especially gold and coal. Several mining applications stretch throughout the mountain range straddling the two provinces, and is seen as the reason for military deployment and operations in recent years. Bukidnon also holds several mining applications.
"The unrelenting attacks made against our human rights exposes the nature of the Aquino regime. The administration shows no regard for the rights and welfare of the people." Malayao claimed. "We harbor no illusions that Aquino's government will respect our rights and give justice to all human rights victims. It will only be realized through our unrelenting struggle for our rights."