DAVAO CITY, Philippines – On the International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 8, Manobo leader and Bayan Muna representative Eufemia Cullamat called for an end to attacks of indigenous peoples in the country.
“Today, hundreds of thousands of Indigenous Peoples are making their stand known for the end of discrimination against the country’s minority,” Cullamat said in a statement.
She noted that the situation of the IPs worsened under the Duterte administration, with the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 enacted amid the health crisis brought by the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
“Measures that are inhumane and do not cater to the needs of the people, such as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and now, the death penalty, are being prioritized, instead of laying down clear plans to protect the people from severe hunger due to the virus,” Cullamat said.
The lawmaker also complained of the government’s hand in the closure of more than a hundred Lumad schools in Mindanao and the encroachment of large scale plantations and mining to the ancestral lands.
The Save Our Schools Network recorded 1,030 incidents of attacks on IP schools under the Duterte administration, which included 31 Lumad teachers facing “fabricated” charges. There are 176 Lumad schools closed with 5,579 students disenfranchised.
The network also called out the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for red-tagging during its web forum against indigenous organizations such as Katribu, Sandugo and Sabokahan, as fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines and labelling them as “hindrance to the development of indigenous communities.”
“These attacks and labeling are systemic as the government tries to paint the Lumad as rebels and terrorists. But it conceals the dark motive of the Duterte administration that is to open Mindanao’s last frontiers of mineral and natural resources to multinational corporations,” SOS Network said in a statement.
Cullamat is one among the indigenous leaders that have filed a petition to the Supreme Court to declare the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 as unconstitutional.
The petitioners noted that many IP leaders have been tagged as terrorists for asserting their rights.
“Calling us terrorists or criminals discredits our struggles’ legitimacy and undermines our right to self-determination to participate and voice our opinion in matters that affect us,” said Beverly Longid, global coordinator of International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) and among the petitioners, in a statement Friday, Aug. 7.
Longid said the terror law is an added ammunition to the existing arsenal of repressive laws against the Indigenous and Moro peoples. It’s also a mockery to the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms associated with the Philippine government’s democratic governance and human rights obligations, she said.
A recent report from international watchdog Global Witness, noted that the Philippines is the deadliest country in Asia for land and environmental defenders with Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and farmers among the victims.
“We’ve historically been in a difficult situation, but we remain strong in our struggle knowing we are aware we are not alone in this fight,” Cullamat said. (davaotoday.com)