DAVAO CITY – Over 200 people’s rights advocates from 25 countries are set to convene here for the first International Conference for People’s Rights in the Philippines on July 23 to 24. The conference is co-sponsored by the International League of People’s Struggle and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

Rev. Rex R.B. Reyes, Jr., Executive Board Member of the World Council of Churches and Chair of the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines (Ecumenical Voice) said: “The ICPRP is convening to hear the people’s plaints on continuing rights violations.”

“Participants are now in several hot spots in the country for solidarity missions and they would want the President to know what is happening on the ground,” Reyes said.

In Davao City some 40 foreign activists arrived on Sunday, July 17 to participate in an International Solidarity Missions in indigenous people’s communities in Talaingod, Davao del Norte; Arakan Valley in North Cotabato, and in Bukidnon province.

Amirah Lidasan, Suara Bangsamoro secretary general said some delegates of the ISM 2016 also arrived in Pagadian City on Sunday “as part of their exposure to the plight and struggles of people in Western Mindanao against destructive foreign-owned large-scale mining in Mt. Balabag.”

Other areas to be visited by the delegates include communities in Cordillera, Eastern Visayas, Southern Tagalog, and Panay region.

Is Pres. Duterte coming?

Reyes said a formal invitation was sent for the president to address the conference “but there is yet an official reply.”

“President Duterte, in his inaugural speech, has admonished to hear the “murmurings of the people”. Now is a chance to hear (it),” Reyes said.

“Drug-related killings are alarming.  But whole-scale violations of people’s rights – civil, political, economic, social, cultural, including the right to self-determination — continue with impunity,” he added.

Davao City is also the home of Pres. Duterte where he served as the city mayor for 22 years.

Human rights threatened globally

The gathering takes inspiration from the adoption of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples in Algiers, Algeria in 1976.

“This year is particularly timely to bring the message of the conference to a wider public as it coincides with several significant events including the 30th commemoration of the 1986 EDSA People Power that toppled the Marcos dictatorship, the May 9th elections in the Philippines, and the 40th anniversary of the Algiers Declaration,” the ICPRP concept note reads.

The note mentioned that imperialism, “with the US at the helm, faces rising instability in the wake of the plummeting world economy, sharpening rivalry with emerging powers and regional blocs, the rise of fundamentalist movements, the refugee crisis, impending catastrophe brought about by climate change, and widespread social unrest.”

“To recoup its dominant world position and undercut people’s rights, imperialism is pursuing new strategies and measures including the newly-approved Transpacific Partnership Agreement, military build-up and reinforcements in strategic locations in the regions, ASEAN integration, and the revival of the Bush-era “war on terror” mantra,” it said.

Meanwhile, it mentioned that in the Philippines the past administration has pushed on “neoliberal plunder of the country’s economy and resources” under the US prodding. It also said that the government’s anti-insurgency campaign has militarized communities “targeting people’s organizations, non-government organizations, cooperatives and alternative schools.”

“The lumad or indigenous peoples of Mindanao are particularly made vulnerable; their ancestral lands are the objects for exploitation by big corporate mines and agricultural transnational corporations,” it said.

The organizers of the conference said the solidarity missions and the conference aim to elevate to the international attention the situation of the Filipino people whose rights are being violated.

The first gathering of human rights activists around the globe happened in July 2013, where 280 delegates joined the 1st International Conference for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines.

From the said conference, a coalition called the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines was formed.

Prior to the ICPRP, foreign nationals will also be attending the 2nd General Assembly of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines on July 21 and July 22. (davaotoday.com)

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