MANILA — Rep. Luz Ilagan of Gabriela today challenged the Philippine Congress to pursue an “Indigenous People’s Agenda” that would, among others, review the government’s policies on indigenous peoples as well as investigate the human-rights abuses they suffer.
Ilagan, a former Davao City councilor and one of the city’s most respected leaders, said the agenda should push the Philippine government to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which shall be decided by the UN General Assembly in September.
It should also conduct an inquiry into human-rights violations against indigenous peoples, a review of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act and a repeal of the Philippine Mining Act, which, according to human-rights groups, is instrumental in the displacement of the country’s indigenous peoples.
According to Ilagan, while there have been several international breakthroughs in the past decade toward the recognition of rights and dignity of indigenous peoples, the Philippines, which is home to over 12 million indigenous peoples, falls behind.
“There is no dignity, in policy nor in practice, in the way our indigenous peoples are being treated. Indigenous communities are being displaced and threatened by mining concessions; they are being massacred supposedly in the name of development. There is an ethnocide going on in this country,” Ilagan said.
Ilagan said that as of last month, the Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Watch has documented about 130 cases of political killings that victimized indigenous peoples: 65 Lumads; 45 Igorots; 11 Mangyans; 6 Aetas; a Dumagat; a Remontado; and a Palaw’an. The report includes 13 women brutally killed, 4 of whom were pregnant at the time of their death; and 17 minors, nine of whom were victims of massacres.
“Many of them were killed and some were even accused of being members of the New People’s Army for merely expressing opposition to the entry of large scale mining activities or the building of dams in their communities. It is but inherent for indigenous peoples to defend the land of their ancestors that they hold sacred,” said Ilagan, who sought an inquiry into the killings of indigenous peoples.
This was affirmed by the UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples Dr. Rodolfo Stavenhagen when he visited the Philippines in February 2007. “There is a clear connection of the violence to the defense of indigenous land rights,” he said.
Ilagan also called on Congress to categorically express its support for the ratification of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The declaration which was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2006, is set to be ratified by the UN General Assembly next month.
She also called for a review and repeal of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act and the Mining Act respectively. Ilagan, who is set to deliver her maiden privilege speech today, Wednesday, is also the president of the Solidarity Action Group for Indigenous Peoples, and hails from Mindanao, where 61 percent of the country’s indigenous peoples can be found. (davaotoday.com)Extrajudicial Killings, Indigenous Peoples