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The Center
for Development Programs (CDPC) supported the submission of the human rights
situation of indigenous Peoples in the Cordillera by the Cordillera Peoples
Alliance (CPA) and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) to Ms. Victoria
Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples (UNSRRIP). The support given by the CDPC is part of its campaign to the
right to self-determination of the indigenous peoples.

                The
Special Rapporteur in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for
Human Rights (OHCHR) called for inputs for her next thematic report on
criminalization and attacks against indigenous peoples defending their rights
under human rights treaties and the United Nations Declaration on the rights of
indigenous peoples. Hence, CPA and CHRA prepared a report on the current human
right situation of indigenous peoples in the Cordillera region. The report calls
to redress some recommendations made by the former Special Rapporteur Rodolfo
Stavenhagen who conducted the last country visit to the Philippines in 2003. It
highlighted that the situation of indigenous peoples in the Cordillera continues
to mirror institutional discrimination against the people. The following are
some of the recommendations that should still be reiterated to the Philippine
government:

  • That
    resolving land rights issues should at all times take priority over commercial
    development. There needs to be recognition not only in law but also in practice
    of the prior right of traditional communities
  • That the
    government of the Philippines carry out a prompt and effective investigation of
    the numerous human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples,
    which have been documented by human rights organizations and special
    fact-finding missions.
  • Given the
    severity of the various alleged human rights abuses and the divisive effects on
    indigenous communities caused by irregular military units or paramilitary
    groups, the Special Rapporteur that the Citizen’s Armed Forces geographical
    Units (CAFGUs) be withdrawn from indigenous peoples’ territories.
  • The adequate
    basic social services, including housing, education, heath, food and drinking
    water, be made available to all indigenous peoples in the country to the
    maximum extent possible
  • The maximum
    protection be afforded to human rights defenders in carrying out their
    legitimate human rights work
  • That the
    Government of the Philippines request the United Nations High Commission for
    Human Rights to establish an office in the Philippines to provide technical
    cooperation in the field of the promotion and protection of the human rights of
    indigenous peoples.

Dialogue between IPs and UNSRRIP

Specific cases of human rights violations in the Cordillera region from February 2017 to April 2018 were cited by CPA and CHRA to further support the need to redress the recommendations made by Stavehagen fifteen years ago. These cases were submitted through participating in a dialogue between indigenous groups and the UNSRRIP by the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamayan ng Pilipinas (KATRIBU) and Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (TFIP). KATRIBU is a national alliance of regional and provincial indigenous peoples’ organizations representing various indigenous communities. On the other hand, TFIP is a network of non-governmental organizations in the Philippines advancing the cause of indigenous peoples (IPs) rights envisioning a society that promotes and defends IP rights and upholds their self-determined development.

Cases of massacre, killings, displacement, attacks on schools,
illegal detention and arrest of indigenous peoples’ communities, leaders, and
members were forwarded by the different IP groups who participated coming from
Southern Tagalog, Surigao del Sur, Cagayan Valley, Cordillera region, and Lumad
groups.  Rachel Mariano, a woman human
rights defender working with the health unit of CDPC, the Community Health,
Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (CHESTCORE) raised
salient points from the report made by CPA and CHRA. It includes the importance
of highlighting indigenous collective rights to land, thorough investigation of
the human rights violations against indigenous peoples, the demand to pull out
paramilitary groups such as the CAFGU as a move to demilitarize IP communities,
adequate social services to IPs, and a request for a Philippine office from the
UN High Commissioner for human rights for technical cooperation. Also, as a
victim of politically motivated trump-up charges, Mariano strongly demand for a
maximum protection be given to human rights defenders in the country.

The report on the attacks and criminalization of indigenous
peoples rights defenders

The
submissions were welcome by Ms. Tauli-Corpuz, these cases of violations on the
rights of indigenous peoples were indeed reflected in her report on the rights
of indigenous peoples. In the report, she argued that “in retaliation for
advocating for the protection of their lands, indigenous peoples are being
accused of being obstacles to development and acting against national
interests. Indigenous leaders and communities seeking to raise their concerns
over the negative impacts of projects on their rights, livelihoods and the
environment have been targeted in violent attacks.” These attacks ranging from
killings, force displacement, threats, and harassment in the form of criminal
charges were meant to silence opposition of indigenous peoples in asserting
their rights.

Furthermore,
she specifically cited that in the Philippines the Department of Justice (DOJ)
petition requesting the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New
People’s Army (NPA) including 600 individuals be declared as terrorists. The
Special Rapporteur was herself mentioned in the list in a retaliation for
having raised concerns over the escalating violence against indigenous peoples.
In this regard, the Special Rapporteur urges the international community to
continue to monitor the situation and the safety of human rights defenders in
the Philippines. Indigenous peoples in the country stigmatized and suspected to
be members of NPA, increased militarization, and extrajudicial killings were
also pointed out highlighting that indigenous Lumad communities in Mindanao
have been particularly targeted.

                In
general, the Special Rapporteur recommends States to adopt measures to prevent
and protect indigenous peoples putting an emphasis that all violent attacks
against indigenous defenders must be promptly and impartially investigated
employing a zero-tolerance approach. A safe environment for them to advocate
their rights should be ensured by means of creating protection programs and
drafting national policies and legislation in favor of human rights defender. Also,
collective land rights of indigenous peoples need to be recognized in order to
address the root causes of attacks and criminalization. It follows that law
enforcement officials must refrain from the criminalization of indigenous
peoples who are peacefully defending their rights to land and resources.
Indeed, the Special Rapporteur recommendations to States echoes important
issues that the CPA and CHR intends to redress in their report of the current
human rights situation of indigenous people in the Cordillera.

The Special
Rapporteur presented her report at the United Nations Human Rights Council
thirty ninth session on September 19, 2018. This session is under the agenda of
promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic,
social and cultural rights, including the right to development. In the issue of
attacks and criminalization of indigenous peoples rights defenders, the Special
Rapporteur noted that “it is a time for the world leaders to listen. They
should have known better.” CDPC and its network members strongly shares the
same sentiments.

Resolutions from the UN Human Rights Council

On a draft
resolution on a human rights and indigenous peoples, the UN Human Rights
Council took note of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of
indigenous peoples including her thematic study on attacks against and the
criminalization of indigenous human rights defenders and available prevention
and protection measures. It calls on all states to adopt a zero-tolerance
approach to the killing of and violence against indigenous human rights
defenders. This includes a call to fully implement the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to adopt measures to pursue its objectives in
consultations and cooperation with indigenous peoples. It encourages states to
apply the principle of leaving no one behind in the elaboration of relevant
international and regional programs as well as national action plans,
strategies, and programs.

On the other
hand, the council encourages the Special Rapporteur, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
and the Expert Mechanism on the
Right of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) to strengthen their ongoing cooperation and coordination and
ongoing efforts to promote the rights of indigenous peoples, the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the follow-up to the
World Conference, and invites them to continue to work in close cooperation
with all Human Rights Council mechanisms within their respective mandates;

The council decides to hold a half-day intersessional panel discussion on the protection of human rights defenders on the first day of the 12th session of  the EMRIP.

originally published October 12, 2018

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