January 26, 2024
The Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples' Rights (TFIP) hopes that the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Ms. Irene Khan, will heed the demands of civil society organizations, including the Indigenous Peoples groups, who are directly engaging with her office.
Ms. Khan arrived last January 23, 2024, and is expected to meet government officials and civil society organizations in Manila, Baguio, Cebu, and Tacloban during her ten-day visit.
In the case of the Indigenous Peoples in the country, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) continues to neglect their Freedom of Opinion and Expression by violating the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC). They are also instrumental in maligning those who are vocal against destructive projects and those who question NCIP’s neglect of its mandate to protect the Indigenous Peoples.
Recently, the NCIP and National Irrigation Administration railroaded the FPIC processes for the construction of the Cabacanan Small Reservoir Irrigation Project to the affected communities. The institutions also failed to disclose important details of the destructive project to the affected communities in Ilocos Norte.
In Rizal and Quezon provinces, the NCIP and Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System barred members of the directly Kaliwa Dam-affected communities from participating in the negotiation for the dam's construction in 2022.
In 2021, despite the strong opposition of the communities and the issuance of a Resolution of Non-consent, the NCIP issued the Certification Precondition for Gened Dams 1 and 2 in Kabugao, Apayao. Falsification of signatures was also reported to continue the construction of the dam projects.
Apart from FPIC violations in indigenous communities, state forces also continuously commit human rights violations, including red-tagging, criminalization, and abduction.
The police and military relentlessly red-tagged the Cordillera Peoples Alliance before the Anti-Terrorism Council designated its four leaders as terrorists. Manobo leader Julieta Gomez and advocate Niezel Velasco are still incarcerated over trumped-up charges of murder and illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Moreover, it has been almost nine months since the abduction of Bontoc-Ibaloi-Kankanaey Dexter Capuyan and advocate Bazoo De Jesus by alleged agents of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
These persisting human rights violations against the Indigenous Peoples and their advocates restrict them from exercising their freedom of opinion and expression.
The TFIP hopes for Ms. Khan's positive response to her engagements with civil society organizations including Indigenous Peoples groups. We are looking forward to her investigation of the government and its agencies' violations of the Indigenous Peoples and advocates' civil, political, and collective rights. We call on the government to stop the attacks against the Indigenous Peoples and advocates and uphold genuine FPIC processes in indigenous communities.
Information and Networking Officer
Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights