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  • Writer's pictureKATRIBU Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas

UN Rapporteur Confronts Alarming Attacks against IP rights defenders in the North

Reference: Beverly L. Longid, KATRIBU National Convenor, +63 920 919 1820

On January 26, the United Nations Special Rapporteur (UN SR) on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Ms. Irene Khan, directed her attention to the escalating human rights violations against Indigenous Peoples (IP) in Central Luzon (CL), Cordillera, Ilocos, and Cagayan Valley during her visit to Baguio City.

IP communities in the north are experiencing systematic attacks on their freedom of expression, linked to violations of their Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC). Numerous instances of FPIC violations are evident in the construction of the Balog-balog dam in Tarlac, Gened and Saltan Dam projects in the Cordillera, the Cabacanan Small Reservoir Irrigation Project in Ilocos Norte, and the Oceanagold mining in Nueva Vizcaya.

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), a staunch advocate for IP rights in the Cordillera, faces continuous attacks as the organization courageously defends the rights of IP communities against various challenges, including militarization, red-tagging, and extrajudicial actions. They are persistently red-tagged and labeled as terrorists by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). In Cagayan Valley, IP groups undergo comparable accounts of militarization, community bombings, and red-tagging, particularly of Aggay women.

This reprehensible practice of government agencies like NTF-ELCAC unfairly targets those actively protecting their ancestral lands and resisting destructive projects. The false allegations not only impede the free exercise of the right to expression but also expose IP leaders to legal consequences, surveillance, and stigmatization, severely hampering their ability to advocate freely for their communities.

Hand in hand with the NTF-ELCAC, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (ATA) exacerbates the plight of IP communities by classifying assertions of their rights to ancestral domains and self-determination as terrorist activities. This legislation has been weaponized to label IP leaders as “terrorists'' due to their principled opposition to militarization and destructive projects. 

Two Aetas from Central Luzon were the initial targets of fabricated terrorism charges under the ATA. CPA leaders such as Windel Bolinget, Sarah Alikes, Jennifer Awingan, and Steve Tauli have been designated as terrorists. It is to be noted that the terrorism charges against the two Aetas and the false rebellion cases of the four CPA leaders were dismissed due to lack of evidence supporting the accusations.

The Anti-Terrorism Act is used by state forces in desperation to silence Indigenous Peoples and cripple their organizations by removing due processes. The government is threatened by the criticisms forwarded by IP rights defenders, thus they resort to red-tagging, criminalization, and terrorist designation. 

As the Indigenous Peoples face unabated attacks, Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas urges international attention and solidarity to address these human rights violations. The visit of UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan to Baguio City serves as a crucial platform to shed light on these pressing issues and advocate for the protection of the rights of IP communities in the Philippines. #


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