UN Rep Says Killings Hurting Arroyo’s
The United Nations
Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples warns that the Arroyo
government’s inability to stop extra-judicial killings in the Philippines
is undermining its international standing.
UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples
Prof. Rodolfo Stavenhagen
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples last week
warned that the Arroyo government’s inability to stop extra-judicial
killings in the Philippines is undermining its international standing.
The UN representative, Prof. Rodolfo Stavenhagen, the UN Special
Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, said that the pattern of human rights
violations victimizing human rights defenders, social activists, community
leaders and other innocent civilians alike, “is seriously undermining the
international standing of the Philippine government."
Stavenhagen also said
in a statement that violations of human rights in the Philippines have
worsened, adding that the Philippine government lacks the political will
to arrest of the deteriorating human rights situation.
"I am sorry to learn
that the pattern (of human rights violations) continues, and that there is
an increase of these incidents," he said. “In some respects, the human
rights situation of indigenous peoples has deteriorated."
worrisome,” he said, “is that the legal framework of current economic
policies favors the dispossession of indigenous lands and resources for
the benefit of a handful of international corporations or other private
Stavenhagen was in
Manila last week for a national consultation with the Indigenous Peoples.
He was in the Philippines in 2002.
Peoples Human Rights Watch, a network of IP and non-government
organizations monitoring human rights, has documented 123 killings of
indigenous persons under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, from
February 2001 to Jan. 11, 2007. The report said that 84 of these alone
took place beginning January 2003, barely a month after the Special
Rapporteur's official visit to the Philippines in December 2002. The
highest incidence of extra-judicial killings of indigenous peoples was in
2006, with 42 victims.
Recent reports by
Karapatan, the country’s leading human rights alliance, showed that the
number of victims of extra-judicial killings under the Arroyo
administration has reached 841. The figure does not include hundreds who
have been reportedly abducted, scores of victims of torture and other
The Melo Commission,
tasked to look into the killings, recently confirmed allegations that a
number of military generals were involved in most of the killings.
"Even if they (rights
violations) have been denounced internationally, they continue to happen,"
the UN Special Rapporteur said. “There is relatively little progress to
stop this violence, insufficient investigation of these… (and the
perpetrators) have not been prosecuted and brought to justice."
Referring to the
ancestral domain issue, Stavenhagen said that the land issues have
heightened and there is no genuine free and prior informed consent (FPIC)
from the indigenous peoples on development projects and infrastructure
where they are affected. Thus, he confirmed, more protests from the
communities are taking place. The incidents of violence as a response to these protests
"continue to reflect the process of criminalization of protest
Stavenhagen said he
has raised all these issues to the UN Human Rights Council and the
Philippine government in 2002. However, he said, stories and testimonies
of indigenous leaders in the consultation show that nothing has been done
by the Philippine government to abate the increasing violence,
land-grabbing, deforestation, displacement and other forms of human rights
violations against the indigenous peoples.
violations, and continuing impunity of the perpetrators exhibit the lack
of political will, and political competence of those responsible for the
protection of human rights," said Stavenhagen.
Itik, a 6-year old
Aeta boy from Central Luzon, held a photograph of his father, Nicanor de
los Santos, while his older brother was telling the story of how their
father was shot dead by armed men, five years ago in Rizal south of
Manila. "Pinatay nila ang tatay ko, NPA daw siya, pero siya ay lider na
tumututol sa Laiban Dam, lider katutubo sa Rizal, pinamatay ng mga militar
sa ilalim ng task force panther." (They killed my father, they said
he was an NPA but he was a leader of those opposing Laiban Dam. He was
killed by the military under the Task Force Panther.)
Until now, no one has
been prosecuted for the killing. "At ngayon, pinagpapatuloy naming
magkakapatid ang laban ng nalabi naming ama, para sa aming lupa,"
Itik’s older brother said. (Today, my brothers and I continue to fight for
our land that our father began.)
Asian Development Bank
The Laiban Dam is a
project funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Other cases of killings of indigenous leaders who were protesting and
leading actions of opposition against development projects, mining and
forestry projects were reported in the consultation with the UN
Bangit, 46, a tribal leader of the Kalinga Malbong tribe in the
Cordilleras, northern Philippines was one of those killed in 2006.
Agustina, Markus' widow, said that in her state of the nation address last
year, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo condemned the political killings.
"However,” Agustina testified, “nothing has yet been done in the killing
of my husband."
"I stand here on
behalf of the others who have lost their loved ones,” the widow said. “We
hold the Arroyo government accountable for these killings; for not being
able to protect the lives of good people like my husband."
In a separate
statement, a representative of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources
Center (LRC-KSK) warned that the recently-enacted anti-terrorism bill
poses further threats to the human rights of indigenous peoples.
anti-terrorism bill,” the LRC-KSK said, “will add ammunition to the
already fully-armed military and paramilitary groups to threaten, harass
and commit human rights violations against those who continue to fight for
their right to give or not give their consent to projects in their lands,
and those who defend their lives. With the Arroyo government adopting the
ASEAN Mining Framework, we would see more approvals of large-scale mining
companies, one of the largest threats to IP rights." Bulatlat
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