LRC STATEMENT ON THE MONTH OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES (IP)
A CALL FOR PNOY TO END VIOLENCE VERSUS INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
In 2009, Presidential Order 1906 was signed declaring October as a national Indigenous Peoples (IP) month.
This month, the Indigenous Peoples month, 2 people were brutally murdered – an IP leader and a committed IP rights advocate. In October 14, Datu Roy Gallego, a chieftain of the Manobo tribe in Surigao del Sur, was shot dead in an ambush. Datu Gallego was a broadcaster, and a known anti-mining tribal leader.
In October 17, Fr. Fausto Tentorio or Fr. Pops, an Italian priest who worked for the Filipino Indigenous peoples, was shot 10 times, with special bullets meant to explode inside the body to make death a certainty. Fr. Pops’, with his advocacy for the rights and welfare of the Lumads, was also known for this strong stance against mining.
The police and Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan who are looking into the death of Fr. Pops have been quoted as saying that they are looking “at the possibility that members of a local paramilitary group or of a private army employed by mining companies were behind the killing.” (PDI, 10/21/11,p.17)
Indeed, mining is slowly but surely being made synonymous to violence. If before, the discussion on mining is about the death of biodiversity, rivers and seas, these days, mining is inextricably being linked to death of people who oppose it. The most active and most vocal against mining are the indigenous peoples, as it is their communities who are being mined out, ravaged for profit. And it is their communities who are divided, displaced, further impoverished by the loss of their livelihood, and made hungrier by the loss of their sources of food.
Today, two strong voices – of a Lumad and for the Lumad – have been silenced forever.
Yet, the President wanted more protection for the mining companies.
This month, National IP month, few days before the murders, approval from President Aquino came of the military proposal to allow mining corporations to form and fund militias for their protection.
There are two ways we can look at this pronouncement by the President. One way is that, clearly, he is misinformed of what is happening on the ground. President Aquino may not have been informed of the long list of human rights violations suffered by the upland and other rural poor communities under the hands of militias – those who protect big businesses like logging and mining; as well as politicians who also benefit from these businesses.
The other way to look at it is that the President has made a clear stand – for mining and against those who oppose it.
Unfortunately, however one wants to look at it, the effect is the same – the indigenous peoples, like Datu Gallego, are penalized, militarized, threatened, and yes, even killed for defending their rights to their territories, to their lives. And those who support their cause, like Fr. Pops, share the same tragic fate. On the other hand, mining companies, which pose grave threats to the environment, the livelihoods of the peoples, the integrity of the communities, and to the lives of those who defend these, are given protection by the Aquino government.
This should not be allowed to happen. Not anymore.
In celebration of the National Indigenous Peoples Month, and in mourning of the death of Datu Gallego and Fr. Pops, we urgently call on President Aquino –
To end state impunity under his administration;
To bring justice to the deaths of Fr. Pops and Datu Gallego;
To withdraw his approval of forming and funding militia for the protection of mining companies;
To make mining companies accountable to the human rights violations they commit; and
To seriously and urgently look into and address the issues being raised against current mining operations and the entire government’s mining policy framework which does not respond to national development needs; which trades food and sustainable livelihoods to profits for corporations; does not give priority to community development, human rights and environmental protection. One critical step to address this is to enact an alternative minerals management bill.
We strongly urge the President to listen and hear the call of the indigenous peoples and us, advocates.
Mr. President, it’s time now to listen not to the people who funded your presidential campaign, but to those who actually voted for you.