OCTOBER 7, 2015
JUSTICE FOR THE SLAIN LUMAD LEADERS; LET THE INDIGENOUS
PEOPLES LIVE IN THEIR LANDS WITH JUSTICE AND PEACE
The Lumads in Southern Mindanao have long been victims of armed conflict in the Philippines. During the 1980s, state sponsored resettlement programs resulted to their displacement from their ancestral domains. Accompanying this are various human rights violations such as militarization and deprivation of their basic right to education and social services. Their stories are either ignored or left untold.
On September 1, 2015, three Lumad leaders were killed by alleged members of paramilitary groups in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. These incidents were witnessed by their families and neighbors. The Lumad communities in Lianga, San Agustin, Marihatag, San Miguel and Tago, Surigao del Sur felt insecure and unprotected as a result of the killings. The presence of the military have not assuage their fears. They fled to seek safety elsewhere. This disrupted their economic activities and their usual socio-cultural undertaking. Their displacement has also exposed them to greater risks to their safety, health, and well being.
According to the CHR-CARAGA’s progress report, around 3,237 indigenous people (IP) including men, women and children are now taking temporary shelter in Surigao del Sur Complex in Tandag City. Safety inside the shelter is being observed. Some indigenous peoples are concerned with their children’s education hampered by the displacement.
We at Balay, condemns the killing of the Lumads. The incident is a blatant affront to their human rights. We call for the prompt and impartial investigation and resolution of the case in order to achieve justice and responsible people are made accountable. We also implore the duty-bearers to attend to the needs of the displaced peoples and take steps to protect them from harm as provided for by the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.
While Balay is in solidarity with people, groups and organizations who call for justice, we also appeal to the Philippine Senate for the immediate passage of the HB 4774 and Senate Bill 2785 entitled Rights of the Internally Displaced Persons Act.
More than 100 jail medical officers and human rightsdesk officers of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) participated in a two-day seminar on torture monitoring, documentation and reporting on August 27-28, 2015. The activity was jointly organized by Balay and the Directorate for Inmates Welfare and Development (DIWD) of the BJMP as part of their commitment to prevent torture in places of detention. The participants came from more than 40 jails managed by BJMP in the National Capital Region (NCR). The seminar was held in the BJMP National Headquarters (NHQ) in Quezon City.
DIWD Chief Carol Borrinaga and Deputy Director Dr. Irene Lim, Deputy Director presented the BJMP anti-torture policy to the participants and reiterated that torture prevention is congruent with the bureau’s mission of ‘human safekeeping’ of detainees. The participants discussed the guidelines that they need to observe and the forms that they will have to use in documenting inmates who may have already been tortured or ill-treated at the time that they have been sent for safekeeping in jail facilities. They also learned how to interview torture victims and to report to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) any complaint of torture of inmates by custodial authorities.
Atty. Patricia Veramo and Dr. Paul Borlongan, Legal Officer and Medical Section Officer of the BJMP respectively, provided iinputs on the anti-torture law and torture documentation. Balay's Program Coordinator, Kaloy Anasarias, and its Medical Forensic Consultant, Dr. Ben Molino, discussed how to identify the effects of torture and to handle the victims in order to obtain the torture narrative and provide immediate treatment and psychological first aid.
According to Balay, many cases of torture have remained unrecorded because mandated authorities are not keen on detecting possible torture victims and documenting them properly.The participants, many of whom have studied health-related science, before they joined the custodial service are deemed to play an important role in documenting cases of torture, facilitating the victim’s access to rehabilitation services, and in ensuring the speedy disposition of cases.
BJMP Director Diony Mamaril congratulated the participants and the organizers for their efforts and led the awarding of certificates to the participants.
Two youth partners of Balay were among those who were awarded by the Barangay Council of Barangay Bagong Silang in Caloocan City for their creative outputs during the art contest to commemorate the third year of establishment of the Barangay Human Rights Action Center (BHRAC) on August 24, 2015. Bumbong Marbano and Jobel Del Mundo, who are both learners in the Alternative Learning System Program (ALS) of Balay, obtained medals and consolation prizes for their posters that captured the theme “Committing Ourselves to Human Rights Everyday.”
Balay members and other partner also joined the solidarity march that started from Phase II of the barangay until it reached the Barangay Hall. Community public servants, residents, and members of civil society organizations participated in the anniversary program to show their support for the BHRAC despite the heavy rain.
A representative from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) lauded the BHRAC for its continued public service since it was formed in collaboration with Balay three years ago. Among the achievements of that partnership was the training of the first batch of barangay staff, community leaders, peacekeepers (“tanods”) who served as pioneers in human rights work in the barangay.
The BHRAC has also documented reports of human rights violations by community residents and refer them to the CHR for further investigation and legal action.
PROTECT THE IDPs, STRENGTHEN DURABLE SOLUTIONS
For many decades now, the communities in many parts of Mindanao have repeatedly experienced armed conflict and militarization resulting to their forced evacuation and displacement from their homelands. Thousands of indigenous peoples, pastoralists, and land tillers in other parts of the country have also been involuntarily separated from their farms and ancestral domain due to social violence and intrusion of exploitative big business and extractive industries. Moreover, the recurrence of extreme weather events and destructive geological and oceanic phenomenon aggravated by climate change have made many communities vulnerable to producing more “disaster IDPs” in the country.
These socio-natural and human made displacement drivers have brought the Philippines in the list of countries that have recorded the most number of internally displaced persons around the world. This was confirmed by the 2013 report of the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) that cited the Philippines as the country that have produced that most number of IDPs in 2013 ( 7,227,969 individuals) due to the Zamboanga Siege, the Bohol Earthquake and the super typhoon Haiyan combined.
There is no doubt that internal displacement brings suffering and losses. It is one of the most palpable human rights challenge in the Philippines today as much as it is a humanitarian issue and a socio-political concern as well. The Philippines is a signature to a number of International Treaty and Conventions such as the International Humanitarian Law and the Human Rights Law. However, durable solutions to internal displacement remain wanting. A national legal framework that protects IDPs in accordance with the tenets of the United Nation Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (UNGPID) is yet to be put in place as well.
In this regard, we, the participants to the Forum on Institutionalizing IDP Protection in the Philippines, strongly urge President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and the Senate to enact the Rights of the Internally Displaced Persons Act (RIDPA) now, continue the efforts to put a just conclusion to the peace processes, such as by passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and strengthen a sound disaster risk reduction and management platform towards the building of a peaceful disaster-resilient communities.
Another study of Balay, this time in collaboration with the International Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) has been published. The study looks at the phenomenon of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and armed conflict in NPA areas. You can download the research using the link at the end of this page. Below is a brief description of the research.
In recent years, much of the attention paid to internal displacement in Mindanao has focused on central and Western Mindanao. This displacement is primarily the result of prolonged conflict between Muslim rebels groups – in particular the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – and the government. The conflict, often described as a contestation between groups of indigenous people, known as the Bangsamoro, and non-native newcomers to the region, has claimed the lives of an estimated 150,000 people in the last four decades and displaced millions. Progress towards a final resolution of this conflict appears on track.
However, no comparable progress has been made towards ending the 46-year old conflict between the government and the New People's Army (NPA) the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Peace talks continue to be mired by half-hearted efforts on both sides and a perception that neither party is willing to make concessions. The government's security forces and the NPA continue to clash regularly, in particular in Eastern and Northern Mindanao where the conflict exacts a heavy toll on the mainly indigenous civilian population. Unlike the Bangsamoro conflict, the NPA insurgency attracts little attention, despite being one of the longest running conflicts in the world and despite its ongoing impact on the civilian population. This is partly due to the fact that most of the violence and most of the suffering caused to civilians, including regular displacements, take place in remote areas and remain under-reported. The armed conflict is not the only displacement threat indigenous people in Mindanao – commonly referred to as Lumad – are exposed to. Their land and human rights are also under attack as outsiders seek to exploit their abundant natural resources: Mindanao is thought to hold the country's largest reserves of nickel, copper and gold.Resistance to natural resource extraction projects is sometimes met with violence. Many indigenous people are forcibly evicted, particularly those who lack ancestral land titles or other proof of ownership of land and resources. Tension and conflict over land access and management add another dimension to the violence and may be fuelling the armed conflict and increasing NPA recruitments.
Natural disasters, in particular flooding, are another major and frequent cause of displacement in the region. On 4 December 2012, Typhoon Bopha (locally referred to as Pablo) struck Mindanao, forcing close to a million of the 6.2 million people impacted to evacuate their homes. The typhoon's high wind speed and flooding caused extensive damage, with over 235,000 homes destroyed or damaged and further destruction of public infrastructure. The eastern part of the island bore the brunt of the casualties and damage, with indigenous communities particularly affected. As elsewhere in Mindanao, deforestation due to logging, mining, and the extensive cultivation of banana plantations in mountainous areas increased poor communities' vulnerability to flash floods and landslides. Even before their displacement most Lumad people, including former IDPs studied in this report, lived in remote,poor and marginalised areas where the unstable security situation has been hampering development efforts. As a result many Lumad communities struggle to cope with the economic and social consequences of their repeated displacement. They are unable to build up any assets that would sustain them in times of crisis and remain in a constant state of alarm and uncertainty about their futures.
The right of indigenous people not to be displaced from their land is guaranteed by Filipino law, in particular the 1997 Indigenous People Rights Act (IPRA), and also by the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), an accord signed by the government and the NPA in 1998. As long as counter-insurgency operations continue to target indigenous communities and IPRA and CARHRIHL are not effectively enforced, these communities will continue to be locked in a cycle of regular displacement to escape conflict and violence.
In this report IDMC aims to assess the impact of multiple displacements caused by the government-NPA conflict on Lumad communities in eastern Mindanao, identify the main obstacles to sustainable return and recovery and make policy recommendations to address these. The study also sought to assess the extent to which communities previously affected by the conflict are more vulnerable to the effects of the disaster as a result of previous loss of assets and physical isolation and socio- economic marginalisation.
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