#16days – Indigenous women stand against all forms of VAW

“With the continuous mining in our communities, the indigenous women and
the whole community continue to fight.”

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL, Bulatlat.com –

1 December 2014

MANILA – Indigenous women led by Bai Indigenous Women Network (BAI)
protested at the Chino Roces Bridge (former Mendiola Bridge) on
Thursday, Nov. 27 condemning rights violations committed by state
security forces.

Wearing their traditional clothes, the Indigenous women of Dumagat,
Igorot, Tumanduk, Ayta, and Lumad marched through Mendiola despite the rain.

They called for justice for those who were killed and victims of human
rights violations as they protect their ancestral land. The women also
supported the call for the ouster of President Benigno S. Aquino III who
they described as a disaster to the indigenous people for permitting big
foreign companies to plunder on the country’s natural resources.

The protest action is part of the 16 Days of Activism Against
Gender-Based Violence, an international campaign in connection with the
International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
(IDEVAW). It started on Nov. 25 and ends on Dec. 10, International Human
Rights Day.

With feet red with paint, the indigenous women performed a war dance on
an illustration of Aquino. The group said the red footprints symbolized
the blood of indigenous women martyrs and the continuing resistance
against the killings and the violations of human rights of indigenous
peoples committed by the Aquino government and the Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP).

“On this day, indigenous women rise for justice. We face the
militarization of our communities and suffer from human rights abuses.
We are impoverished and made landless because of the plunder of our
ancestral lands. These are biggest forms of violence against indigenous
women that should be put to an end,” Kakay Tolentino, a member of the
Dumagat tribe and the national coordinator of BAI said.

Violator of indigenous women’s rights

It is the government who is the gross violator of human rights, said
Tolentino. She said the Aquino government’s economic policies such as
the Public-Private Partnership Program, especially in mining, energy,
and other extractive industries, worsen the situation of indigenous
women and their families in rural areas.

“Big businesses in our lands, most often large-scale mining, disrupt and
upset the economic situation in indigenous communities. Because feeding
and caring for the family fall on the shoulders of indigenous women,
they are the first to be burdened by the loss of their land and
livelihood,” Tolentino.

Jocelyn Agdahan, secretary general of the Tribal Indigenous Oppressed
Group Association (Tindoga) said their land is where they get their
food, medicines and “hardware” or construction supplies. But the
government prefers to have big foreign companies plunder the natural
resources in Mindanao, leaving the people poor as big companies have
taken away their livelihood. Many were displaced from their communities,
and worse, some have been killed for fighting for their right to
ancestral lands.

“Aquino is a disaster. He should be ousted!” Agdahan said during the
protest action.
Meanwhile, in the Northern part of the Philippines, Mila Singson,
chairwoman of Innabuyog Gabriela, said women and children too have
suffered due to the heavy militarization of communities.

Singson said in Abra province, communities in the towns of Lacub and
Malibcong were bombed by the military. “With the bombings, their
routines were ruined. They cannot go to their farms because they are
afraid if the soldiers will see them, they will be bombed again,”
Singson told Bulatlat.com.

Some soldiers also court women leaders to make them stop opposing mining
companies from entering their communities. “They know that the women
leaders are staunch fighters of their right to land. Some leaders who
are in the forefront of the struggle are being wooed by the soldiers.”

Singson, who is from the Guinaang tribe in Kalinga province, also
experienced harassment from state security forces in April for actively
opposing mining in her community.

“We opposed the entry of Makilala Mining Company in our company. They
used the paramilitary forces and the intelligence units of the military
against me. They vilified me in the community. They threatened to bomb
us – me and my relatives — if we are not going to let the mining company
enter our community.”
The indigenous women have filed cases before the National Commission on
Indigenous People (NCIP) and submitted their case in the United Nations
Special Rapporteur on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (UNSRRIP).

“On the commemoration of International Day against the Elimination of
Violence Against Women (IDEVAW), we demand that any form of violence
against women be stopped. Just recently Engineer Fidela Salvador was
brutally killed in Lacub, Abra. She was killed for helping the peasant
and the indigenous people in Lacub, Abra. We have to seek justice and we
will continue to seek it for this senseless killing,” said Singson.

‘Unite and fight’

“With the continuous mining in our communities, the indigenous women and
the whole community continue to fight. Those who are fighting are being
killed just like Juvy Capion and her family in 2012. This is the basis
why we should unite and fight for our rights,” said Anelfa Hamilo,
spokesperson of Kaluhamin-Socksargen.

Capion, and her two sons were massacred allegedly by the 26th Infantry
Battalion in October 2012 in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

The women’s group said that under the Aquino administration, 50
indigenous people have been killed by suspected AFP and paramilitary groups.

“Of this number six are indigenous women while seven are indigenous

BAI also expressed concern over the 55 combat battalions reportedly
deployed in Mindano, amounting to 46,000 to 50,000 troops. Just this
Oct. 30, the group said 446 families or 2,184 individuals from 14
communities in Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur fled from their homes
due to military operations.

“The militarization of Mindanao will only bring about more killings and
violations of human rights among indigenous peoples and other vulnerable
sectors. The Aquino administration has turned the island into a warzone,
rather than pursue long-lasting peace in Mindanao,” Tolentino said.