Philippines: Mindanao’s indigenous people nominated for global rights award
26 October 2015
The indigenous people of the southern Philippine region of Mindanao,
collectively known as the lumad, have been nominated for an annual human
rights award in Belgium.
The nomination came after some 3,000 indigenous people fled their homes
for fear of attacks by armed militias to live in temporary shelters in
the provinces of Surigao del Sur and Davao del Norte.
The award, which will be given by the group Stop the Killings, an
alliance of trade unions, nongovernmental organizations and solidarity
movements in Belgium, aims to “draw attention to the rising trend of
environmental defenders who have faced attacks (and) have become victims
of extrajudicial killings.”
The Belgian nongovernment groups Solidagro, Third World Health Aid, and
11.11.11 nominated the tribal people of Mindanao who “have long been at
the mercy of military brutalities.”
The nominating groups said the indigenous people in Mindanao are victims
of abuses because of their resistance to the entry of mining companies
to their communities.
The groups said in their statement that attacks on indigenous
communities in Mindanao started when the government opened up the
region’s lands to mining investments.
They noted that 80 percent of all 131 mining permits issued in Mindanao
cover tribal lands.
Also nominated for the award, which will be announced on Dec. 18 in
Brussels, are Colombia’s workers in Palmeras, Peru’s Maxima Acuna, and
the Association of Mayan lawyers in Guatemala.
Jhong Monzon, spokesman of Pasaka, an indigenous peoples’ organization
in Mindanao, said the nomination “underscores the situation of terror”
experienced by Mindanao’s tribal people.
In a statement, Stop the Killings said the nomination is a “just
recognition of their right to fight for their ancestral lands and
self-determination, and that their struggle has been borne out of their
social and political awareness.”
“For standing in the way of ‘development,’ the lumads have been accused
as anti-development and enemies of the state, hence, becoming targets of
military operations,” said the statement of the award organizers.
Katribu, a national alliance of Philippine indigenous people, said at
least 70 tribal leaders, most of them lumad from Mindanao, have been
killed since June 2010.
The group also recorded 99 cases of harassments, 22 cases of arrests of
tribal leaders, nine incidents of bombing of communities and farmlands,
and 54 cases of forced evacuations in Mindanao tribal communities.