Call For Accountability Over IP Rights, Push For UNHRC Independent Probe in the Philippines

Press release – via Scoop, (Please cut and paste to your browser)

26 September 2020

Church groups, international indigenous peoples organization call for
accountability over IP rights, push for UNHRC independent probe

IPMSDL stands with its member indigenous organizations, communities and
human rights defenders in the Philippines in calling for an independent
probe to address the issues of militarization, destructive extractive
and energy projects in ancestral lands, and widespread and systematic
killings under President Rodrigo Duterte.

“The worsening human rights situation in the Philippines has severe
impacts on indigenous peoples, further exacerbated by the COVID19
pandemic”. This was the message delivered during the 45th session of the
United Nations Human Rights Council by the National Council of Churches
in the Philippines, together with KATRIBU and the International
Indigenous People’s Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation
(PMSDL) through the World Council of Churches- Commission of the
Churches in International Affairs (WCC-CCIA). They also called for an
independent probe on the human rights violations and killings of
Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines.

The joint statement delivered by Jennifer Philpot-Nissen, the program
executive for human rights of the WCC-CCIA, on Sept. 24, 2020 during the
interactive dialogue enumerated various cases of rights violation in the
country perpetrated against indigenous peoples, and communities.
Philpot-Nissen mentioned the brutal killing of a Manobo tribal leader in
North Cotabato, Merlin Ansabu Celis, who was shot dead, her throat
slashed and eyes gouged out. The statement also included the
indiscriminate bombings in Zambales, forcing Aeta communities to
evacuate, while community members were arrested and severely mistreated.

Unfortunately, even amid the pandemic, vilification of rights activists
and progressive Indigenous Peoples organizations intensified. “Those
defending indigenous peoples, including the Cordillera People’s Alliance
and church partners, continue to be vilified. Described as communists,
New People’s army supporters and “wanted” individuals, these human
rights defenders are targeted through posters and fictitious Facebook
accounts shared by the police and military,” she added.

The statement also described the 178 Indigenous Peoples’ schools in
Mindanao that have been shut down by the government, depriving 5,000
indigenous children access to education. The latest was the destruction
by the paramilitary of the Indigenous school, the Mindanao Interfaith
Services Foundation Academy on August 26. All of these happening in the
thick of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The oral intervention pressed for the UNHRC to “establish an independent
mechanism to investigate human rights violations in the Philippines
especially those that were perpetrated against Indigenous Peoples.
Further, the statement also asked the UNHRC for the Philippine
government to strengthen its mechanisms and local remedies to ensure
Indigenous Peoples’ access to justice and services, and to ensure their
full, effective and meaningful participation in the implementation of
state policies and projects in accordance to the UN Declaration of
Indigenous Peoples, especially their rights to self-determination and
free, prior and informed consent.

The NCCP and Katribu are both members of the Ecumenical Voice for Human
Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) and have been engaging
with the UNHRC since 2018. These organizations, together with the IPMSDL
fully support the report of the OHCHR in June 2020 calling for the
Philippine Government to “establish an on-the-ground independent,
impartial investigation into the human rights violations in the