Karapatan issued an appeal the other day to the 47 member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to urge the Philippine government to stop the attacks against indigenous peoples and environmental activists in the country.
MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / June 14, 2014)- International human rights group Civicus and the Philippine-based rights group Karapatan issued an appeal the other day to the 47 member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to urge the Philippine government to stop the attacks against indigenous peoples and environmental activists in the country.
In an oral intervention delivered by Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay before the UNHRC and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights during the 26th Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva, she cited the forcible evacuation of indigenous Manobos in Talaingod town in Davao del Norte province on Mindanao Island due to military bombings and operations against the New People’s Army rebels.
Palabay also indicated that the Manobos’ refusal to allow mining companies to encroach on their lands exposed them to threats and harassment. “They have become victims of the Aquino government’s counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, and they are tagged as members or supporters of the New People’s Army,” she said.
“Mining companies, including Indophil Resources, have applications covering the land where the indigenous Manobos live, for gold, silver, copper, and other minerals. Their plight is akin to the situation of the indigenous communities where SMI Glencore/Xstrata has mining projects. Anti-mining activists, indigenous leaders and children were killed by military and paramilitary groups, and justice remains elusive for them,” she added.
Both human rights groups appealed to the UN Human Rights Council to urge Manila to recognize and respect the rights of communities and human rights defenders, who bear the full adverse impact of business, especially big mining, activities. They asked the Council to call on the Philippine government to adhere to international human rights standards, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Palabay also spoke on the issue in a side event on civil society space and protection of human rights defenders jointly organized by international organisations Article19, CIVICUS, ICNL, ECNL, the World Movement for Democracy and the Permanent Mission of Ireland. Mr. Maina Kiai, UN special rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association, and Mr. Frank la Rue, UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, were also in the said panel.
Citing Karapatan’s documentation and reports of London-based non-governmental organization Global Witness, Palabay said that aside from extrajudicial killings of indigenous peoples and activists, arrests based on false charges of environmental and anti-mining activists are on the rise, including the arrests of physicist Kim Gargar and Tampakan anti-mining activist Romeo Rivera.
Palabay is among the members of the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights delegation of human rights defenders and church workers at the 26th sessions of the UN HRC. Others who joined her were Atty. Edre Olalia, Secretary-General of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, Rev. Irma Balaba, Assistant Program Secretary of the Christian Unity and Ecumenical Relations Program of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines; and Dr. Angie Gonzales, Atty. Mary Kristerie Baleva and Julie Palaganas of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.