THE United Nations has set aside August 9 every year as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People and August as the month for mankind to honor IPs and to be more aware that there are indigenous people whose culture and peaceable ways of life must be appreciated, respected and protected, and whose needs must be met.
In the Philippines, instead of responding positively to the UN’s calls on behalf of IPs, in general and except for the very few who truly care for the IPS, the people who hold political power over them in the national and local governments, and those who hold firepower–in the military and police–all work to oppress them. They help industrial and business interests send them away from their jungle and riverine habitats, force them to flee so that mining corporations can do what they want.
It’s the oppressors who celebrate their success in maltreating IPs every month. Oppressed IPs have to constantly be on guard for their lives even in August.
Let’s not forget: Our forefathers were IPs
Like our forefathers, the IPs who later became the Filipinos, when confronted by the might of colonizers, protested and fought. Today’s IPs protesting the invasion of their communities by corporations are being murdered, their leaders are accused of being seditious rebels. Some are hunted down for being New People’s Army operatives.
It was a momentary source of relief and hope for them to see that the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, whose specific mission was to look into the plight of displaced persons in our country, also saw the impact of government military operations on the rights of IPs in Mindanao, particularly those in mining-industry areas.
The leftist and leading human rights advocacy and defender organization, Karapatan, through its Secretary General Cristina Palabay correctly praised Mr. Chaloka Beyani’s initial assessment of “the extent of possible rights violations by the military on people forced to flee from their homes due to AFP operations and the entry of transnational mining corporations boosts the people’s legitimate demand for the AFP to pull out of the communities.”
Mr. Beyani had said, “I was alarmed that tribal leaders reported that their communities were consistently being manipulated and divided and that they had been harassed and had received threats when they expressed their opposition. Indeed some leaders and members of the indigenous communities have been killed over the past years reportedly due to their anti-mining activities.”
The UN Rappporteur was in the Philippines from July 21 to 31, 2015. He met with indigenous peoples in South Cotabato and displaced persons who had been forced to leave their homes and take shelter at the United Church of Christ’s Haran compound in in Davao City.
Karapatan reports that “more than 700 indigenous peoples from Talaingod and Kapalong, Davao del Norte and Bukidnon evacuated from their communities due to intensified AFP operations, with the military forcibly recruiting members of the indigenous communities into the paramilitary group Alamara. The military has also encamped in the communities and occupied the self-run schools of the Lumad.”
Pray for BS Aquino to be converted
President Aquino and the men and women officials concerned must take to heart these words of Mr. Beyani, reacting to the pitiable condition of Filipino displaced persons and oppressed IPs.
“Displacement, whether due to conflict or development, not only destroys the homes and livelihoods of indigenous peoples, but has an incalculable impact on their cultures and ways of life that are part of the rich and diverse heritage of the Philippines that must be protected or otherwise be lost, perhaps forever.”
But we have to pray for the miracle that BS Aquino and his people suddenly get converted and that way develop a sense of compassion for our fellow Filipinos who are IPs. For in their present mentality and psychological state, BS Aquino and company heartlessly don’t give a hoot what happens to IPs and other oppressed Filipinos. And that is because they are themselves among the oppressors.