The government should stop treating indigenous peoples (IPs or lumad) poorly if it wants to stop poverty, Vice President Ma. Leonor Robredo said on Thursday.
The Vice President made the statement during the IP Leaders Assembly in General Santos City, a week after the violent dispersal of protesting IPs at the US Embassy in Manila wherein a police car tried to run over the lumad at least four times.
The police were also caught on video grabbing a driver of one of the jeepneys used by the protesters, mauling him until he bled.
The IPs were demanding their right to self-determination and that their ancestral land be free from militarization by Philippine and American armed forces.
“The summary of poverty is how does the entire government view the IP community. Because we should view the IP community as an equal partner on everything that we do and… looking back, it seems that it is not what is happening,” Robredo said in her speech.
Prior to her stop in General Santos, she visited the IPs belonging to the Mangyan community in Mindoro, the seven tribes of Bukidnon, as well as the IPs in Ifugao and Mountain Province.
“One of the first agencies that I met with when I started functioning as your Vice President is the NCIP [National Council of Indigenous Peoples]. But after going around to meet the IPs, I would need to meet with the NCIP again because I have learned that the IPs’ concerns are not being aired and they have a diminished role in communities,” Robredo pointed out.
A number of policemen who took part in the violent dispersal at the US Embassy were charged with multiple serious physical injuries, unlawful arrest, obstruction of justice, grave misconduct, grave abuse of authority and conduct unbecoming public officers by the IP protesters before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Among these policemen were: Senior Supt. Marcelino DL Pedrozo; Police Chief Supt. Oscar David, National Capital Region (Metro Manila) director; Supt. Albert Barot; Chief Inspectors Dionelle Brannon, Elmer Oseo, Joebie Astucia, Roberto Marinda and Roberto Mangune; Senior Inspector Edgardo Orongan; and Police Officer 3 Franklin Kho.
“Even the NCIP… on how the government treats the IPs, it’s like they are just third-class citizens. The IP community is one of the most marginalized of all sectors of society, meaning your property, beliefs and culture are not being valued the way [they]deserve [to be valued],” Robredo said.