THE United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues appealed to the Philippine government to exclude the names of three of its members from its list of 600 alleged terrorists.
In a statement on Wednesday, the UN said the charges against Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; Joan Carling, former member of the Permanent Forum; and Jose Molintas, former member of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples were “unsubstantiated and that they were being targeted for their advocacy and efforts to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples.”
“We note with alarm that reprisals and attacks against indigenous rights defenders are increasing,” it said.
“We appeal to all Member States and specifically the Philippine government to guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples in line with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
This is the second time the UN expressed its concern for the human rights defenders’ safety.
In a separate joint statement released on March 8, Michel Forst, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and Catalina Devandas Aguilar, chairperson of the Coordination Committee of the Special Procedures said, “We call on the Philippine authorities to immediately drop these unfounded accusations against Ms. Tauli-Corpuz and to ensure her physical safety and that of others listed.”
They said the accusations against Tauli-Corpuz were acts of retaliation by the Philippines.
“The accusation against her comes after the public comments made, jointly with other Special Rapporteurs, in relation to the militarization, attacks and killings of indigenous Lumad peoples by members of the Armed Forces in Mindanao; this accusation is considered as an act of retaliation for such comments,” Forst and Devandas said.
The DoJ State Prosecutor’s office filed a petition before the Manila Regional Trial Court on February 21 to declare 600 individuals as terrorists.
Tauli-Corpuz denied the accusations linking her to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).
Malacanang spokesman Harry Roque defended the inclusion of the UN rapporteurs on the DoJ’s list in a press briefing in Alimodian, Iloilo on Saturday.
“The DOJ would not have filed the petition without evidence that she is a member of or somehow affiliated with the CPP-NPA,” Roque said.
He also guaranteed that Tauli-Corpuz would be allowed to defend herself in court.
This is not the first time the UN and President Rodrigo Duterte have been at loggerheads.
The administration has constantly prevented Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur, from investigating the country’s controversial war on drugs.
The Palace maintained that Callamard was “not welcome” in the Philippines. CATHERINE MODESTO