By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
QUEZON CITY — The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) condemns and demands accountability from the US Embassy and Philippine National Police (PNP) for the violent dispersal of the peaceful protest of around 1,000 national minorities, including Igorots, in front of the US Embassy on October 19.
The protesters were delegates of the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya para sa Sariling Pagpapasya at Makatarungang Kapayapaan (Journey of National Minorities for Self Determination and Just Peace).
The violent dispersal resulted in injuries to more than 50 people including Piya Malayao, an Igorot from Bontoc, Mountain Province and current secretary general of Katribu, a national alliance of IPs. Malayao is also the spokesperson of Sandugo, a newly formed alliance and movement of national minorities for self-determination.
The protesters were hit with truncheons, blasted by water canons and tear gas, and were run over by a police mobile. A day before the incident, the same group was violently dispersed in their protest action in front of the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on October 18.
In a press conference held at the University of the Philippines Diliman on October 20, Malayao stressed that national minorities trooped to Metro Manila to reiterate their long standing demand for just peace and respect of their right to self-determination.
“We are being killed in our communities and our ancestral lands are ravaged by destructive projects such as mines, dams, energy and corporate plantations among others so we decided to come to the seat of power in the country to demand justice and what do we get, water cannons, tear gas and getting run over by a police mobile,” Malayao said.
Malayao said that foreign companies and the meddling of the US with Philippine affairs have been instrumental in the continuing violation of the rights of national minorities. She said that the continuing plunder of the country’s resources that largely falls within IP territorries are facilitated by unfair foreign relations especially with the US.
She further said that the Balikatan exercises disrupt the lives and sources of livelihood and result to human rights violation of IPs like the Aetas in Central Luzon. She explained that the protest was staged in front of the US Embassy being the representation of the US government in the country.
“We have long been asserting our right to our ancestral lands and territories and to self-determination for decades now and we have been met with violence by the State but we persist because we have no other recourse but to defend our territories and identity as a people,” Malayao added.
During the indignation rally held inside the University of the Philippines Diliman campus on October 20, Windel Bolinget, Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) chairperson said that alongside their protest against human rights vilations perpetrated by the AFP and PNP and the plunder of their ancestral lands, they are also pushing for an indepeendent foreign policy.
“We came to Manila to demand justice for the political killings, enforced disappearance, harassment and various forms of human rights violations that are committed especially by the AFP in our communities. We came to seek government action on the destruction and plunder of our ancestral lands and resources. But on October 18 and 19, we were met with violence by the AFP and PNP,” Bolinget said.
He added that the inhumane treatment of protesting IPs and Moros at Camp Aguinaldo and at the US Embassy is a manifestation of the continued discrimination and oppression against national minorities.
“No one deserves to be run over by a police car. No one deserves to be killed for defending their lands and resources, and human rights. No one deserves to be killed for being an indigenous person or Moro, and for holding a protest in front of an Embassy of the United States,” Bolinget stressed.
Bolinget called for the dismissal and encarceration of Police Officer 3 Franklin Kho, the driver of the police mobile that run over our delegates, and Police Senior Superintendent Marcelino Pedrozo, head of Western Police District who commanded the police violence at the US Embassy. “Being relieved from their posts is not enough, they must be punished for their brutal and inhumane actions,” he said.
In 2004, Pedrozo was suspended for involvment in kidnapping and extortion but was reinstated in 2005 because no forrmal charges were filed against him.
Bolinget also stressed that the CPA calls for the total withdrawal of the US from the Philippines as a step forward in developing the country’s independent foreign policy and developing its own national industries.
Neri Colmenares, chair of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said they are preparing criminal and administrative charges against Kho, Pedrozo and all other police officers involved in the violent dispersal. He said they will file attempted murder charges.
Organized by various IP and Moro organizations, including the CPA, the Lakbayan is a show of solidarity and united action of IPs and Moros. It is packed with a series of educational fora, various engagements and protest actions held from October 13-21 at the National Capital Region. Around 250 IPs from all provinces of the Cordillera attended the activity. # nordis.net