By RENDILYN CUYOP
MANILA — In the 2nd assembly of Sandugo, national minorities (NMs), or Indigenous peoples and moros from all over the country condemned the Duterte administration for turning its back on his campaign promises and unleashing fascist attacks on their communities.
“The president who acknowledged the national minorities and promised justice for us is now the icon of national oppression just like the past administrations,” says Windel Bolinget, chairperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) from the Kankanaey tribe.
The national minorities through their leaders and representatives, gathered for a second national assembly indicting the current administration under President Rodrigo Duterte and big businesses for the continuing systematic violation of their right to self-determination and national oppression mainly by government-initiated programs combined with corporate interest, contrary to what Duterte promised for the national minorities under his administration.
Bolinget presented the issues faced by Kaigorotan (indigenous peoples of the Cordillera) during the assembly on Sept. 5, 2017.
Cordillera is considered the watershed of northern Luzon but is ravaged by mining operations and energy corporations that has contributed to the degradation and depletion of the region’s mineral and natural resources. Mining applications alone cover 428,046 hectares on top of the operations of the three major mining corporations Lepanto, Benguet Corp. and Philex.
There are also 81 approved hydroelectric power plants with 16 pending not to mention the existing operations of Binga and Ambuklao. The entry of these big businesses violated indigenous peoples’ right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and ignored the non-consent of communities concerned. To secure the application and operations of these corporations, they made use of State security forces and agents which led to the political persecution of indigenous human rights defenders and destruction of their ancestral lands.
Women and children are not spared from the violence and human rights violations of Duterte’s fascist government resulting from the government’s anti-insurgency program, Oplan Kapayapaan. With the all-out war policy unleashed by Duterte, the AFP Northern Luzon Command intensified military combat operations in the Cordillera resulting to a week of forced evacuation in Namal, Ifugao; indiscriminate airstrikes using phosphorous bombs in Malibcong, Abra that accompanied ground operations by the 24th Infantry Battalion under the 7th Infantry Division.
From the first quarter of this year, there are 13 cases of illegal arrests and detention of local residents including a minor from Malibcong. Currently there are nine political prisoners detained in Abra, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Kalinga and Baguio City. Among them is 74-year old Marcos Aggalao who is now confined at the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Kalinga Provincial Hospital.
Women human rights defenders in the region were subjected to political persecution and filing of trumped up charges as in the case of Sarah Abellon-Alikes, a Kankanaey from Mountain Province.
These cases are not foreign to the indigenous peoples from regions of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. “We have been fooled by this President for we are yet to witness what he promised during his campaigns,” says Sonny Serrano from Central Luzon. In between bombings, illegal arrests and killings of human rights defenders, on a day-to-day basis, the national minorities face the problem of losing their homes and livelihood because of destructive mining, logging and energy projects.
“Under a fascist ruling, there is no other recourse but to struggle until our right to self-determination is recognized and genuine regional autonomy is in place under a sovereign Philippines,” Bolinget added.
It is on these grounds that the Moros and indigenous peoples pledge to further strengthen their unity and struggle against the oppressor to assert their rights, and defend their ancestral lands.# nordis.net