By RENDILYN CUYOP
TINOC, Ifugao — Members from the progressive youth organizations Anakbayan and League of Filipino Students (LFS) in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, California, USA chapters with delegates from India and Thailand, visited grassroots communities in Tinoc and Asipulo, Ifugao for the International Solidarity Mission (ISM) conducted from July 17-22.
The ISM is for the purpose of documenting cases of human rights violations in communities plagued by military presence supposedly pursuing Communist rebel forces; and to reach out in solidarity to the peoples continuing struggle for the defense of their ancetsral lands.
“We have a new campaign which is for the purpose of supporting Indigenous Peoples Human Rights defenders that are under threat of harassment, political vilification among others. This is why we would like to document these cases to be able to identify to which direction we aim the pressure to stop these attacks on indigenous peoples and advocates from the international level,” says Marie Joyce Godio from the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
During the integration, community leaders and members of local organizations related accounts of killings, harassment and intimidation by suspected agents of the state armed forces. According to them, these are efforts to silence their opposition against the entry of destructive energy projects in their community by instilling fear among the locals and other indigenous peoples rights advocates who support the struggle of indigenous peoples to protect their ancestral lands from development aggression.
In the Cordilleras, it has become a practice for the government to deploy the military as investment defense forces to communities where there are proposed or operating energy projects and extractive projects. This has resulted to a lengthening list of human rights violations perpetrated by the state against individuals and groups opposing these destructive energy projects.
The Kalanguya tribe in Binablayan, Tinoc still recall the events that led up to the killing of Ricardo Mayumi. He is remembered for his bold stance against the Quad-river and Sta. Clara mini hydro power plants. Mayumi is a member of the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM), a peoples organization that has been tagged by the military as a Communist rebel front; and along with other members he often received threats through calls and text messages before he was gunned down on March 25, 2018.
In Camandag, Asipulo, also home to Kalanguya and Ayangan tribes, the Ekleg Peoples Organization (EPO) recently submitted to the office of the provincial governor their resolution against the construction of a hydroelectric power project by the Smith-Bell Mini-hydro Corporation. The community has been heavily militarized in the guise of anti-insurgency operations and leaders of the EPO are tagged as suspects by the military as rebels or supporters.
“I can understand why people object to military presence, I saw the dug-out trench and its very near the community. They can easily get caught in a firefight between the military and rebels,” said Jiten Yumnam of Land is Life, a global network of indigenous peoples and grassroots organizations.
The ISM was an eye-opener for the delegates not only for the state of human rights violations but the stagnant socio-economic condition under the Duterte regime. “The roads going to the community is not really safe, I had to walk some distance to avoid accidents because the road is rocky and slippery,” said Elina Horo from AIPP after more than an hour motorcycle ride along the narrow and bumpy road.
Aside from that is the absence of basic medical and educational facilities is notable in both communities.
The delegates vowed to intensify campaigns in support of Cordillera peoples struggle by exposing these issues at the international level. “These experiences keeps you grounded on peoples issues from the homefront, we stand with you in support of your continuing struggles. It becomes our role to be your voices at the imperialist base” said Gabrielle Pascua from Anakbayan San Francisco (ABSF).# nordis.net