Chico Once More: Legacy of Resistance in the Cordillera (2/3)



“Full Blooded Ifugao”

The aggressive development push in Cordillera involves extensive scale of violation of indigenous peoples’ rights over their land and primarily their right to free, prior and informed consent. Villagers of Huhlukan Barangay in Ifugao complaint on the real FPIC process prescribed by NCIP was not followed for proposed hydro electric projects as information was denied to them by Santa Clara Company for the proposed dam in Tinoc. Villagers are rather misinformed that villagers will have roads, electricity, and employment with the dam construction.

International Solidarity Mission in Ifugao posed joined the nationwide call for the State to “Stop the Attacks” against indigenous peoples. Photo courtesy of Jiten Yumnam

The Field Based Investigation conducted by NCIP for FPIC for dam building in Huhlukan, Binablayan led to controversy and violence. Based on notification by DoE, NCIP conducted field based investigation (FBI), targeting only selected villagers of the community supporting the project.

In Huhlukan village, the FBI is referred to as “Full Blooded Ifugao”, indicating the threats, violence, bloodshed, associated with dam building and the FPIC process, which also involves the murder of Ricardo Mayumi for rejecting the dam and the manipulative FPIC process. Already blood has spilled in the Ifugao during the field based investigation and FPIC process for building a hydro project.

“Flatten the Hills”

Indigenous peoples’ effort for defense of their land, lives and future is often perceived as anti-development and they are labeled as terrorists, and often expose them to be victims to direct attacks of the military. Direct military operations, under (operstion plan) Oplan Bayanihan, Oplan Bantay Laya, with the tacit military support of US, have led to several series of human rights violations in communities in various parts of Cordillera; in Ifugao, Kalinga and Abra provinces. Military atrocities and violations have been reported in Abra and in Nalapunan, where the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) bombed civilian areas. Forest areas of Gubang and Malacato communities in Bangillo were set on fire due to bombing.

The direction of the president of Philippines in early 2017 to “flatten the hills with bombs”, have led to intensification of aerial bombing in Mindanao and in Cordillera highlands, with severe repercussions, viz, displacement, killings, destruction of environment within indigenous communities .

Militarization is an entrenched reality among indigenous communities employed by the Government to counter the liberation movement of New People’s Army and to support corporate bodies to exploit the land and natural resources, like dam building in Camandag village and Huhlukan village in Ifugao province, gold mining, and geothermal plants in Kalinga.

During military clashes between the armed forces and liberation groups, civilians are harassed and villagers could not also go to their farms. Military occupation or encampents in schools is widespread and youths are subjected to search, identity verifications and other harassment.

Soldiers also indulged in rape and sexual abuse of indigenous women. AFP personnel also forced villagers to sign papers to desist from hosting NPA. The AFP officials also indulged in violations of customary laws such as forcing villagers to sell liquor in villages where liquor is prohibited. There are reports of military interference in resolving inter-tribal conflict in Kalinga province.

Similarly in Manipur, the promulgation of the infamous Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 not only derogated the fundamental right, “right to life”, but also conferred immunity to the Indian armed forces operating in Manipur to subdue indigenous self-determination but also to facilitate the plunder of land through dam building, mining, oil exploration, road and railways building with IFI financing. The pattern of perpetuation of extreme forms of violence and persisting culture of impunity is much similar.

Gray-May, June-Gloom, No Sky-July

Indigenous leaders and organizations are subjected to harassment, surveillance and attacks by Philippines National Police (PNP) and AFP for defending peoples’ rights over their land. Officials of Ifugao Peoples Movement (IPM) and CPA Ifugao chapter are threatened with trumped up charges, surveillances and death threats using social media.

In 2015, ten members of the IPM, including Mayumi, have received death threats using the picture of a ‘Gamong’, the Ifugao fabric used for the dead with words inscribed, “Gray-May, June-Gloom, No Sky-July”. On 2 March 2018, Ricardo Mayumi, an IPM member in Tinoc, Ifugao, who also received the ‘Gamong’, was murdered in Kiangan town.

Mayumi opposed the Quad River mini hydro projects in Tinoc town in Ifugao. Human rights defender William Bugatti. was earlier gunned down after attending a court hearing on 25 March 2014. The filing of trumped up charges against seven indigenous leaders of Cordillera in early 2018, among the list of 600 activists across the Philippines, led to international condemnations. Five women were also arbitrarily arrested in July 2017.

The prevalence of the culture of impunity, systematic denial of justice for human rights violations by the PNP and AFP, such as in the case of William Bugatti, is widespread. There is insufficient investigation by law enforcing agencies and concerns abound this lack of investigation is on account of their involvement in these violations. Community leaders who challenged AFP and PNP in judicial processes are subjected to extra judicial execution like Ricardo Mayumi. Investigations often fails to identify and charge perpetrators. Villagers fear filing complaints for fear of reprisal. Even the investigation by Commission on Human Rights (CHR) failed to identify and prosecute perpetrators.

The NCIP and CHR etc., are ineffective at protecting peoples’ rights. Villagers complained the NCIP’s role is more to help corporations with their business, instead of supporting communities’ rights. Lawyers deputized by NCIP even denounced indigenous peoples’ rights over their land during consultations on the proposed dam in Tinoc. During aerial bombings by AFP in Abra and incidence of human rights violations, the CHR only issued advisory to the warring parties, instead of exerting efforts to prevent or stop the violations, The administrative functioning in Cordillera closely resembles a military state, with the military dictating the civilian affairs and silencing voices of dissent and call for democratic space for indigenous peoples rights and justice. #
Continued next week

(The author had years ago contributed articles to Nordis about his observations and lessons he came by on cultural exchange trips he made with others to communities in the Cordillera. This time he was part of an International Solidarity Mission (ISM) with indigenous peoples communities. He belongs to the Meitei people of Manipur, India. He is an environmentalist and human rights defender, involved in protecting Manipur’s environment, land, resources and the human rights of its indigenous peoples. He is the Secretary of the Center for Research and Advocacy – Manipur, a writer-researcher and regularly contributes articles to the Imphal Free Press, E-Pao.Net and other publications. He travels around the world to learn and speak on indigenous peoples’ issues. He also produces documentary films.)

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