STATEMENTS | Stop the Persecution of Indigenous Peoples’ Human Rights Defenders


The year 2018 saw a worsening in the government’s treatment of indigenous peoples and human rights defenders in our country. The Duterte government unleashed its wrath on indigenous peoples, their supporters, their organizations and their leaders. While indigenous peoples continue to defend their ancestral lands and territories against destructive projects, the government continues to implement the neoliberal economic policies of the past administrations, while pursuing its own Build, Build, Build development paradigm.

As we commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10 seventy years ago, we decry the blatant disregard of the human rights of indigenous peoples by the Duterte administration. 2018 will be remembered as the year the government openly declared that human rights defenders from legitimate and registered organizations are considered as “terrorists”. This was seen in a petition for proscription filed by the Department of Justice to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) as terrorists, including a list of more than 600 of their alleged leaders. Many of the people named in the list are legitimate leaders and activists of legal organizations, including indigenous people.

We also witnessed the forcible closure of indigenous people’s schools. In the most recent case, elements of the Alamara, a notorious paramilitary group in Davao del Norte, locked down some self-help Lumad schools in the Municipality of Talaingod. The national solidarity mission sent to rescue the children and teachers were harassed and arrested. A total of 79 human rights activists, advocates and Salugpongan school students were detained at the Talaingod police and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) headquarters. Eighteen of them, including former congressman Satur Ocampo, ACT Teachers Partylist Representative France Castro and Salugpongan Executive Director Meggie Nolasco were charged with a trumped-up kidnapping case and were forced to pay bail for their liberty.

In 2018, we continued to demand justice for the killings of indigenous peoples such as Mangyan leader Erning Aykid, the victims of the massacre in Lake Sebu, among others. We continue to fight for the dropping of charges and for the freedom of those who are detained and are still facing countless trumped-up charges because of their service to their own people and support for indigenous peoples’ struggles. We demand the release of Rachel Mariano, an Ibaloi-Kankanaey development worker and human rights defender in the Cordillera region, now detained in Bantay, Ilocos Sur because of false charges of murder.

Martial law in Mindanao and the state of undeclared martial law in indigenous communities in Luzon and Visayas must end. Indigenous peoples’ rights to land and self-determined development should be recognized and respected in the government’s development agenda.

The use of the military as an investment defense force to secure destructive and extractive activities of mining, energy and plantation corporations should be stopped. Indigenous peoples’ opposition against destructive development projects should be respected as a legitimate option for genuine development, rather than as a hindrance to the development of communities and the nation as a whole.#


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