Archive for the ‘indigenous pople’ Category

YOuth rep asks NCIP to clarify description of IPs (Baguio Midland Courier)

August 7, 2011

YOuth rep asks NCIP to clarify description of IPs

by Rimaliza A. Opiña

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The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples is in hot water again.

Sangguniang Kabataan Federation president Karminn Yangot is asking the NCIP to rectify the agency’s supposed “misrepresentation” of the physical attributes of indigenous peoples.

Yangot said the NCIP’s website has inaccurately described IPs as to their phenotypes, present living conditions, and subsistence systems.

Yangot said the NCIP website describes Ibalois as “generally fair in complexion (with) well-developed bodies, usually standing four to five feet above in height,” with “medium and narrow noses (although) some have broad flat noses, (and) deep-seated brown and black eyes.” Ibaloi women on the other hand, have “straight long hair although there are also some who have curly hair;” and Ikalahans or natives of Nueva Vizcaya “as short people, fair complexioned, with black round eyes, and black straight and silky hair, (and) their noses are fairly developed.” It went on to describe Ifugaos as “of medium build, brawny and brown with black eyes, straight hair, and thin lips.”

The NCIP website describes the Ikalahans as shy people who “live in far flung areas, unreached by any type of transportation,” Bontocs are projected as headhunters whose men wear loincloth and whose women wear wrap-around skirts.

Yangot said these are “misrepresentations” that “create stereotypes, cultural biases, and ethnic prejudice, and perpetuate the alienation of the misrepresented indigenous communities from the mainstream.”

“The projection of indigenous communities as primitive peoples untouched by modernization is tantamount to the denial of the presence of indigenous issues regarding development aggression which have spawned forced eviction, economic dislocation, and cultural displacement, which denial may result in the non-resolution of these issues.”

Yangot reminded the NCIP’s mandate is to “protect and promote the interest and well-being of the indigenous cultural communities with due regard to their beliefs, customs, traditions, and institutions,” and not depict them as described.
In a proposed resolution, she also asked the NCIP to create a committee of experts to come up with accurate resource materials of IPs of the Philippines. – Rimaliza A. Opiña

Advocate’s Overview: The threatened Cordillera forest

March 8, 2009

By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW

The role of the Cordillera forest as the watershed of Northern Luzon has been the focus of public discourse lately. The region serves as the water source of at least 13 major rivers flowing down the Ilocos and Cagayan Valleys, and as far as Central Luzon.

It became also the center of discourse due to the climate change phenomena.

As an environmentalist friend says, the forest cover of the region proved that it is critical due to the warmer weather even during the so-called cold spell.

DENR-CAR data show that the region’s forest cover is critically below the 40% of the total land area of 1.8 million hectares. The ideal ratio for a region’s forest cover should be 40% of the area while 60 % alienable and disposable, the government environment watchdog claimed.

With the above reality, the battle cry seems to be reforestation. Since the government has limited funds, loan is always its welcome option. The Asian Development Bank, the regional counterpart of the World Bank, already committed $80 million loan for reforestation projects of various watersheds in the country, including that of the Agno and Chico rivers watershed.

No matter how noble the intention of the government is, however, it must be pointed out that this is a loan. Loan is paid by the people through the state extraction known as taxes.

In my interaction and interviews with community organizations in the region, they have various issues raised on the government reforestation project.

First, the government has conflicting policies.Manifested by the government’s encouragement of investments – both local and foreign corporations – on industries that rape the environment like its revitalization of the mining industry.

At present, the total mine application in the Cordillera is 1,111,995.4351 hectares from the region’s 1.8 million hectares land area. Elders pointed that the government views separately the land – from forest, mineral, national park, and agricultural lands and not holistically as indigenous peoples do.

Second, the projects cannot be fully implemented due to systemic graft and corruption. In the past, they cited that these reforestation projects had been milking cow even up to the extent of ghost projects. The best approach is to encourage community participation and strengthening of their on going forest management system.

Third, in the whole Cordillera, the various ethno-linguistic groups have various forest management systems. Elders I interviewed said that such systems continuously exist in varying degrees. In Sagada, Mountain Province, they have the batangan; the muyong in Ifugao; the pirahwa in Tulgao, Tinglayan, Kalinga; among others.

These elders claimed that the forest cover of the Cordillera was mainly due to their indigenous system. In fact it was the government policies, like logging, mining and destructive industries, that reduced the forest cover to its present 36% cover.

I am just wondering that while we have these indigenous forest management systems, the concerned government agencies should adopt these indigenous systems if the government is really concern with the environment and climate change. #

NCIP receives Bakun folk opposition vs. Royalco

March 5, 2009

BAKUN, Benguet — Residents of Bakun, Benguet submitted last Friday to the regional and provincial offices of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) a resolution for the permanent suspension of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and the rejection of any exploration in their area by Royalco, Philippines.


COMMUNITY UNITY. Gambang residents renew their opposition against proposed explorations as the mine activities allegedly will destroy their agriculture-based livelihood and environment. Photo courtesy of Mariz Guinyawan

Their position was handed by Chairman Ernesto Soriben of Bakun – Aywanan and Bakun Mayor Marcelo Contada.

Denominated as Bakun-Aywanan Resolution No. 002, series of 2009.

It was endorsed by the Barangay Council of Gambang, the Bakun Municipal government, and Benguet Provincial Governor Nestor Fongwan.

The residents of Gambang, Bakun headed by the Bantay ken Kinabaknang ti Umili a Nagtaudan-Aywanan (Bakun-Aywanan) are vigilantly guarding against the possible approval of the exploration applications of the Royalco, Philippines for Phase 3 and other areas in Bakun.

It was reported by the residents that a MOA was about to be signed by few land owners last November 18, 2008 without legal and proper consultation with the majority residents of the target areas. It was stopped. The MOA signing was indefinitely suspended due to the organized appeal made last November 17 and 18, 2008 at the Regional and Provincial NCIP offices.

Meanwhile, to strengthen unity and hone their leadership skills, the Bakun-Aywanan’ council of elders held their first Leadership Training Seminar last January 16 and on February 09, 2009.

The seven community organizations and some individuals affiliated to Bakun-Aywanan on February 22 where they conferred the Basis of Unity presented by the Benguet Mining Alert and Action Network (BMAAN) Spokesperson Vergel Aniceto as embodied under the Constitution and By-Laws of the Bakun-Aywanan. They reaffirmed the opposition against large scale mining and destructive industries.

Witnessed by almost 180 residents and officials, Mayor Contada inducted the new officials and representatives of Bakun-Aywanan.


Photo courtesy of Mariz Guinyawan

Javier Akien, vice chairman of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, challenges the leaders where he recalled the historical struggles by the Bakun people against several attempts of mining operations. “I urged you to stay on guard for the protection of their ancestral domain as their source of life and the preservation of the indigenous history.”

Elder Fausto Labinio, Bakun ex-councilor, called the people to strengthen their fight against the mining corporation and give his full support to the organization while elder Marcelino Dati pledged his support and guidance on their struggle.

In closing their February 22 activity, they paid tribute to elder Mundo Taguda, a respected council of elder and officer of the Bakun-Aywanan, who passed away last November 27 after he led the community oppositions. His family was given the highest appreciation and recognition for his contribution to the earlier struggle against Royalco, Philippines, Incorporation. # Sonia S. Bullong

Anakpawis probes CMP

March 5, 2009

BAGUIO CITY — Anakpawis and Organisasyon dagiti Nakurapay nga Umili ti Syudad (Ornus) will conduct a fact-finding mission (FFM) on the implementation of Community Mortgage Program (CMP) in Cypress, Irisan.

Ornus, a Baguio-wide alliance of urban poor communities, its allied organizations and advocates in the national and local level will conduct the said fact-finding mission in an attempt to bring their issues to the attention of the public, and to local and national legislation.

The FFM aims to involve affected residents in various caucuses in Cypress Point Village (CPV) and will reach out to the implementers of the CMP through the Homeowners Associations and dialogs with government offices, agencies and the Baguio City government. The FFM will be on March 5-6.

Complicated history

CMP is a mode of land acquisition defined by Republic Act 7279 commonly known as the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA). It is intended to help under priviliged and homeless citizens to own and develop home-lots. In the said program, communities are encouraged to organize associations to acquire the land.

According to the initial data of Ornus, the CMP in Irisan missed its objectives at delivering decent housing to the poor. Ornus alleged that CMP’s implementation is marred with serious allegations of corruption of its mandate to provide low-cost housing, among other needed social services.

According to the primer by Ornus, Cypress is an 18-hectare area in Barangay Irisan with more than 500 households and 2,700 individuals. Its title, OCT No. 56, in the name of CPV was subdivided into 248 lots. The title was among the 211 titles which were declared null and void by the Supreme Court in 1973 but was given consideration by Presidential Decree 1271.

In the 1970’s, the property was occupied by migrants from different places and was densely populated by the 1990s. Earlier occupants were not disturbed by the so-called original claimants or title holders. So that they even processed their claims through the Townsite Sales Application (TSA).

In 1993, a certain Arsenio Menor from the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor came to Irisan and told the residents that the property was bought by a Mr. Peter Santos of the Asia Pine Hills Development Corporation (APHDC).

He then introduced the CMP to the actual occupants for them to own the lots. But the residents rejected it and instead negotiated to pay P350.00 per square meter. Menor however never went back to Irisan to finalize the negotiation.

During the term of then Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda as Chairperson of Committee on Land and Housing, a proposal to continue the plan of Menor pushed through. In 2000, the City Council passed a resolution authorizing then City Mayor Mauricio Domogan to negotiate with Peter Santos. In 2003, a subdivision plan for Cypress was approved by the council.

Three Homeowners Associations collected from the equity of members a total of P17, 335, 011.40 for the total of 77, 876 square meter or 7.8 hectares.

On August of 2003, more than houses were demolished by Baguio City demolition team in Purok 14-B in Cypress. Some residents were forced to stay with their relatives in other places of Baguio and the rest went back to the area and rebuilt their houses.

After barely a year, the person claiming to be Peter S.L. Santos wrote a letter to the different homeowners associations demanding to remit the equity. More or less P17 million was then paid by the residents as their equity to Santos.

As of now, the true identity of Santos who was claiming to be the president of APHDC has yet to be established especially that his signature in the Articles of Incorporation is different from other alleged signatures.

Demands on the CMP

Ornus has asked for an in-depth investigation of the CMP in Irisan as irregularities in its implementation has surfaced implying corruption.

They also further call for an investigation and the suspension on the said equity and amortization without any penalty should push through and the suspension of demolition orders within the CMP affected areas, according to ORNUS.

Moreover, Ornus demands that victims of demolition will be allowed to re-occupy their lots. Ornus also demands the investigation on the real identity of Peter Santos.

The results of the FFM will be released in a public program to be graced by Anakpawis representative Rafael Mariano. Ornus hopes through the FFM, Baguio officials will learn to look seriously into the case and initiate its own investigation and discuss appropriate legislation and action.

Besides Mariano, representatives of the national alliance of urban poor Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), Tongtongan ti Umili (TTU), Interfaith Gathering for Truth and Accountability. # Aldwin Quitasol

AFP ops disrupt Abra economy

March 5, 2009

BAGUIO CITY — On-going military operations between government troops and revolutionaries has greatly disrupted production and further impoverished the communities in Abra.

The 41st Infantry Battalion under the 503rd Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) operations are continuously in pursuit of the revolutionary forces of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the province of Abra.

Basically dependent on farm produce and their small-scale mines for food and cash, people of the barrios of Talampak, Pacoc, Buneg and Guinabang in Lacub raised concern about the prolonged government operations that reportedly destroyed farm crops and disrupted continuing farm production activities.

In February last year, there were aerial bombings in the area of Tubtuba, Tubo where 191 bombshells were reportedly dropped. The bombings have frightened the people in the affected and surrounding communities that many of them have preferred to stay away from their farms, reducing harvest in the first cropping season.

Again, sometime in June to July last year, battalion troop movements through the farms of the above mentioned barrios have trampled and destroyed a substantial area of newly planted rice fields with young seedlings for the second cropping further causing reduction in farm produce.

This year’s beginning of the cropping season has again recently been disrupted by an ensuing firefight between these two contending forces.

Stifling local livelihood

Initial interviews and reports made by the Abra Human Rights Alliance (AHRA) indicate that military war initiative in the area has greatly limited the daily economic activities in the communities.

The soldiers has enforced curfew hours to limit movements and facilitate monitoring of the villagers, preventing them from completing farm production schedules.

They have also prevented and limited the community from traveling out of an imposed perimeter, preventing them from checking on the irrigation water flow and from going to their mine areas.

It is an age-old farm practice to go out at dawn and work till mid-morning then go home for brunch to avoid the tropical mid-day heat, and return to work again when it is cooler at mid afternoon until late night.

Under the military impositions the people just move around the village housing area as their fields and mines are further out of the perimeters imposed.

Under these circumstances and for lack of something to do the people tend to deviate to anti-social activities like drinking and gambling.

In the same initial report, war shock was apparent as was indicated that villagers, especially children, have complained of deafness, hysteria and trauma from the loud and prolonged period of gunfire exchange and shelling. # Kathleen T. Okubo

ADB Chico, Agno forest aid futile as Mine applications blanket Cordillera

March 5, 2009

BAGUIO CITY — Community elders and environmental groups in the region branded the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded reforestation projects of the Agno and Chico Rivers’ watersheds as an exercise in futility.

Cordillera Elders’ Alliance (CEA) and Benguet Mining Action Alert Network (BMAAN) hit the project that is supposed to protect the watersheds as useless, because the government also allows mining applications that threaten to destroy these watersheds.

The watersheds for the Chico and Agno Rivers were among the forest areas in the country which would be financed by the $80 million loan from the ADB under the Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management (INREM) to be implemented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Johnny Sawadan, an elder from the upper stream of the Chico River in Kalinga and CEA deputy secretary-general said the government reforestation program is a manifestation of its inconsistent policies.

Useless reforestation with large mines

“While it mouthed to reforest the critical watershed areas of the Agno and Chico Rivers, it also accepted large mine applications from both local and foreign corporations in these watershed areas,” added Sawadan,

An elder from the brave and fierce Tulgao sub-tribe of Kalinga, Sawadan added that these watershed areas were covered by mine applications due to the revitalization of the mining program by the present administration of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He claimed that in the considered watershed areas of the Chico River in the boundaries of Ifugao-Mountain Province and Mountain Province-Kalinga, there are at least six applications for financial and technical assistance agreement (AFTA) mostly by foreign corporations, two applications for production and sharing agreements (PSA), and five exploration permit agreements (EXPA) which is almost 49.92 percent of the total mine applications covering 1,111,995.4351 hectares listed at the records of the MGB-DENR-CAR.

The region’s total land area is 1.8 million hectares.

Forest reserves, national park

The watershed areas of the Chico and Agno rivers are part of the Central Cordillera Forest Reserve declared during the time of the American colonial period.

In the case of Agno River where Ambuclao and Binga dams are found, while a part of the Cordillera Forest Reserve, the upper areas of the dams were also declared watershed reservations after they were built in the 1950s.

In 1987, former Pres. Corazon Aquino also declared Mount Pulag as a National Park. It is the second highest peak in the country and hosts major tributaries to major rivers that flow into the Ambuclao and Binga dams in Benguet, and the Magat dam in Ifugao. The three dams are now under the management of the SN-Aboitiz Power.

As watershed or protected areas, indigenous peoples are prohibited to engage in any economic activities – even their traditional practices, said Sawadan by enumerating various state laws like the Revised Forestry Code and the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS). He wonders however how these applications had been accepted yet allegedly covering critical forest and watersheds.

Community reforestation

Another Ibaloi leader downstream the Agno River in Benguet said that the reforestation project could be better implemented by the community.

Virgilio Aniceto, BMAAN spokesperson, said that the reforestation project could be better given to the communities.

“There might be non-realization of these projects with the extent of anomalies, including of rigging of contracts, by the present administration of GMA,” added Aniceto, a former miner and now a pastor, in an interview.

Sawadan added these projects will not succeed if the community is not involved monitoring and management.

Jaime Dugao, a Sangguniang Bayan of Sagada, also a water source of Chico River said that communities are the appropriate partners for reforestation as they have their indigenous systems of forest management like the pirahwa system among the Tulgao of Kalinga, batangan in upper Mountain Province, muyong in Ifugao, and also in Benguet.

It is actually these systems that maintained the region’s forests added Dugao, a Kankanaey. These systems are not being utilized, supported, and appreciated by the government, he said adding, “this would be our contribution to climate change – the adoption, institutionalization, and operationalization of these indigenous forest management systems.”

Aniceto pointed out that reforestation is useless if the government allows large scale mining in the water sources in the region. He cited that the Abra River was polluted by mining in the upstream and the government should learn from this experience.

The bottom line is to repeal RA 7942, the mining act of 1995, which institutionalized large scale mining over the conservation of the environment. # Arthur L. Allad-iw

1,900 Cordillera workers displaced by financial crisis

January 29, 2009

Retrenched workers properly compensated, DoLE says

By DEXTER A. SEE

BAGUIO CITY – At least 1,900 workers at different companies in the Cordillera comprised the first batch of employees displaced by the global financial crisis, it was reported.

But despite this bleak development, lawyer Ana Dione, regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) in the Cordillera, said the region is in a good position to face the crisis because the mass layoff taking place in other regions is not happening in companies in the economic zone here.

While the Texas Instruments Philippines (TIP) retrenched over 500 workers last year and bared plans to lay off another batch of workers this year, Dione said the future is still bright for the TIP as it has already started to operate even on a medium level.

She said this is an indication that orders for electronic chips are still being placed with the firm.

Furthermore, Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) officials informed DoLE that they expect investors to consider Baguio City as one of the areas where they can invest even with the global financial crisis.

The PEZA officials noted the increase in business process out-sourcing operations in the city.

Out of the 1,900 affected workers in the region, 1,376 are partially displaced as they are still holding on to their jobs but on a rotation or reduced-time scheme, which is authorized by the labor department to prevent mass layoff.

The other affected workers are considered totally displaced because they are no longer connected to the companies which had earlier employed them.

Dione said several industries in the region which were the initial victims of the global crisis included manufacturing, service, electronics, and mining.

Nevertheless, she said, DoLE made sure that the retrenched workers were properly compensated by their employers.

What is significant, Dione said, is that the labor sector is now inquiring from DoLE about the programs and projects of the national government for the development of skills or livelihood that would enable the workers to augment their meager income.

A concrete example cited by the Cordillera DoLE official is the labor union of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. which had requested the labor department to re-train the mine workers on skills that could be used to generate income or livelihood.

The labor official said DoLE is providing emergency employment assistance as well as training to workers in the region who are interested in developing skills and knowledge that could make them productive amidst the global financial crisis.(MB)

‘Amparo’ issued for Baguio activist

January 25, 2009

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:49:00 01/25/2009

Filed Under: Judiciary (system of justice), Missing Persons, Civil unrest

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—A Benguet judge has issued a writ of amparo for missing activist James Balao, saying government officials, including those from the military and police, are responsible for his abduction last year.

Judge Benigno Galacgac of the Benguet regional trial court, in a Jan. 19 order, asked the government to “disclose where [Balao] is detained or confined [and] release [him] considering his unlawful detention since his abduction.”

The court also asked them to “cease and desist from further inflicting harm upon his person.”

Balao, an activist and founder of Cordillera Peoples Alliance, was abducted by armed men believed to be soldiers in Benguet on Sept. 17 last year.

Balao’s family, in October last year, filed a petition for the issuance of a writ of amparo to compel the military to present the activist.

Galacgac, however, denied the issuance of inspection, production and witness protection order after Balao’s family and the CPA failed to comply with the provisions on the rule on the writ of amparo.

The respondents were President Macapagal-Arroyo, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Alexander Yano, and Philippine National Police chief, Director General Jesus Verzosa.

Also named as respondents were top military officials with the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) and police officials in Northern Luzon.

Galacgac said Ms Arroyo should not be bothered by lawsuits but he noted that a petition for the writ of amparo “is not by any stretch of imagination a niggling, vexing or annoying court case that Her Excellency should be shielded from.”

“The duty of the President to faithfully execute the laws of the land places the Chief Executive under the rule of law … Her Excellency should thus be made aware of impediments in the system that threatens or subverts human rights so she could act accordingly to counteract their negative impact on society,” he said.

The court said the police and military “failed in conducting an effective investigation of [Balao’s] abduction.”

Galacgac said the issuance of a writ of amparo “must not be looked upon with disfavor.”

“Instead, it should be a welcome development for Her Excellency’s commitment to enforce the rule of law. It should be seen as a report of wrongdoings of Her Excellency’s subordinates, those who, like spoiled bureaucrats, do not wish to toe Her Excellency’s line of good governance,” he said.

Youth forms HR alliance

January 12, 2009

BAGUIO CITY — The young generation of Baguio is ready to face the new year with the resolve to forge a tough group of human rights defenders come 2009.

“Our resolve to provide avenues for the promotion of human rights by the first quarter of 2009 is as ready as our fireworks for this new year,” said Anjo Rey Cerdeña, member of the committee formed to prepare for the first general assembly of Young Defenders.

He says their generation has read, heard and seen so much about the country’s poor human rights record in the past years. “It is a record too dirty to reflect our generation’s history. We thought, it is about time we forge a wide network of young and fresh defenders who would take on the task of countering this bad record,” he said.

Before going home for vacation, the committee had already mapped out preparations for the assembly. These include the release of promotional materials and the first wave of invitations through campus visits early next year.

“Human rights is a matter of life and dignity. It is everybody’s concern and we aim to involve a broad spectrum of the youth sector in this cause,” Cerdeña said. This spectrum, according to him, includes indigenous youth, students, out-of-school youth, civil society, religious youth and much more.

The initiative is a brainchild of the Indigenous Peoples Day Youth Coordinating Committee which gathered different indigenous youth groups in the city to learn about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in line with the celebration of its first year last August 9. Months later and 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights last December 10, they meet again for the Youth Leadership Training on Human Rights Education and Advocacy. This is where the preparations for a general assembly was formally launched.

“It is amazing to finally have this initiative that will redeem us from the grim record of our country in human rights. With this, we are sure to start the new year with a bang,” Cerdeña claims. # IPDYCC Release

HR groups cry: ‘Surface Balao’

December 22, 2008

by Harley Palangchao

Surfacing Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) co-founder James Balao is the battle cry of militant groups and their supporters as they marked the 60th year of the United Nation’s adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights last Dec. 10.

“We commemorate Dec. 10 in the midst of the agonizing search for James Balao, a human rights defender and genuine servant of the people. It is now 85 days since Sept. 17 when he was brazenly abducted by heavily armed state security forces,” reads the statement of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA).

The CHRA believes that Balao’s alleged enforced disappearance is part of the Arroyo government’s implementation of Operation Plan Bantay Laya II.

Oplan Bantay Laya II, CHRA said, equates progressive people’s organizations critical to government policies and practices with the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New Peoples Army.

“This counter-insurgency program makes the members and leaders of these organizations (like the CPA and CHRA) targets of neutralization,” the CHRA statement also reads.

The CHRA also attributed to the program the killings of known progressive and militant leaders in northern Luzon like Romy Sanchez, Jose Manegdeg III, Albert Terredano, Jose Dotyon, Rafael Markus Bangit, Gloria Casuga, and Alyce Omengan-Claver.

“Since 2001, there [have been] 977 victims of extrajudicial killings, 201 victims of enforced disappearances, 1,010 victims of torture, 1, 464 illegal arrests, and 868,096 displaced from their homes and villages because of military operations,” the CHRA statement reads.

The figures are worse than the human rights violations recorded during the Marcos regime.

Militant congressmen Satur Ocampo, Liza Maza, Teodoro Casiño, Luzviminda Ilagan, and Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao co-authored House Bill 869 requesting the Lower House Committee on Human Rights to investigate Balao’s disappearance.

The bill stated that the alleged enforced disappearance of Balao might be because of his work in defense of human rights and pressing issues and concerns besetting indigenous peoples in the Cordillera region.

Balao, CPA reported, was abducted by five men in Tomay, La Trinidad, Benguet at around 8 p.m. on Sept. 17. Supposed witnesses heard the “abductors” calling Balao a drug pusher.

(BaguioMidlandCourier)

Igorot elders perform rituals to aid search for missing Cordi activist

December 21, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Elders from different Cordillera provinces participated in a series of rituals condemning the perpetrators of James Balao’s disappearance, in time for the 60th year of the UN declaration of human rights, Wednesday here.


SEARCH RITUAL. Invoking ancient spirits, Igorot elders plead that missing activist James Moy Balao be kept safe and alive as they condemn his abductors. Photo by Cye Reyes

Some elders representing all Cordillera provinces, who joined in the march-rally during the International Human Rights Day commemoration in the city, did a specific ritual just in front of Camp Allen where Balao was reported to have been taken before his alleged transfer to a different safe-house.

Camp Allen houses the headquarters of the Military Intelligence Group (MIG), which is alleged to have abducted Balao.

According to Ama Julio Longan from Kalinga, the prayer they aired was for the abductors, captors and whoever has knowledge of his disappearance, “for them to experience what they have done to Balao.”

Each elder from the different provinces prayed over a chicken before it was sacrificed and buried in a small hole in front of the military camp.

“Nalawag ti kayat a sawen ti inyaramid a ritwal: isubli da a sibibiag ni James iti kabiitan. Nu saan ket marikna ti agtengtengngel kenkuana ti rigat a sinagrap ni James.” (The message of our prayer during the ritual is clear, surface James alive as soon as possible and if they do not do that the same thing would happen to whoever abducted and has him now) said Longan.

Longan also said they even called the spirits of their ancestors and martyrs like Macliing Dulag, Ama Ngayaan and Markus Bangit to help in the search for Balao.

The elders along with some members of the Balao family and the Oclupan clan did another round of rituals separately Wednesday and Thursday, calling on the spirits of their ancestors to help in the search of Balao.

Xavier Akien of the Cordillera Elders Alliance (CEA) said the rituals are based on an Igorot tradition done whenever an grave injustice is done to a member of the community.

“These rituals are usually done in extreme cases and the elders must be really convinced that an injustice has been done to a member of the community before it is cast,” said Akien adding that this tradition has different forms according to the practice of the different tribes among the Igorots but the processes are basically the same.

“These series of rituals were made more powerful compared to other rituals already done before to bother the conscience of the perpetrators and based on the powerful prayers of the elders it would create disturbance to whoever knows any information of his whereabouts,” added Akien.

This is a very traditional way of the Igorots that is very unique to them and cannot be found in any other culture here in the country.

“We are in an emergency situation that needs the help of the spirits for the emergency search, and we are one in doing so to immediately search for James,” said Akien.

The rituals done were part of the Mabtad Kaigorotan call of the Balao family and the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) in the search for James. Mabtad is a call for all communities to participate in the search of someone who is missing. It is a Kankanaey practice and has proven community unity.

The Mabtad Kaigorotan was also launched in Manila Tuesday. # Cye Reyes(NorDis)

Cordillerans get used to human rights violations

December 20, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — “Nairuam kamin iti giyera. Saan kamin nga agbuteng iti bomba. Anya pay ngay aramiden mi? Buybuyaen mi laengen, ah,” (We are used to the war. We are no longer afraid of bombs. What else do we do, but watch?)

A community elder from the tri-boundary of Abra, Ilocos Sur and Mountain Province told Nordis in a jest during the 4th General Assembly of the Mankayan-Quirino-Tadian-Cervantes Dangayan a Gunglo (Maquitacdg) on November 30 in Mankayan, Benguet.

“Today is a Sunday and it is Bonifacio Day!” former Lamag Barangay Captain Felix Dengaley, one of the masters of ceremonies, declared as he led the gathering to remember Andres Bonofacio’s heroism in the Philippine Revolution.

As speakers reported, their situation speak of a people amid war.

War against poverty and want is evident in the report of farmers along the Abra River, which have been rendered unproductive by mine tailings that incessantly flow through the river system from Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company’s operations here.

Farmers in remote villages such as Barangay Lamag in Quirino, Ilocos Sur and Tubtuba in Tubo, Abra, could not tend to their farms, neither could they harvest their crops in times of military operations. This year alone, they witnessed two full-blown military campaigns which terrorized Pananuman and its surrounding communities in the Dilong Valley. One such bombing resulted from an encounter between elements of the 5th Infantry Brigade and members of New People’s Army in March, followed by another in October.

Workers are also experiencing the hunger, despite jobs that they hold on to. Lepanto workers now subjected to a reduced work-day scheme, scamper for more jobs elsewhere while they are on “enforced vacation from the mines.”

Urban poor leader Ignacio Pangket, chair of the Organisasyon ti Nakurapay nga Umili iti Syudad (Ornus) said city dwellers have long been deprived of their right to food and decent shelter, as well as decent jobs. Pangket was one of the presenters in a press conference here Thursday.

The Maquitacdg elder said, they could do nothing else but watch. He said it in jest but there is more to it than meets the eye. More than the war against poverty and hunger, his community has been victimized by the military’s anti-insurgency campaign .

During the first bombing, residents in the Dilong Valley were subjected to various types of human rights violations as documented by the human rights watchdog Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) in its annual report.

“The triboundary of Abra, Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur isthe most militarized in the region,” the CHRA report claimed. It is the priority or “win” area as defined by the Operation Bantay Laya, the government anti-insurgency scheme.

The Cordillera has been identified as the base of the Ilocos-Cordillera Region of the communist New People’s Army, according to Col. Pompeo Limbo of the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Division in his report to the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) at the Benguet provincial capitol Friday.

Pompeo said the rebels have targeted the boundary area because it would be easier for them to expand to other provinces while staying in one place.

Aside from atrocities in the Dilong Valley, CHRA also noted human rights abuses in Baay-Licuan, Abra; Natonin, Mountain Province; Tanglag and Lubuagan, Kalinga; and even in urban centers like Baguio City and Conner in Apayao.

“Where there are mining applications, expect human rights violations as a result of militarization,” noted Santos Mero, Deputy Secretary-general of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance. Mero is also with Defend Patrimony, a national aggrupation of anti-mining advocates.

He said the Cordillera is the subject of several mining applications covering more than two-thirds of the region’s 1.8 million hectare land area.

Jude Baggo, CHRA secretary-general said the challenges for 2009 is greater with the State bent on achieving the goals of OBL II, Charter change and the presidential elections in 2010.

“We must gather our strength to end state terrorism and fascism and to hold the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government accountable for all human rights violations,” said Baggo.

CHRA noted four extra-judicial killings, one case of attempted rape, once case of enforced disappearance, three cases of bombings and strafings two cases of hamletting; one case of food restriction; and 19 counts of illegal searches among many other human rights violations in the Cordillera from January to November 20, 2008. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

Benguet mayor yields to people power on mines

December 20, 2008

BAKUN, Benguet — Residents of Barangay Gambang here prove there is power in numbers as their concerted action led the town mayor to act in their favor affirming their stand against the Royalco Philippines mineral exploration project.


AGAINST MINING. Exploration activities going on in Barangay Gambang pushed its residents to move against further mining operation in the upper villages. Mobilizations are at its height with locals trooping to government offices for support. Photo by Lyn V. Ramo/NORDIS

The same group, organized into Bantay ken kinabaknang ti Umili a Nagtaudan Aywanan (BaKUN Aywanan, earlier aired the popular clamor that pushed for the indefinite suspension of the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between “validated” community elders and Royalco Philippines as a precondition to the issuance of a free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) for the said mining venture covering some 5,400 hectares.

Representing sitios grouped into the Phase III of the proposed mineral exploration, residents aboard 24 vehicles, mostly vegetable delivery trucks, started early Monday for the set dialog with Mayor Marcelo B. Contada and the town council at the Alibacong Elementary school here.

“Gaputa sigaan yo, tumulongak ta adi matuloy din exploration tan nay sya et di mailak ay panlalabanan yo.” (Because you oppose it, I will help so that the exploration will not push through because as I see it causes disunity) Contada said after Gambang residents took turns speaking their minds out for almost six hours.

Affirming the people’s position

Residents who braved the very cold Alibacong weather exchanged views in front of their barangay and town officials, each with an argument to defend, but in the end, Cuntada just affirmed their respective positions.

The MOA and eventual mining permit for Phase III has to be set aside in the face of people’s opposition, according to Cuntada. The Phase I and Phase II MOAs have to be reviewed to see how to deal with these inasmuch as some elders have signed it. “Kintaen yo no kasano a maresolba daytoy,” (See how these could be resolved) the mayor told Gambang folk who agreed in the end not to allow any mining operations in the area.

Phase III, in the new clustering made since Royalco started its social acceptability bid in Gambang, includes sitios Basig, Nametbet, Lebeng, Dosdos-dicay, Le-in, Inga-an, and Cagam-is, according to Royalco in an earlier interview. Takayan, Bagtangan, Liwan and Bolbolo are also included, according to residents, although the ground relocation survey has not been conducted.

The company and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) did not include the small scale mining communities of Mabuhay, Batanes, Pulag, Dangkigan, Gold Star and Mogao.

“These have been excised from the application for mineral exploration because a Minahang Bayan is allegedly being applied for the area,” Royalco’s Ruben Quitoriano told Nordis.

Firming up

A woman elder from Nametbet Dominga Gaspar said residents in Upper Gambang could not allow any mining operation in the area because it has been disuniting families and the neighborhood. “Uray exploration ket unggay,” (Not even exploration) as she recalled how NCIP and Royalco deceived community elders into accepting the clustering of the barangay, dividing its elders into pro-mining and anti-mining.

Benny Alingdan of sitio Cagam-is added that his neighbors stand for the children. “Itakderanmi ti kaaduan ta adu ti annak mi,” (We stand for the majority because we have so many children) he said.

Exploration, first stage of mining operation

In earlier fora, this town’s indigenous peoples said they were made to believe that exploration is not a part of a mining operation, contrary to what leaders of the Benguet Mining Alert and Action Network (BMAAN) has asserted.

BMAAN Spokesperson Vergel Aniceto, a former mine worker at Benguet Corporation’s Acupan Mines in Itogon explained that, a mining operation starts with a mineral exploration.

Phase I has been issued an exploration permit in May 2008. Phase II has been issued a MOA and awaits a mining permit.

Those opposing any mining operation in Gambang, however, claimed that the processes have been deceitful and done fraudulently.

Meanwhile, the Gambang Indigenous Peoples Association and Community Organization (GIPACO) elected its new set of officers on November 28, also in Alibacong. BMAAN Convener Fausto Maliones, a resident of Proper Gambang, is its new chairperson.

During the dialog, Maliones enlightened Bakun officials and residents that exploration permits may be converted into a mineral production sharing agreement or financial and technical assistance agreement when the holder opts to do so, quoting Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 2007-15. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

Katutubong minero pinalakas ang hanay

December 20, 2008

ITOGON, Benguet — Muling pinasigla ng mga mamamayan ng Ampucao dito ang kanilang pagkakaisa laban sa pananalasang mapanira ng mga higanteng operasyon ng mina sa pamamagitan ng isang asembliya.

Idinaos ang asembliya ng Lolita Ampucao Youth and Adults’ Organization (LAYAO) noong Nobyembre 22 sa barangay Ampucao, kung saan ipinagdiwang ang mahigit 13 taong pagkakaisa ng mga residente sa nasabing purok.

Ang asembliya ng mga katutubong minero at magbubukid ay naitaon sa pambansang paggunita ng Mining Safety Week nitong nakaraang Linggo.

Magugunitang ang organisasyon ay nabuo noong 1995 sa kasagsagan ng pakikibaka ng mamamayang katutubong minero laban sa mapanirang open pit at bulk mining na noon ay isinasagawa sa Itogon ng Benguet Corporation (BC).

Nagsilbing mitsa ng pagkamulat ng mga katutubong miero ang pagkakabuo ng LAYAO 13 taon na ang nakararaa, Naging aktibong miyembro ang LAYAO ng Itogon Inter-barangay Alliance (IIBA) na noon pa man ay nanguna sa pagbubuo ng nagkakaisang pagtingin sa nasabing mapanirang operasyon.

“Sa pamamagitan ng pagbubuo ng isang organisasyon, maipaparating sa kinauukulan ang hinaing ng mga tao,” ungkat ni Juanita de Guzman, bagong halal na president ng LAYAO. Aniya, muling pinatunayan na sa kasaysayan ng mga katutubong minero na kaya nilang pangalagaan ang kapaligiran at kabuhayan bilang mga minero.

Kabilang ang mga taga-Ampucao sa pagbabarikada para itaboy ang mga minero mula sa Level 1500 sa Acupan Mines ng BC noong 2002 at sa sitio Station at sitio Tangki, laban naman sa pagpasok ng Itogon Suyoc Resources (ISRI) nitong nakaraang mga taon.

Sa kasalukuyan, nanguna rin ang LAYAO sa pagkondena sa pagpasok ng exploration ng Anvil Mining Company sa barangay Ampucao. Kabilang ang mga miyembro nito sa pagpapaikot ng petisyon ng oposisyon sa nasabing kumpanya ng mina.

Nagresulta ang nasabing petisyon sa naantalang pagpasok ng Anvil sa mga lugar na ninais nitong magbukas ng mga bagong istruktura ng mina.

Nagbigay ng mensahe sa nasabing asembliya sina Kagawad Doming Laita, Joey Martes, at Joseph Sacda, pawang mga opisyal ng barangay Ampucao.

Nahirang na presidente si Juanita de Guzman; bise-presidente: Josue Canduyas; sekretarya: Christine Alcido; mga ingat-yaman: Marilou Oquias at Mary Canduyas; PRO: Rolan Nabat; auditor: Fernan Alwit at mga business manager: Samuel Pacio at Josephine Nabat. # Johnny Fialen

Kalinga people demand immediate AFP pullout

December 20, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Indigenous peoples of Tanglag, Lubuagan, Kalinga demand the immediate pullout of Alpha Company of the 21st Infantry Battalion under the 501st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army of the Armed Forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from their community and a stop on the terrorist acts of soldiers.

In a dialog on November 20, residents asserted that the soldiers should leave their community at once stating that their presence endangers the lives of the people.

The residents also demanded that soldiers stop conducting a census, and other forms of intimidation and harassment. They also demanded for the lists of the order of battle, the allege NPA supporters and contachs, that the AFP claim are people from the community.

Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) Secretary-general Jude Baggo stressed, “this is not an isolated case other communities in Kalinga, Mountain Province and Abra have experienced the same ordeal or even worse.”

He riterated that all these are part of the counter-insurgency program under Oplan Bantay Laya II (OBL).

Residents said that on October 10, soldiers led by a certain Lt. Camaganakan arrived in Tanglag and encamped at the Barangay Day Care Center despite the resident’s opposition. The soldiers said they would stay for just a few days but to date, they are still in the area. With the day care center occupied by the soldiers, the children are now using the church for their classroom.

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) provides that civilians have the right to be protected against the risks and dangers posed by the presence of military camps in urban centers and populated areas. The encampment and prolonged presence of the AFP in the area is a violation of this agreement.

Census?

On October 11, the government troops called a community meeting, where they announced that they would be conducting a medical mission and that they would get the names of the residents in the community to determine their medical needs. The government troops then conducted a census of the barangay but did not ask anything about medical needs instead asked infrastructure the residents think the community needs, and personal information on members of the family.

The military has not held a medical mission in the area. The medical checkup conducted on October 16 was a regular mission of the municipal government of Lubuagan, Kalinga.

A few days later, the soldiers came up with a list of names allegedly taken from an encounter with the NPA, after some residents refused to cooperate with the census they were conducting. They came up with an Order of Battle list where more names of community members were included. They announced the names of local residents supposedly found on the lists in community meetings and told them to personally report to the military to clear their names. Soldiers continue to harass those whose names supposedly appear on the list to clear their names.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston noted in his report that the military conduct meetings or census and individual interviews in target communities to identify NPA fighters and members of organizations labelled as front organizations. He added that attempts are generally made to get identified persons to “surrender.”

“The vilification and intimidation of persons who do not surrender too often escalates into extra-judicial executions; however, these do not appear fundamental to the strategy,” the report read.

Other violations

On November 13, Sgt. Caronan illegally searched the sack of rice Venicio Nagoy was carrying. In another incident, the soldiers intimidated the local youth while playing basketball with them. One soldier said they might even be playing with members of the NPA.

Army troopers also attempted to convince residents to become military assets.

The continuing harassment and threats on the life, liberty and security of the community especially the accusations they are members of the NPA prompted them to seek legal advice.

The residents informed the military they would seek legal advice on what to do. The military allowed them to do so, but continued pushing residents to “clear their names.”

Army officers Lt. Faura, Lt. Francis Agustin, Banza, Canlas and Ventura (first names not supplied) attended the dialog with the community members and their lawyers on November 20.

Faura confirmed they are conducting an outreach program which required the conduct of a census. He iterated the list of names read to the residents was recovered from an alleged encounter with the NPA in Uma, another barangay of Lubuagan.

Soldiers admitted that Tanglag is marked red in their records and “therefore it should be cleaned.” They also insisted they could not show the OB because it is a confidential document.

They promised to stop the census and inquiries and agreed to leave the community during the said dialog, explaining, however, they could not remove the names of the residents from the OB , because only higher offices could do so.

The residents resolved after the dialog to make a written petition stating all their demands and furnish all concerned government officials.

As of press time the soldiers are still encamped in Tanglag. They claimed they had to stay in the community until they see the barangay petition.

Military pull out now!

“We laud the indigenous peoples of Tanglag for asserting their rights despite the terrorist acts and continuing threat the presence of state forces poses against their lives and security. At the same time we condemn the military for continuously wreaking havoc in the countryside,” Baggo said.

He encouraged other communities to follow the example of Tanglag, to firmly defend their rights against abusive military forces. # Kim Quitasol and Jimmy Suwagon(NorDis)

HR Day awaits amparo resolution

December 20, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — The Regional Trial Court (RTC) here Thursday agreed to send the petition for the writ of amparo, filed after the abduction of James Moy Balao, for resolution in 10 days, in time for this year’s Human Rights Day.

Balao, a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and president of the Oclupan Clan, was abducted on September 17 here. His family and CPA strongly suspect James was a victim of an enforced disappearance perpetrated by state security forces, as a part of Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), a state policy which targets legitimate people’s activist organizations as part of counter-insurgency operations.

Balao’s family and CPA filed a petition for the writ of amparo on October 8, asking for a court order to search state security force camps, to produce James and to produce all military and police records referring to him, particularly the military order of battle (OB) .

RTC Branch 63 Judge Benigno Galacgac has already presided over two hearings on the petition. During the first two hearings on October 23 and 30, the Balao family and CPA presented witnesses who attested to the heavy surveillance that CPA and its members have been facing since the implementation of OBL.

Their witnesses also testified to the surveillance Balao was subjected to before his abduction.

At the end of the second hearing the Balaos rested their case and requested the court to bring the case to a quick resolution. The third hearing Thursday was scheduled for the 13 respondents, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), to present witnesses.

“The strategy of the OSG throughout the first two hearings was to delay the resoplution of the case. Insisting on a third hearing to “possibly” present witnesses was just to delay the case resolution,”said Atty. Mary Ann Manja Bayang of the Cordillera Indigenous Peoples Legal Center (Dinteg).

Bayan maintain the petition for the writ of amparo is not a normal case,but rather involving a person’s life, liberty and security. “It is a case that requires proper care and speed. Any attempt to delay it is unprofessional and irresponsible,” she added.

Bayang and Atty. Cheryl Daytec-Yangot, appearing for the Balaos and CPA, filed a motion that waived the right of the petitioners to cross-examine any witness presented by the respondents, accepting their affidavits as their testimony and requested the court to resolve the case,hoping it would make the third hearing unnecessary.

The court, however, chose to push through with the third hearing. Balao lawyers iterated the importance of a speedy trial in this case and the desire to have the case resolved.

In an apparent change in strategy the OSG also asked the court to move for a resolution.

In regular proceedings a judge has 90 days to resolve a case. In a petition for the writ of amparo a judge must present a resolution within 10 days.

Jude Baggo, secretary-general of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) said, “We need a resolution as soon as possible. We want James out of state custody and out of danger as soon as possible.”

Beverly Longid, CPA chairperson “It is important to remember that the writ of amparo is not accusatory and is not a proceeding on criminal charges. The granting of the writ does not define guilt.” She added it is a proceeding intended to protect Balao from any further harm and to release him from illegal detention,” she said, wondering at the government’s antagonistic response.

As this developed, there is a significant pressure for the immediate surfacing of Jame from national and international indigenous and human rights advocates s.

November 28 marked the International Day of Action to Surface James Moy Balao, when hundreds of groups and individuals who support the Surface James Balao! Campaign simultaneously faxed and emailed the Philippine government to increase the pressure for his immediate release.

At the University of the Philippines Diliman campus, students led by Takder, an organization of Cordilleran students, lit candles symbolic of hope for the surfacing of James. # CHRA Release

Asbestos dump hit anew as Lepanto fails to haul out its waste

December 20, 2008

BAGUIO CITY—Residents of Sapid, Mankayan, Benguet filed a second petition that pushed town officials to act on the asbestos wastes earlier dumped by the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo), after the company failed to fulfill its promise to haul out the toxic materials.

Acting on an earlier petition, town officials contemplated on filing charges against the company. This prompted the said mining firm to haul out said wastes, which turned out to have come from its Makati office.

Community vigilance

Some 115 residents of the said barangay in a petition, asked Mankayan Mayor Manalo B. Galuten and the town council to look into the asbestos wastes left by LCMCo despite the mining company’s commitment to haul out all the said wastes. The petition was dated October 29.

In a report, Sapid barangay council quoted witnesses as saying the wastes were dumped by Shipside Trucking, an LCMCo subsidiary, on April 10 and in 2007 in Sitio Tagumbao, Upper Tram in Barangay Sapid.

Alleging then that the wastes were asbestos materials illegally dumped by the mining company, the Sapid council through Barangay Resolution No. 34-2008 dated April 12, requested LCMCo to “cease unloading or dumping of the waste (asbestos)” in their barangay and to relocate the said wastes to other sites.

Informed about the alleged dumping of asbestos wastes, the Sanguniang Bayan (SB) of Mankayan led by Vice-mayor Paterno Dacanay invited representatives of the mining company to its regular session to shed light on the concern.

Denial

Based on the minutes of the Mankayan SB session on May 6, LCMCo environmentalist Rolando C. Reyes, denied that the wastes dumped were asbestos but materials used for acidic pads and cushions. Reyes assured the members of the SB the wastes are not hazardous in nature. He appeared with Vice-president and resident Manager Magellan G. Bagayao and a certain Edgar Ebiong at the council session.

The pads and cushions came from the company’s Makati City office that was renovated, according to Reyes.

Company representatives also assured the council they complied with policies set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), adding these are properly covered , thus making it safe for the environment.

In a May 7 letter submitted to the SB, the company committed not to repeat the said dumping and should an area be considered as future waste dump, LCMCo would coordinate with town officials concerned before it would begin operating.

Hazardous

Meanwhile, samples taken from the dumpsite were tested by the Environmental and Urban Planning Laboratory of the Saint Louis University Engineering and Architecture department, which later found out that the wastes had an asbestos content of 50.385%.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral usually used for fire proofing and insulation in buildings, pipes, walls, ceilings, floors and others. It is a serious health hazard if inhaled that could cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, which is a rare type of cancer that most often occur in the thin membrane lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen and heart, according to Dr. Ana Leung of the Community Health Education Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (Chestcore).

Asbestos has been internationally banned because of its toxicity.

Charges

Upon learning of the result of the tests, the Mankayan SB through Resolution No. 289-2008, authorized Galuten to file appropriate charges against the mining firm for illegally dumping toxic waste materials in Upper Tram.

Through a series of meetings with the barangay officials and residents, town officials and representatives from the Environmental Management Bureau of the DENR, LCMCo volunteered to haul out the asbestos waste materials and to relocate outside the municipality. # Cye Reyes(NorDis)

Government neglect pushed Bakun folk into allowing mining exploration

November 18, 2008

BAKUN, Benguet — The longing for proper access roads to and from their farms and vegetable gardens pushed some residents of barangay Gambang here to give their consent to the mine exploration project by Royalco Philippines.

During the turn-over ceremonies at the Tingbaoen-Galisen Elementary School where Royalco donated some 450 bags of portland cement for the concreting of the basketball court pavement, Yugo elder Willie Calixto said they had made several requests for the improvement of their dirt roads. “The provincial government has not prioritized the road funds for the said barangay,” he said.

In his speech, Paul Bagano, representing Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan, said barangay officials keep hounding the governor’s office for support to improve their road but there are no funds so that they keep returning to Gambang in vain.

The community aspires to open a new farm-to-market road from sitio Sookan to Balite and Liwang, which was reportedly programmed as a provincial road at the time of the exploration by Trans-Asia Mining Corporation in the early 1970’s.

Calixto said the road project was abandoned when the company left in 1978. “Adu a complain ti tao idi,” (People complained of many things) he said, citing the requests for piped water from the source to the residential homes and gardens, among others.

No new road in MOA

The Memorandum of Agreement the community entered into with Royalco in January cited only road maintenance of the existing road from sitio Sookan to sitio Gambang Proper, and Kil-ingan in sitio Taneg. It also included the rehabilitation of the road connecting sitio Liwang and Nasungyoan and the rehabilitation of two existing footbridges in sitios Gaddang and Labilab.

No construction of any new road was mentioned in the said MOA, however.

Another elder from Yugo Alex Soriano said the diamond drilling done in his farm paved the construction of a dirt road. Drilling equipment had to be brought down to the drilling site that required the opening of an access road.

The approved exploration work involves diamond drilling in several sampling sites in four sitios of Gambang, namely Gambang Proper, Yugo, Tuwa-ok and Tood. It also includes the gathering of rock samples along the river or on the road.

River stones, rocks and drilling core samples are then tested for mineral content in the core house in Sinipsip. Assay is done in Metro Manila, according to Engr. Ruben Quitoriano, Royalco senior mining engineer. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

Church backs probe on Ati eviction

October 26, 2008

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:41:00 10/26/2008

ILOILO CITY, Philippines—The Church mission helping Ati families on Boracay Island welcomed a congressional investigation on the alleged displacement of Ati families from their community.

It also called for the fulfillment of a promise for a permanent relocation site for the Atis on the island made by President Macapagal-Arroyo three years ago.

“We welcome the filing of the resolution so the claim of Atis for ancestral domain will be heard and addressed,” said Sr. Victoria Ustan, head of the Holy Rosary Parish Ati Mission (HRPAM).

The Church mission has been living in the Ati community for years in Sitio Bolabog in Barangay Balabag, one of three villages of the island-resort.

Party-list Representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño of Bayan Muna, Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan of Gabriela and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis have filed House Resolution 829, which directs the House committee on national cultural communities to investigate the alleged dispossession of the Ati of their lands in Boracay.

Driven off by development

Ustan said the Ati families remain at risk of being driven away from their homes as development projects continue in the already congested island-resort.

The Atis and Church workers have earlier complained that they have no pathway to their homes due to the construction of resorts and hotels near their village.

At least 39 families have been staying on parcels of land at the northern end of the island that are owned by the families of provincial board member Jose Yap and Aklan Rep. Florencio Miraflores.

The Atis have a pending application for the issuance of a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), claiming they are the first inhabitants of the 1,032-hectare island-resort, which they filed on Feb. 23, 2000.

Anthropologists have backed up claims the Atis were the earliest settlers on the island but were displaced and driven away starting in the 1970s when the island started attracting tourists.

8-year wait not over

A permanent injunction by National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) regional hearing officer Sulpicio Gamosa Jr. was issued on April 28, 2006, against holders of tax declarations claiming ownership of the lands the Atis occupy.

The order barred the relocation or eviction of the Atis without their consent until their petitions for CADT are resolved. The NCIP has failed to resolve the petitions after eight years.

Ms Arroyo, in 2005, promised the Atis they would not be evicted from Boracay but would be relocated to a one-hectare lot within the 80-hectare Eco-Tourism Village on the island but the transfer has not materialized.

Ustan said they later found that the lot would be donated to the Atis on the condition that they would waive their rights to ancestral domain.

“They want a permanent place to stay but they will not agree to that condition,” said Ustan.

Ustan said the Atis were also wary of moving to the relocation site because it’s near tourists.

“They do not want to be showcased. They want to settle in a place where they can live quietly and not to be disturbed and driven away anymore,” said Ustan.

Ustan said they were also worried that a 30-meter wide circumferential road project could displace Ati families.

The Atis are considering an area near the beach on the opposite side of the white beach where hotels and resorts are concentrated.

Ustan said in this area, the fishing boats of Atis will also be protected because there were instances that these were ran over by speed boats and bigger boats.

World church gathering to strengthen IP partnership

October 22, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — World churches will gather in an international conference on social and ecclesiastical visions of indigenous peoples at the Club John Hay here on October 21 to 26.

Sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC), a worldwide fellowship of non-Roman Catholic Churches whose headquarters is based in Geneva, Switzerland, the gathering will share and draw the experiences, spirituality and visions of indigenous peoples worldwide.

Thirty theologians from indigenous peoples in North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Australia are expected in the conference, said Rev. Rex Reyes, National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP) secretary-general in an interview.

This consultation will highlight the major issues affecting the indigenous peoples all over the world and appreciate how indigenous peoples confront these issues. The Consultation will also listen to a Philippine Panel who will deliver presentations on three specific issues of indigenous peoples in the Philippines: a) Stewardship and natural resources, b) Identity and social justice, and c) Community, church and the world.

“The project endeavors to challenge and enrich the traditional understanding of unity, mission, evangelical and spirituality,” added Reyes.

The indigenous peoples have rich experiences from which the churches can learn, which include among others, broad dimension of social justice, the exercise of self-determination, despite efforts to subsume them into the colonial-inspired state systems, and their concept of stewardship in protecting the land and environment for future generations, Reyes explained.

Church commitment

Reyes added the activity is a response to encourage the WCC and its constituency to be informed by the theological and spiritual resources of the indigenous peoples.

WCC was able to observe the situation of indigenous peoples worldwide where they are excluded by the mainstream society. As such, the IPs, due to their distinctness are discriminated and “excluded” by mainstream society where they live and manifested by discriminations, like in the absence of social services to them.

Their distinctness however had continuously made them adopt a vision of community peace and a safe earth, the NCCP document explained.

Cordillera, Philippines

Reyes said he activity is important in the country, particularly on the Cordillera, as the Filipino indigenous peoples have a powerful projection of politically and socio-culturally.

Approximately one-tenth of the total population nationwide, the indigenous peoples have in-depth spirituality and experiences.

“On one hand, they (IPs) live in isolated areas where access to basic services and opportunities for economic growth is lacking and on the other hand, natural resources abound in these areas making the indigenous peoples vulnerable to development aggression,” the NCCP document stated.

Reyes added that the Cordillera experiences as stewards of the land are very rich. He cited the Kalingas and Bontoks opposition of the World Bank-funded Chico dam that could have submerged thousands of hectares of rice lands and villages; the Tingguians opposition of the Cellophil Resources Company that would destroy hectares of forest lands in the tri-boundaries of Abra, Mountain Province and Kalinga; and the Ibalois struggle against the open pit mining in Itogon, Benguet.

NCCP added, “The struggle of the indigenous peoples in the Philippines for self-determination and the preservation of natural resources continue along with their struggle against the onslaught of foreign investments, mining, and confrontation with the state forces.”

Partners

Although, initially the indigenous peoples were seen as targets of conversion and the means by which churches manifested their charity work, churches in recent times have begun to stand alongside indigenous peoples in their struggles, the NCCP document added, which has revived its indigenous peoples program to support them in their journey towards a just and lasting peace.

Stories of their resistance to marginalization and development aggression, engagement with international bodies like the United Nations, and their partnerships elsewhere in their march towards a free and fair society will hopefully inspire similar story telling from other parts of the world, added the NCCP document.

Reyes said the activity would further deepen and expand the social and ecclesiastical vision of the ecumenical community vis-à-vis the sinned against and the excluded.

As part of the activity, the participants are also scheduled to visit mining and vegetable areas in Benguet, Reyes shared.

The NCCP and Regional Ecumenical Council in the Cordillera (Reccord) co-sponsor the activity. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorDis)

Aeta Recounts Nightmarish Encounter with the Philippines’s Anti-Terrorism Law

October 20, 2008

MANILA — On March 21, 2008 ,at 8 am, Edgar de la Cruz Candule, a 23-year-old man who belongs to an indigenous tribe Aeta, was at the house of his friend, Patricio Domino, taking breakfast in barangay (village) Carael, Botolan, Zambales, when the policemen arrived.

About 20 policemen, all of whom are attached to the Botolan Municipal Police of the Philippine National Police (PNP), were carrying long firearms and wearing full battle uniforms when they entered Patricio’s house, where they declared a raid shortly after. Edgar’s friends, who were frightened by the police arrival, had to run in different directions leaving him behind.

Edgar, who is a resident in a resettlement area of Aetas in Baguilat of the same municipality, was caught by surprise. He was not able to move as he was in a state of shock when the police came. While some of the policemen pursued his friends who were running away, the other policemen were also searching the whole house and premises.

About three to five policemen collared him and handcuffed him while two others were punching him on the chest one after the other. He was forced to admit he is a member of the New People’s Army (NPA), an illegal armed group.

Edgar was teary-eyed as he recounts his ordeal while in police custody when he was interviewed in the days following his arrest. After his arrest, Edgar was first taken to Municipal Police of Botolan before he was transferred to the Camp Conrado S. Yap in Iba, Zambales where he was held for three days.

While Edgar was in the police camp, the persons taking him in custody, who did not introduce their names and identity, had him subjected to questioning without the presence of his legal counsel.

He was placed in a room where he was punched twice on the chest. They electrocuted his abdomen and forced him to admit that he owns a caliber .45 pistol, a magazine assembly for a caliber .45 and several live ammunitions they had seized from the house from where he was taken.

Those questioning him also threatened to kill Edgar should he deny his membership with the New People’s Amy (NPA), despite also claiming that Edgar and his group had already been under surveillance for a long period of time, over their supposed terrorist activities in the area.

It was only on March 24 that Edgar was transferred to Provincial Jail in Iba, Zambales. It is learned later that he had already been charged for illegal possession of firearms, for supposedly possessing the firearms which the policemen had recovered from the house; the same firearms that the persons questioning him had forced him to admit he had owned before the prosecutor’s office

However, on 1 April prosecutor Esteban Mulon Jr., had the charge against him amended from illegal possession of firearms into violation of Section 3 (b) Article 134 for Rebellion or Insurrection and Section 6 for Accessory of the Human Security Act of 2007 (Republic Act 9372). The original charge has likewise been absorbed into the amended information.

In amending the charge against Edgar, the prosecutor handling the case, Esteban A. Mulon, Jr. resolves that;

“On 21 March 2008, said accused conspiring with persons whose identities are unknown, did then and there, willfully and openly professing himself as a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) and advocating the overthrow of the legitimate government by force of arms using unlicensed firearms and ammunitions and by inciting others to commit acts of rebellion thereby sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace in order to coerce the government to give in to their demands”

Edgar has been arraigned sometime in June of this year. The charges on him are presently being heard before Judge Consuelo Amog-Bocar of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 71 in Iba, Zambales.

Edgar’s case illustrates how obscure the interpretation of and the application of the Human Security Act of 2007 are. Criminal liability for an act of terrorism should only exist once it is substantially proven, under Section 3 of the law: “thereby sowing and creating a condition of widespread extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand”.

However, in Edgar’s case there exists neither widespread panic nor fear, having been sown, nor was there an unlawful demand that he and his group made during the incident, where they supposedly committed the crime. When the police came into the house where he and his friends were staying they were caught by surprise and it even resulted in Edgar standing still, he was in such a state of shock during the incident.

Also, the supposed recovery of firearms from the house where the victim was at the time staying, is highly questionable. There were no information on whether or not the policemen had presented to the occupants proper court documents to allow them to conduct searches inside the house; they did not properly introduce themselves to the occupants of the house; and failed to inform the victim of his rights during arrest and while in custody of the police.

In 28 November 2007, Martin Scheinin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, expressed concern in his report, A/HRC/6/17/Add.1 p20 to 28, to several provisions of the RA 9372. Scheinin viewed the law as “not in accordance with the international human rights standards”.

Special Rapporteur Scheinin wrote that Section 3, to which Edgar is being charged: “the criminal liability (should have been) limited to clear and precise provisions in the law, so as to respect the principle of certainty of the law and ensure that it is not subject to which would broaden the scope of the proscribed conduct”. However, in Edgar’s case, the prosecutor resolved to consider his supposed admission of being a member of a rebel group and to have constituted an act of terror already.

Also, the amended information to which prosecutor Mulon has written (as underlined above) itself was a verbatim text to the provision of section 3 of the RA 9372 which the victim has supposedly violated. It has not been able to substantially proven though, as it is written in the amended information, that the victim committed the offense of terrorism.

(This story is part of the letter campaign launched by the Asian Human Rights Commission, based in Hongkong. The commission urges the public to write letters to the authorities urging for their immediate intervention in the victim’s case. Should it be established that the victim should have not been held accountable to an offense charged on him, it must be dropped and he must be released without further delay. The victim’s allegation of torture while in police custody should also be thoroughly investigated.

To support this appeal, please click here.)

(pinoypress.net)

BSU joins the world’s fight for indigenous peoples rights

October 5, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Benguet State University (BSU) is one with the whole world as it observed the first year anniversary of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) September 12.

The event also marks the 4thyear of the Second Decade of Indigenous Peoples declared by the UN general assembly in its 74thPlenary Meeting in December 22, 2004.

BSU, through its Gender and Democracy (GAD) focal point, the Department of Social Sciences, in partnership with the Cordillera Indigenous Peoples Historical Society sponsored the celebrations with the Salidummay Performing Arts group leading the gongs and dances.

What transpired during the event is more meaningful than the watwat (share of meat) wines that were feasted upon by those who came to celebrate.

State of IPs

Xavier Akien, vice-chair for Internal Affairs of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), presented in a capsule, the state of indigenous peoples [IPs] with focus on the issues and concerns they are presently confronting.

In particular, Akien mentioned about the construction of the dams and how it adversely affected the life of the community; the land conversions that caused the displacement of Agta and Dumagats and the Aetas of central Luzon, the Lumads of Mindanao, among others.

Lawyer Jose Mencio Molintas , Expert on Indigenous Mechanisms of the UN Human Rights Council, highlighted the advocacy work of IPs at the international level, for the Draft Declaration of IP Rights. He said after more than two decades of lobby work, the UN General Assembly signed the Declaration on September 13, 2007.

Women IPs and Cordillera IPs, for one, were in the forefront in the many years of advocacy work, Molintas said.

The Gambang experience

During the forum on IP issues, Fausto Maliones of the Benguet Anti-Mining Action Network and representing Gambang, Bakun Punong Barangay Alvaro Paquito, their experiences on the Free Prior and Informed Consent [FPIC] experience with regards to the Royalco Philippines’ application for an exploration permit for 986 hectares in Gamban, Bakun.

FPIC is an important provision of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), which seeks to get the consensus of all members of the affected communities for any development projects. This should be determined in accordance with the community’s respective customary laws and is free from external manipulation, interference and coercion.

Maliones revealed that during the FPIC process, several violations were committed. During the preparations for the field- based investigation, there was no community participation at all. The FBI was only participated in by a representative from the company and the FBI team, consisting mainly of NCIP personnel. This was held in Aug 22-25, 2007.

He said external manipulations and interference were already evident. During the casting of votes on Dec 22, 2007, clustering was done; of the 2,899 registered voters, only 750 actually voted. This shows that not even half of the voters casted their votes.

Despite community tension, signing of the Draft MOA proceeded on January 24, 2008 at a certain hotel in Buguias. This is ironical as the MOA should have been a public matter and could have been done in Gambang itself.

In reaction, the Barangay Council of Gambang passed a resolution to request for the suspension of the FPIC activities in the area. This was endorsed by the Gambang Indigenous Peoples Association and Community Organization [GIPACO] requesting the NCIP to do concrete actions against the MOA entered into by some community members and the Royalco – but to no avail.

This is indeed ironic as the “rights” of the IPs has been recognized in the IPRA law and reaffirmed in a UN Declaration, yet such rights remain wanting.

As of press time, drilling already started in the community. # Contributed by Christine Grace B. Sidchogan (NorDis)

Bakun elders reject Royalco exploration

October 5, 2008

BAKUN, Benguet — Elders of at least nine more sitios in Barangay Gambang here rejected the mineral exploration project of Royalco, Philippines.

In a resolution, the barangay council of Gambang endorsed the Certificate of Rejection by the council of elders of sitios Mabuhay, Pulag, Gold Star, Mogao, Batanes/Paasin,Nametbet/Lebeng/Bagtangan, Takayan, Liwang and Bolbolo, covering Phase III of the said mining exploration venture.

Barangay Captain Alvaro Paquito signed Resolution No. 51-2008, which defined the council endorsement for the said rejection.

Upon learning of the approved exploration permit application, elders questioned the processes and altercations of legal interpretations ensued between NCIP representatives and individuals. The heated exchange dismayed the Council of Leaders and Elders of their understanding of “customary laws” and “indigenous rights” as embodied under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).

Among the arguments the Certificate of Rejection forwarded include the predominantly agricultural character of the livelihood sources of the people and their preference to develop farming rather than mining; the apprehension that mining would divide the community and alter the harmonious community relationships; and the apprehension that the company’s interest in the area does not end in the exploration stage and that they fear losing their water to the mining operations.

“We are preserving the land for the future generation and the generations to come. We are not ready to allow these lands for large scale mining,” the elders’ certification of rejection reads.

The Council of Leaders and Elders, also added that Sitio Liin is the source of water for both domestic and irrigation.

“In case any exploration will happen at Phase III, this will affect all the sitios sourcing water here. It would be disastrous to the residents and their livelihood,” one of the signatories said.

The leaders and elders also maintained they did not receive any prior notice for such consultation. They said they were informed two days before, which they said is not enough for them to prepare. They assert that this is violation of their right to Free prior Informed Consent as community. Some of them were not able to attend due to lack of access to information in their sitios.

Some of the landowners opposing the said mineral exploration were not in the list. They tried  to include participate so that they could question such anomalous approval but they were not given chance by the NCIP team.

More elders of affected sitios are also preparing for their Certificate of Rejections, according to another resident.

Royalco’s exploration involves an area of 986 hectares in Barangay Gambang. Its free, prior and informed consent has been approved for Phase I, while those of phases II and III are undergoing consultations. Phase III met strong community opposition, according to Paquito. # Sonia Bullong (NorDis)

Economics and Society 101: Notes on Baguio’s land problem

September 13, 2008

By ARTHUR BOQUIREN

I am thankful to the organizers of the Baguio Land Conference last August 28-29 for inviting me as one of their discussants. Fulfilling the role of a discussant allowed me to attend most of the land conference. The organizers of the land conference include the University of the Philippines-Baguio Cordillera Studies Center, Interfaith Gathering for Truth and Accountability, Tontongan ti Umili, Tebtebba Foundation and the Committee on Laws and Land of the Baguio City Council.

The presentations of Beverly Longid, Engr. Isabelo Cosalan Jr., Geraldine Cacho, Joanna Cariño, Kathleen Okubo, Roselle Came-Bahni, Dr. Julie Cabato, Judge Braulio Yaranon, Ignacio Pangket, Atty. Jose Molintas, Honor Sagmaya, City Councilor Richard Cariño, Windel Bolinget, and retired UP Professor Rowena Reyes-Boquiren were most enlightening.

On listening to the speakers and after reading the documents they have circulated, the personal insights that I acquired from them is that Baguio’s land problem has at least three fundamental facets (my formulation might have been affected by my own frameworks prior to the conference):
1. Deprivation of the indigenous peoples of Baguio of their right to land based on “native title”
2. Deprivation of the poor and middle classes of the right to a home
3. Environmental degradation

On the last point, one of the main speakers, Prof. Rowena Reyes-Boquiren describes the Baguio land problem as one that involves the issue of carrying capacity. For this writer, however, carrying capacity is variable across time but it is true that there is an over-concentration of population in Baguio. A lower concentration of population can result to a better quality of life.

During the conference, Prof. Reyes-Boquiren enlightened me that the roots of Baguio’s land problem can be found in the ongoing work of the elite to amass and consolidate properties. Thus, if we follow her thinking, the root of the land problem of Baguio, as elsewhere, is more than economic. The resolution of the problem requires the adoption of measures covering economic, political and other dimensions. At the same time, from my perspective, the solution to the problem requires the adoption of the following principles.

First, the land problem cannot be resolved outside of the fundamental address of the basic problems of society: land would remain un-affordable for many when poverty is not addressed.

Second, the land problem cannot be resolved by means that are purely economic or financial. The land problem requires a political solution. Solving the Baguio land problem would involve doing more than financial and economic calculations on the appropriate interest rate, amortization period and payment schemes for housing and land loans that can be implemented. Several government administrations have done these and have only failed to solve both homelessness and landless-ness among the poor and middle classes.

Third, the resolution of the land problem must simultaneously address development and equity issues. In particular, the solutions to the Baguio land problem must facilitate economic development and address intergenerational, social and spatial equity. The residents and rightful owners of Baguio may want just enough commercial and industrial centers dispersed in strategic locations in the city. Residents and rightful owners of Baguio City may also want that amount of commercial and industrial centers that are consistent with the volume of wastes that the city can handle at particular times.

Fourth, the resolution of the land problem must address or resolve legitimate claims from the perspective of full recognition of legitimate rights. Indigenous peoples (IPs) have rights to ancestral domain but the poor and middle classes also have rights to land and a home. Certain rights can be prior to other rights. Further, some of them have been victims of cheats. Somehow there should be a way to redress the exploitation they have suffered from unscrupulous land dealers. The state should also be held accountable for the cheats because in many instances the cheats used government offices. It is also possible that among indigenous peoples, there are competing claims to land.

Fifth, the resolution of the land problem requires dialogs among the IPs themselves and between the poor and the IPs, in which the latter not all belong to the poor. Among the IPs, there can be competing claims. Further, would IPs be willing to share land to the landless and the urban poor? Many of the urban poor are in a difficult situation: they do not have land and a home and yet they cannot invoke the rights to ancestral domain in the same way that IPs can.

Sixth, the resolution of the land problem requires dialog and a common front against poverty. IPs and the urban poor and middle classes share the same history of oppression and exploitation. The land problem that they experience today is a product of their common history of oppression and exploitation. This being the case, they owe it to themselves to cooperate in a common front for justice.

Seventh, the resolution of the land problem must simultaneously address environmental concerns. We cannot have only residences in Baguio. We need forests, watersheds, clean rivers, and biodiversity, particularly within the pockets of micro-forests and watersheds.

Eighth, we must address the concern of over-concentration of population in Baguio given that a better quality of life and environment can result from a dispersal of population.

Ninth, Baguio’s land problem should be addressed from the perspective of rights. IPs have rights to their ancestral domain but the urban poor and middle classes have rights to a home and land.

Tenth, Baguio’s land problem should be addressed from the perspective of dialog between IPs and the urban poor and middle classes. In particular, it must be addressed within their common front against poverty and exploitation/oppression.

At the heart of the matter is also this: suppose we focus only the rights of IPs to ancestral domain, what about the poor and middle classes? Do they not have rights to a home? How can we simultaneously address the rights of IPs, not all of whom belong to the poor, as well as address the rights of the poor and middle classes?

I anticipate that somewhere in this issue of Nordis, the principle of native title will be discussed and thus, the concept is not discussed here. At any rate, Joanna Cariño of The Heirs of Mateo Cariño and Bayosa Ortega Foundation can discuss the matter and she can be contacted at her home foundation. #

(The writer maintains a blog at http://www.geocities.com/arturoboquiren. Comments can be coursed through http://www.nordis.net, artboquiren2040@yahoo.com, and +63927-536-8431)

From Under This Hat: Baguio Ibalois cannot Cha-Cha

September 13, 2008

By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO

In 2003 there was a proposed House Bill #2813 which was opposed by members of the Ibaloi organization Aspulan. Today, five years after, is a re-filed version of the same proposed bill, HB#4699, revising, amending or changing the Charter of the City of Baguio.

The original charter of the city was passed on September 1st 1909, therefore the Baguio day and the Centennial celebration of the city. This charter in Baguio’s history created the city and in its implementation with one clean sweep made legitimate the displacement of the city’s original settlers.

The charter to the Ibalois is the law and represented all those directives passed before and after 1909 that “took away their homes and traditional source of livelihood without due process and without due compensation and then even sold the lands to raise revenue for the city,” and still continues to do so.

In that era almost a hundred years ago, that Act must have terrorized communities. Imagine the loss of homes and sources of livelihood of basically agricultural economies.

Today, HB#4699, the proposed bill that if read looks like its objective is to perpetuate the historical injustice or institutionalize the practice of displacing vulnerable communities, but this time not only against the original settlers but also against the poor informal settlers of Baguio today who many among them are also members of the wider indigenous populations of the Philippines.

In that light, any person in his right mind, Ibaloi or not, will not support such a proposed policy designed to their detriment as indigenous peoples, Ibalois, ancestral land claimants or especially as urban poor communities of the city now.

It is a responsibility expected of our politicians and government leaders to be transparent and sincere to their constituents even especially when conceptualizing or drafting laws and directives in the name of the people or their constituents of who in the city are all members of the democratic classes, Indigenous or not.

There is the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; national and international instruments putting focus on the recognition and respect for indigenous peoples’ rights and their contribution to the sustaining life-ways still used until today. Where does this proposed charter stand in relation to these legal instruments? Shall it just remain there blind to the long-running appeal for justice by the Ibalois, the IPs, and now also our urban poor neighbors?

The upcoming centennial commemoration of Baguio will either be significant for celebrating the birthday of the city or be historically significant on the 2nd International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples if the city, at the very least, recognizes the historical injustice committed against the Ibalois of Baguio especially against Mateo Cariño and Bayosa Ortega-Cariño.

The Cariño home (that used to be on the east topside of the present Rizal Park today) was indicated or identified in a colonial government directive as the center of a one kilometer radius area for the beginning of the City of Baguio, taken without due process.

Justice has never been so illusive for one and named Igorot or Ygolotte.#(NorDis)

Young, eldertly ‘bakwits’ suffer the most

September 5, 2008

Romy B. Elusfa/MindaNews contributor   
Thursday, 04 September 2008 17:01

DATU PIANG, Maguindanao (MindaNews/3 Sep) — For a few minutes, Ibrahim Samsudin, 7, was just sitting on the pavement of a covered court, looking at a plate of rice his mother gave him. Holding her one-year-old baby, Ibrahim’s 25-year-old mother Badria took the plate and poured in a teaspoon of brown sugar.

 Without saying a word, Ibrahim grabbed the plate, took a tin cup, poured water on the plate and started eating. In less than two minutes, the plate was empty and Ibrahim’s three younger brothers had nothing left to eat.

 A meter away from the Samsudin family, three girls aged 8, 9 and 10 were sharing rice with noodles in one plate. One of the three would only snatch a handful whenever the two others were not looking.

 

On Sept. 2, the local Social Welfare Office reported that four evacuees had died in this municipality — one-month-old baby Montasher Sadol who was recorded to have suffered stomach pain; Bayanon Kato, 55; Ludikay Alim, 60; and Zeny Alimodin, 100.

 

They are only a few of the many children and elderly who comprise the 132,425 evacuees in the province of Maguindanao, who in turn constitute 29.43 percent of the 450,000 evacuees the World Food Program has documented for the 11 provinces of Mindanao affected by the war.

 

Thirteen of the 22 towns of Maguindanao were said to be affected by the displacement, though three of the towns merely served as host for to the evacuees.

 

“Most of the evacuees here are house-based. They stay with their relatives. Those who have no relatives are in evacuation centers,” said Elsie Amil, provincial director of the welfare office in Maguindanao.

 

“Only around 45 percent of the evacuees are in evacuation centers while the 55 percent are living with their relatives,” Amil said.

 

Norodin Muhamad, a resident of Barangay Damatulan in Midsayap, Cotabato, who was still afraid to go back to his home, said in the local dialect: “Our number one need here is rice. While we also need plastic water container, rice is more important.” An evacuee at the covered court near the town plaza here, Muhamad was referring to the plastic container distributed here not by any local government unit of Maguindanao but by the government officials of North Cotabato.

 

The evacuees here who claimed they have been in this town since Aug. 7, admitted that relief goods have been given to them by government and private organizations. They said, though, that “the rations are not enough to support our needs.” They are thus appealing to government and private organizations to send them rice, mats and mosquito nets.

 

Asked what would make them go back home, the evacuees chorused: “Kalilintad!” (Peace!)

 

“Both the Army and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) should resolve whatever differences they have so that we civilians will no longer be suffering here,” said Nashrudin Mokamad.

 

“We are afraid to go home for as long as the soldiers are in our place. We vacated our homes when they came because we anticipated armed encounters between them and the MILF,” he added.

 

Kabagatan Samal, 53, offered a different answer. “Independence will make our place peaceful,” he said but declined to elaborate.

 

But while the guns were silent in Southwestern Mindanao today, the evacuees’ demand for a ceasefire seems far from being answered, especially with the coming in of the 46th Infantry Battalion fresh from Leyte. The soldiers arrived in Talayan around 2 p.m.

 

Last night, the government also dissolved its peace negotiating panel, sending mixed signals to the evacuees who believe that the government might have already abandoned the talks. (Romy Elusfa / MindaNews contributor)

The IP night to remember in Mankayan

August 27, 2008

Mankayan, Benguet — “Continuing Commitment in the defense of Cultural Heritage” the theme to commemorate the 14th International Day of Indigenous Peoples 2008 draws a crowd of more than 1000 to the “Ballangbang” Concert-Jam on August 16 at the Open Gym, Poblacion, Mankayan, Benguet.

The International Day of IPs was declared on August 9, 1994 by the United Nations.

According to Rima Mangili, Anakbayan spokesperson, the Ballangbang concert hoped to gather the youth of Benguet especially Mankayan for the celebration and to unite them behind their role to protect and promote the positive aspects of their cultural heritage; for their rights and welfare; and most of all to divert the youth’s attention to more productive activities.

The concert was co – sponsored by the Samahan ng mga Kabataang Episcopalian ng Pilipinas of Mankayan (SKEP-Mankayan), Mankayan National High School – MAPEH Department, Mankayan, National High School – Cultural Group, Lepanto National High School – Student Body Organization (LNHS – SBO).

The performers included: the internationally aclaimed IP-rights activist, Salidummay-Dap-ayan ti Kultura ti Kordilyera (SALIDUMAY-DKK) belted out their popular native compositions to the beat of traditional gongs and various bamboo instruments depicting historical and current social and political issues confronting indigenous people not only in the Cordillera but in the country as well.

The Dessert Band and Nashville Vaga Band rendered their best of alternative folk and rock songs. Chester Mark Tuazon and Ransky Balacdao respectively in behalf of their bands expressed their statement of unity with the organizers and supporters of the concert.

Jhun Utleg sang his heart out great songs from his album “Sa Kanyang Panahon.” Anakbayan performer Efren Tuacan along with the many country and folk singers of Mankayan gave their best to make The IP Night 2008 a real night to Remember at Mankayan, the first localized celebration of IP Day in the Province.

The president of the LEU-NAFLU-KMU Manuel Binhaon, in solidarity gave a brief worker’s situation of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company. According to Mr. Binhaon almost 85% of the 1,477 mine workers of LCMCo are from indigenous communities of the Cordillera. He added “dakami nga mangmangged nga minero iti daytoy nga pagtrabahuan ket agsagsagrap iti nakaro nga kinarigat nababa nga sweldo, nakurang a benepisyo, saan a natalged a pagtrabuan ken panangliplipit iti unyon”.

With our low wages and high cost of basic commodities we can’t really afford to provide the basic needs of our children like education, health and the like. He further challenged and encouraged the youth to actively participate in such venue and activities and be a member of ANAKBAYAN that will help them realize their role as the future leader to the next generation.

Kagawad Mathew Bataneg of Bry. Poblacion, in his welcome address that night said that Ballangbang means unity “nu ti panagtukar ti gangsa ket saan nga agkakatunos, ti kayat na laeng a saoen dayta ket awan ti panagkayakaysa” (translation here).

Encouraged by the broad public response, the sponsors through spokes Rima Mangili said “ This is the starting point for us to continue gathering the broadest reach to indigenous youth and students to support and look forward to the next celebration in the year 2009 as well as for other activities that will enrich the youth awareness”.

The celebration called it a night end with a community pattong and closing remarks delivered by Ms. Rima Mangili that challenged the youth to continue and also the Local Government Unit of Mankayan to look into the welfare of the indigenous youth, provide venue for their full-development. She stressed the role of the LGU in the protection of the environment. “Our government officials here in Benguet should not allow projects that are detrimental to the indigenous people of Benguet and to the environment, she added.

The celebration also served as a venue to popularize the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Solidarity messages from the different sectors were read out to the audience.# Elma R. Awingan(NorthernDispatch)

May motibong pampulitika?

August 25, 2008

May motibong pampulitika?

Nagulat si Kerlan Fanagel, pangkalahatang kalihim ng Pasaka, grupo ng mga Lumad sa Southern Mindanao, nang makita ang kanyang litrato sa wanted posters sa Compostela, Compostela Valley. Malisyoso umano ang pagbansag kanyang rebelde ng 28th Infantry Batallion. Tumutulong si Fanagel sa lumikas na mga Lumad at binabatikos ang militarisasyon sa probinsya. (Jonald B. Mahinay/davaotoday.com)

The New Settlers: Mindanao Muslims Head North

August 24, 2008

By Claire Delfin

It was 1984. Hadja Amina Jed, then 29 years old, packed her things, left Maguindanao in Western Mindanao and sailed north to Manila.

She is the second of eight children and her mother died while she was still a child. Her father was a fisherman. “Mahirap talaga ang buhay. Pag walang huling isda ang aming tatay, wala rin kaming makain (Life was hard. During times when father had no catch, we also had nothing to eat),” says Amina.

Amina was determined to change her family’s fortune. Going to Manila and finding work seemed the only option.

Twenty-three years later Amina works in Manila as an agent of a manpower agency that sends mostly Muslim Filipinas to the Middle East for work. She stayed single and was able to send all her siblings to school. Today she has a car and a comfortable house in Quezon City.

Lika Amina, Mosrifah Labay also saw the move north as the best option to change her life. She left Marawi City in Mindanao in the 1990s.

Ten years later, she runs a series of small market stalls, selling ready-to-wear clothes in Quezon City.

Amina and Mosrifah are just two of the 1.6 million Muslims who left Mindanao in pursuit of a better life in the capital.

The majority of the Muslims here belong to the three main Moro tribes — the Maranao, Maguindanao and the Tausug.

The Maranao, like Mosrifah, come from Lanao province and have a reputation and tradition for entrepreneurship. As a group, the Maguindanao from Cotabato, Maguindanao, Saranggani and General Santos tend to do less well and are generally the poorest of the three tribes. They come from provinces where the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is most active. Here, many families had already left their farmlands for fear of getting caught in crossfire between the MILF and government troops, as is happening once again this week.

Maguindanao peoples typically find work in companies or in small businesses in Manila. Many females go abroad to work as domestic helpers.

The Tausug hail from Jolo, Sulu, Basilan and Zamboanga provinces and also work as employees in businesses or else head overseas.

Former Lanao del Sur representative Benasing Macarambon, Jr. says that the Muslim departure from Mindanao started in the 1970s amidst widespread poverty at the height of armed Moro insurrection in the region.

“War was at its peak. People were starving. There was no choice but to leave,” says Macarambon.

Challenges

In Manila, many Muslims have seen their fortunes change. Their livelihoods have flourished and their finances have improved. Yet for many, life remains a constant struggle.

Amina and Mosrifah no longer worry about what food to put on the table. Instead they worry about their safety. Both claim to be abducted and held for ransom by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

On a late Sunday afternoon in May 2006, Amina was on her way home to Quezon City from a beach excursion in Cavite. While traversing Tandang Sora Avenue, a group of armed men waved to stop her vehicle. Five of them got up and demanded the driver to step out. The strangers quickly commandeered the van.

The men identified themselves as police officers and said they were arresting Amina for involvement in illegal drugs. None of them, however, showed an arrest warrant.

At the police station, another police officer who Amina alleges failed to identify himself, accused her of being a head of a drug syndicate in Tandang Sora’s Culiat village, known for Muslim settlers from Mindanao.

“Sabi niya, drug queen daw ako sa Barangay Culiat (The officer said I was a drug queen in Culiat village) ,” Amina recalls.

She was told that a criminal case had already been readied against her but that she could escape the charges if she handed over PhP 600,000 (USD 13,636).

Amina who claims never to have been involved in any illegal activity told the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project that she was left frightened, confused and intimidated. She called her relatives and appealed for help. Together they raised more than PhP 300,000 (USD 6,818).

The police officer accepted the ‘offer’ and Amina found herself freed four days after her ‘arrest.’ No case was ever filed against her during her detention but she was threatened she would be killed if she reported the incident.

Mosrifah tells a similar story: One day, also in 2006, armed men suddenly jumped out of a maroon van parked outside her store and pushed her inside their vehicle.

With each brandishing a gun, the men took her jewelry, cellular phone and purse. Mosrifah reports being scared for her life believing any sudden or rash move she made might be her last. Her abductees introduced themselves as police officers who were arresting her for selling drugs — but that she would be freed and the charges dropped if she paid a million pesos (USD 22,727). She was driven around in the back of the van for what seemed like hours.

Luckily for her, her relatives had alerted the government’s Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA), which immediately got in touch with senior officials of the PNP. Mosrifah believes the officers in the front of the van must have gotten wind of an attempt by their superiors in the PNP to plant a trap for them and so she was dumped in Cubao without any ransom changing hands.

‘Hulidap’

The incidence of renegade police officers kidnapping Muslims and extorting them is so common according to the OMA that it has coined its own word for it: hulidap. ‘Huli’ being the Tagalog word for arrest, and ‘dap’ short for kidnap.

“There were days we have as many as 10 people coming to our office to complain about hulidap,” says Datu Hassan Dalimbang, OMA director for the National Capital Region (NCR).

But while many come to OMA to complain, very few are willing to divulge their full identity and file cases for fear of reprisal.

As a result, the OMA has set up its own surveillance and entrapment system in partnership with the PNP. In one successful operation, Amina’s captors were arrested and are now facing charges in court. OMA has also gone around Muslim communities, conducting awareness campaign to educate Muslims of their rights.

One percent

According to Dalimbang, about one per cent of police officers comprise these renegade officers who regularly target Muslim businesses in hulidap syndicates.

But despite official attempts to clamp down on the corruption, hulidap remains a serious problem according to Dalimbang. Corrupt officers are believed to run paid informants in the Manila Muslim community who alert gangs to rich pickings among the Islamic business world here.

These rogue cops usually accuse their victims of involvement in illegal drugs. Attorney Sittie Rahana Jhan Ganda, OMA legal officer, says it is an “easy concept” because there have been several Muslims who have been arrested in legitimate police operations against illegal drugs.

“We don’t tolerate these Muslims who are involved in illegal activities,” says Ganda who adds that some have managed to bribe officers to stay out of jail.

Torture

A number of hulidap victims have complained of physical torture too. Dalimbang says men were beaten to pressure their families to give money fast, while some women have been raped while abducted.

Alima Mangotara has yet to get over from the trauma she went through while negotiating for the release of her husband who was allegedly abducted by a hulidap gang on Valentine’s Day two years ago.

Over the phone, she would hear her husband screaming in apparent pain while being beaten. “Pag naisip ko yon, naiiyak ako (I cry whenever I remember it),” says Alima.

Alima is 27 years old and says that when the gang learned of her age they demanded she too go to the police station — alone. Having heard of cases of hulidap victims being raped, Alima politely begged off, saying she was heavily pregnant and near labor.

Blank wall

The issue of hulidap has reached senior PNP management which maintains it is strenuously battling the problem. But senior officers complain they face an uphill struggle since most alleged victims are too scared to come forward and register an official complaint.

“We cannot work in an environment where everyone’s afraid,” says Director Geary Barias, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief. But he says that this is not even a reason for the PNP to ignore the crime.

Instead the PNP has run surveillance and counter-intelligence operations on its own men. As a result, more than 200 police officers in Manila have so far been dismissed or charged with different offenses, including extortion.

“We are committed to discipline our people. We cannot allow undesirables in our roster,” says Barias.

The PNP has also been active in meeting with different Muslim organizations in a bid to rescue its tarnished image among Muslims. The meetings are also part of its campaign to establish rapport with communities.

Battling misconceptions

While Muslims have learned to fit in well with their fellow countrymen in Metro Manila, many still complain of discrimination. Some blame this on media, which they say are responsible for perpetuating misconceptions and bias against Muslims.

Hadja Alnahar Baby Lazo, OMA-NCR Settlement Division chief, says it is common for news reports to identify criminal suspects as Muslims. “I cannot understand why the media have to identify a suspect as a Muslim. Why is there a need to include somebody’s religion? They should just identify the name.”

“People think we Muslims are war freaks and violent,” says Abubakar Sansaluna, chief of the OMA-NCR Cultural Division.

He says misconceptions are hard to fight. But stereotypes have to be constantly challenged if there is to be any real improvement. Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project

(The author is a television news reporter of GMA Network, Inc. and a regular contributor of special reports on women, children, health, education, and the environment to the network’s news and public affairs website, GMANews.TV.)

Group slams alleged military ‘harassment’ of lumad leader

August 21, 2008

By Abigail Kwok
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:33:00 08/21/2008

MANILA, Philippines — A coalition of indigenous people’s groups condemned the harassment of a tribal leader in Mindanao lumad, whose face and name have appeared on posters branding him a rebel leader who is “wanted dead or alive,” which have allegedly been circulated by government troops.

In a statement on Thursday, the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP, Federation of Indigenous People of the Philippines), said the posters that have appeared in villages, bus terminals and business establishments brand Kerlan Fanagel, a leader of the B’laan tribe in Davao del Sur, a commander of the New People’s Army who supposedly uses the alias Commander Lala.

“This kind of harassment is done [against] the indigenous leader and organization that stood against the destructive economic policy of this regime [of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo] and their rampant disregard [for] human rights,” Himpad Mangumalas, KAMP spokesperson, said in the statement.

Mangumalas said the harassment Fanagel is going through is similar to what is allegedly happening in other regions where there are strong protests against mining and ecotourism, which many indigenous people see as a threat to the environment and their way of life.

==================

My Take:

He’s right.

This item brings back my memories of Iloilo’s struggle against the coal-fired power plant.  The group RISE was tagged then by a local military spokesperson (Lowen Gil Marquez) as terrorists

Until now, they are mouthing the red-baiting remarks everytime they are unable to parry the scientific explanations of the anti-coal groups with their own scientific explanation.

Hope the military should reprimand this spokesperson of theirs.

Benguet folk unite against large, destructive mining

August 19, 2008

La Trinidad, Benguet — Some 156 representatives from the 13 municipalities of Benguet province gathered on August 7 in a conference to discuss community issues and concerns on large and destructive mining and share experiences and lessons from successful struggles, which resulted to the formation of the Benguet Mining Alert and Action Network or BMAAN.

The conference resulted from an urgent need for collective action for the people of Benguet to respond to the mining issues of the province, being primarily affected by these. It is also timely, as an expression of celebrating the International Indigenous Peoples Day which falls on August 9.

The was organized by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Itogon-Inter Barangay Alliance (IIB-A) and the Danggayan dagiti Maidadanes nga Umili ti Mankayan (DAMAYAN).

As collectively decided by its members, the BMAAN will serve as a venue for “sharing knowledge and skills for monitoring and documentation; planning and coordinating common activities and learning from our shared experiences and using the lessons to plan and conduct further actions.”

Mining Liberalization in the Cordillera

CPA Deputy Secretary General Santos Mero discussed the Cordillera mining situation while focusing on current mining applications, exploration and operations in Benguet after sharing the history of large mining in the province.

Mero explained that 66% of the region’s total land area is covered by various mining applications on top of the existing large mining operations, such as Lepanto Consolidated in Mankayan and Philex Mines in Itogon. Mero added that five of the 23 priority mining projects of the GMA administration is located in the Cordillera, namely: Teresa Gold Project, Far Southeast Project and Victoria Project all by Lepanto in Mankayan; Project 3000 of Itogon Suyoc Mines, Pacdal Copper Expansion Project by Philex Mines, and the Batong Buhay Project by the Philippine Mining Development Corporation. Except for the Pacdal Expansion Project and Far Southeast, the other projects are already in operation. Except for Batong Buhay, the rest are located in Benguet.

Mero noted in his discussion the presence and operations of transnational mining corporations in Benguet such as UK-based Anglo-American (with Philex Mines, Lepanto, Cordillera Exploration, and Northern Luzon Exploration Company); Australia-based Oxiana/Royalco whose FPIC acquisition in Bakun is under question; Anvil Mining Company (Australian), which now owns the Itogon Suyoc Mines in Sangilo, Itogon; Ivanhoe Mines from Canada which has a 12% share from Lepanto; Bezant Resources (UK) with an ongoing exploration at Guinaoang and Bulalacao in Mankayan. Bezant also owns 60% of Crescent Mining also in Mankayan; Metals Exploration PLC or MTL Philippines (UK) with applications in Atok, Tublay, and Bokod, and Columbus/Magellan Metals, also with applications in Bokod.

Foreign mining companies in other provinces include Terra Nova Exploration/Wolfland (Canadian), which has exploration activities in Tabuk, Kalinga. The US-based Phelps Dodge has partnered locally with Makilala Mining; Olympus mining company (Canada), which violated the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the Binongan communities in Baay Licuan, Abra; Golden Valley Exploration (Australia) also in Abra and Oceana Gold/Climax Arimco (Australia) which has partnered with Copper Fields for operations in Apayao.

Municipal representatives shared updates on ground developments, such as in Brgy. Gambang in Bakun on their opposition to Royalco’s mining interests and question to its FPIC acquisition. Representatives of Mankayan and Itogon shared the lessons and gains from their successful struggles against Lepanto Mining, Benguet Corporation and Philex Mines.

In another important discussion, CPA Secretary General Windel Bolinget discussed the FPIC and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as an added instrument for the assertion of the FPIC.

“The FPIC is not merely a process but a basic inherent right of indigenous peoples that entails genuine participation and decision making of the IPs—that is, right to accept or deny their consent to any project in their territories,” Bolinget stressed. He added that “Free, Prior, and Informed translates to nawaya, kasakbayan/umuna, naipakaammo a pammalubos.”

The conference ended with greater commitment for coordination, communication and concerted action towards strengthening the new formation. # AT Bengwayan(NorthernDispatch)

Kibungan sayote now branded

August 19, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Trying to meet market demand for quality vegetables, Kibungan farmers now pack sayote in a specially printed plastic bag to protect both farmers and traders with the Aug. 5 launching of the “branded sayote.”

The new packaging system will ensure quality, guarantee exact weight and product classification, according to Kibungan Mayor Benito Siadto during the launching ceremonies at the National Training Center of the Benguet State University (BSU) here.

Green gold

According to Siadto 70% of the total sayote production in the Cordillera comes from Kibungan. The town’s daily harvest is around 20 tons of sayote, often tagged as green gold. Packed in 25-kilo bags, the sayote commands as much as P14 per kilo or P350 per bag.

“There are times when the product could go as high as P18 per kilo or P450 per bag at the La Trinidad trading post,” said Felix Tiwtiwa, the local government focal person for sayote production.

According Tiwtiwa, roughly 300 hectares of the town’s 900-hectare agricultural lands are planted with sayote with an average harvest of 1,000 kilos per hectare per harvest. He said farmers harvest at least once a week. Peak of harvest is during May, June and July.

Grown abundantly in barangays Sagpat, Poblacion, Lubo, Palina and some parts of Madaymen, sayote made Kibungan among major producers in Benguet. Siadto said, almost all of the seven barangays produce sayote, with only Madaymen producing a variety of temperate vegetables.

Other Benguet towns Atok, Kapangan, La Trinidad, Mankayan, Tuba, Tublay and Sablan also produce commercial quantities of sayote.

Increasing demand

Benito Hipolito, president of Benguet Truckers and Traders Association, said since the classification and repackaging of the Kibungan sayote two weeks ago, orders increased from 50 bags per day to 150 bags per day.

“Pag nagtagumpay ang proyektong ito sa sayote, susunod na rin ang ibang produkto,” (If this project with sayote succeeds, other products will follow suit) Hipolito said, referring to vegetable produce as cabbages, potatoes and other temperate vegetables which Benguet produces.

According to Jonathan Tercero of the La Trinidad trading post Bagsakan Association, some consumers, especially big supermarkets and food chains demand quality products. “They are quite strict with sizes and physical appearance of vegetables,” he told Kibungan producers. He encouraged them to adhere to quality standards to continue to meet market demands.

Government support

The packaging project is funded by the local government unit of Kibungan, which released an initial P300,000 for the purchase and distribution of specially marked plastic bags and weighing scales to 70 clustered communities of sayote growers. Seminars for farmers were also conducted as part of the post-harvest product development.

Earlier, Siadto created the local Sayote Task Force.

The ceremonial signing of the Memorandum of Agreement between local officials of both La Trinidad and Kibungan, the farmer’s group and the traders is among the highlights of the launch.

Municipal Agriculture Officer Rennete Mayamnes said the agriculture profiling project of the town is presently being collated to determine baseline data for all types of crops, including sayote. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorthernDispatch)

From Under This Hat: The international IP day celebration

August 19, 2008

By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO

August nine is the International day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (IDWIP). The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), EED Partners Task Force on IP Rights (EED-TFIP), IP Rights Monitor, Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), Kasapi, SilDAP, and Tebtebba Foundation, commemorated it with a conference in the UP Diliman Campus.

The IDWIP has been celebrated for the past fifteen years since its declaration by the UN in 1994. Last year it was practically a victory celebration for the indigenous populations all over because it was the year the UN Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was passed with an official vote of 143 countries (which was actually 144 when the Mauritious Islands later raised that they also had voted for it.)

This year in the Philippines, this conference has called together different parties: peoples organizations, non-government programs and government agencies that work with or on IP issues, the UN agencies in the country with facilities for IP advocacies, the representatives of the European Union, and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

The conference also and actually became a venue for the participating IPs to ventilate their issues emanating from working with, or in partnership with, or under the auspices of government agencies, church organizations, foundations and others.

One very hot and striking issue which made this venue very timely too was the tension in North Cotabato over the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on ancestral domain.

Indigenous peoples leaders from Mindanao sought the help of all IPOs, government, EU, UN agency-participants to support their call for the GRP-MILF to honor the Lumad-Moro Peace-Pact with reference to their ancestral territories.

Timuay Fernando Mudai, a traditional leader of the Subanen who said he is a 14th generation descendant of the Subanen leadership that drew the Peace-pact (Sapa) between the Lumad and Moro generations ago about their territories.

“The egg, the vine and the rattan tokens from that peace pact still exist.” He said, “if the peace-pact is broken it is like the vine is cut and then it will lose its hold on the ground.”

The participating Mindanao IP leaders “urge the Philippine government and the MILF to respect Lumad territories.”

Mudai said, “We respect the claim of the Bangsamoro over the Sultanates of Maguindanao and Jolo-Sulu, but do not include Lumad territories (in their claim). The MoA between the government and the MILF is a violation of the Sapa (peace pact) made by the Subanens’ forefathers and the Bangsamoro people to define their respective territories. “

“Such sacred covenant of our forefathers must be honored lest we face the consequences of the topu or busong (curse),” warned Mudai.

While the different IP groups support the call made by the Subanens and added also the call for both the government and the MILF to be transparent with their memoranda of agreements for it also affects other peoples and territories in the neighborhood of the Moro areas referred in these agreements.

The NCIP has however been silent on this despite it having had issued ancestral domain title certificates to IPs in the areas affected by the MoA. I wish they would explain this whole lack of communication and/or coordination to IP rights advocates that is so urgent for peoples about to lose their ancestral domains by another stroke of the pen.

As of press time, the NCIP is silent on the issue. #(NorthernDispatch)

Indigenous youth converge to celebrate IP Day 2008

August 19, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — In celebration of the 14th World’s Indigenous Peoples Day, more than 150 indigenous youth of the Cordillera gathered to learn, understand, unite and commit in promoting the rights of indigenous peoples (IPs) on August 9 at the Multi-Purpose Hall of the University of the Philippines Baguio, Philippines.


Photo courtesy of Joy Siapno

The Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network (APIYN) organized the event with the support of various local youth organizations that includes the Progressive Igorots for Social Action (Pigsa), Pinatud, Program for Indigenous Culture-Pagawisan Tako Am-in, Salidummay-University of Cordillera and Benguet State University, Cordillera Cultural Performing Group-Saint Louis University, University of the Philippines Baguio University Student Council-Indigenous Peoples Desk, Student Parliament-Baguio Central University, Anakbayan-Kordilyera, Dap-ayan ti Kultura iti Kordilyera (DKK) and Cordillera Youth Center.

In the afternoon was a Forum-Workshop on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN DRIP). Lawyer Jose M. Molintas, an Ibaloi, member of the UN Expert Mechanism on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, discussed the importance of the UN DRIP to IPs and what this declaration covers regarding the protection of rights of IPs.

Jennifer Awingan, a Kalinga, coordinator of APIYN, imparted the situation of Indigenous Peoples of the Cordillera and of the world in general and challenged the indigenous youth to act regarding the issues faced by the IPs.

After the inputs, a workshop was held to make a plan of action as an output of the celebration. A unity statement was made and a coordinating body was formed to ensure the monitoring and implementation of the plans. This includes capacity building on the strengthening of indigenous youth organizations through cross-learning between and among indigenous youth on various topics that affect IPs, youth-elders dialogs and many more.

The body also united in taking actions on IP issues and concerns at local, national and international levels. As part of the plan, a resolution was seated asking the City Government of Baguio to declare August 9 as an official red-letter-day and allocate resources for its celebration.

“Lambakan” (cultural night) followed in the evening. Indigenous music and gongs, community dances and chants, trivias on IP issues and solidarity messages filled the occasion. It also became a cross-learning experience among indigenous youth from different tribes of the Cordillera. Advocate groups such as National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP), College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), Maryknoll Sanctuary Choir and Agi Band delivered solidarity messages and rendered meaningful cultural performances. # Keidy Transfiguracion(NorthernDispatch)

Statement: Intensify the struggle for self-determination! Fight Imperialist plunder and state terrorism!

August 19, 2008

By Cordillera Peoples Alliance

August 11, 2008

We mark the 2008 Indigenous Peoples Week or National Minority Week Celebration with greater challenges in our struggle for self determination and defense of our ancestral domain. We celebrate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples with our achievements including the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), as we face the real condition of indigenous peoples under intense national oppression, exploitation and extreme poverty especially in the Philippines. National oppression of indigenous peoples in the Philippines worsened under the exploitative and fascist regime of the fake and extremely-isolated president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In our struggle, we draw lessons from our historic experience. In our celebration this year, we declare to intensify our struggles against imperialist plunder and state terrorism and consistently move for the ouster of GMA.

Greater hunger, graver human rights violations

As Filipinos, indigenous peoples are also victims of the national political and economic crisis. In fact, they bear heavier the impact of the national crisis aggravated by the policies and programs of the illegitimate regime. We are poorer and hungrier more than ever as imperialist globalization takes its toll on the basic survival needs of the people, such as food and social services. Government’s subservience to imperialist globalization steadily increased our dependence to rice imports over the years, making local markets vulnerable to speculations by international and local rice cartels.

Oil prices took a P3/liter hike for the 20th round this year, making the pump price of oil four times more expensive than its price in July 2001 when GMA took office, or from P14.50/L to P58.94/L, or a 306% increase. Minimum daily wage in the Cordillera region for non-agriculture workers is pegged at only P250, yet the cost of living for an ordinary family to survive decently is P830. Unemployment now reached 16 million or 28% of the total labor force. The number of poor Filipinos increased by 3.8 million between 2003 to 2008, or from 23.8 million to 27. 6 million. Inflation hit 11.4 percent in June 2008, the highest in 14 years.

The human rights situation is at its worst, with the regime being the perpetrator under its policy of political killings, the Oplan Bantay Laya, and the recent Anti-Terrorism Act. Since GMA assumed presidency, there are over 900 victims of extra-judicial killings and 193 victims enforced disappearances. Just before her eighth State of the Nation Address (SONA), 3 indigenous farmer-hunters were again summarily executed in Kalinga and Abra provinces. Organizations and individuals critical of the regime, especially those asserting their basic individual and collective rights were killed.

Some of the most committed leaders of the legitimate national peoples movement and Cordillera peoples’ movement were killed and assassinated leaving children, families, clans, tribes and communities orphaned and deprived of having a father, a mother, a sister or brother, leader and peacepact-holder, like the families of Markus Bangit, Alyce Claver, and Albert Terredaño. Justice remains elusive, as the Arroyo government which rules under de factor Martial Law does not show any sincerity in pursuing this.

Causing massive human rights violations is the heightened militarization and terrorism by the AFP in indigenous peoples’ territories especially in areas with strong struggles against large-mining and imperialist plunder. Laws and policies such as the Mining Act of 1995, National Minerals Policy, Anti-Terrorism Act, OBL and political killings are deliberate and systematic violation of indigenous peoples rights and human rights, which have been unprecedented under the Arroyo regime.

Ethnocide in Imperialist Globalization

As indigenous peoples, national oppression adds to the brunt we bear on top of the national political and economic crisis. Our inherent collective human rights are systematically violated, manifested by the worsened cases of development aggression, heavy militarization of indigenous communities; threats, harassment and extra-judicial killings of indigenous peoples asserting their democratic rights. Records from the Indigenous Peoples Rights Monitor show that since GMA assumed presidency in 2001, there have been 120 documented cases of IP killings in the country, with 33 of the cases coming from the Cordillera region. The fascist regime has done nothing but heighten ethnocide in its desperation to comply with unconditional subservience to the imperialist US and monopoly capitalists.

Eighteen of government’s priority mining projects are located in indigenous territories, five of which are in the Cordillera region. It is deplorable to note that big local and transnational mining companies’ applications including government treat our ancestral lands and territories as a resource base for plunder and extraction of profit while sacrificing IPs.

To further revitalize and prioritize the plunder and destruction of our ancestral territories there are 125 pending mining applications in the Cordillera covering 1.2 million hectares of the region’s total land area, or 66% of its 1.8 million hectares. Nine (9) Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA) and four (4) Exploration Permit Applications (EXPAs) were approved without the genuine free, prior, informed consent (FPIC) of the affected communities. The affected communities do not even know of such MPSAs approved with the connivance of NCIP only to be shocked when mining companies are already going into their territories.

The GMA administration has twisted the definition of our opposition to destructive projects and the assertion of our legitimate rights and the right to survive as “terrorism,” making us open targets to extra-judicial killings and military terrorism. The regime has massively militarized indigenous communities to break community opposition to destructive projects and repress the communities. Militarization of indigenous communities include physical basing of the Philippine Army in ancestral territories and houses, regular military operations such as unwarranted searches of houses, imposed food blockades, curfews, and other restrictions.

The Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) maliciously and unjustly branded communities and legitimate organizations like the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and its members as fronts of the revolutionary CPP-NPA-NDF, making them open targets to military attacks, vulnerable not only to harassment but to extra-judicial killings.

Such is the case of the Binongan indigenous peoples in Baay Licuan, Abra, who are presently opposing Canadian mining company Olympus Pacific Minerals. Having won an initial triumph in their struggle with the suspension of its drilling, and sustaining their collective stand for Olympus to get out of their ancestral domain, the 41st IB, 503rd and 502nd Reconnaissance and Composite Coys were deployed in the communities after the other. Community leaders, along with CPA and its Abra chapter KASTAN, were tagged as NPA supporters and NPA fronts. Military terror is being sown to break the communities’ unity and solidarity. In Conner, Apayao, communities are not giving up the fight against Anglo American subsidiary Cordillera Exploration, and now, Australian mining company OceanaGold which has a notorious record of human rights violations in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya. Leaders of the local organization SAPO were harassed and death threats continue.

The gravest instance this year is the havoc in Tubo, southern Abra, due to the month-long bombings and intense military operations of the 50th Infantry Battalion starting March 21, 2008, leaving one whole community of the Maeng tribe in deep trauma, fear and terror. The area has been targeted for large mining but was consistently opposed by the people as early as the 1920s. The regime has specifically eyed the Cordillera as a priority area for OBL 2, thus hastening the smooth entry of applications and operations by securing the areas through militarization.

The extra-judicial killings of indigenous farmer-hunters in the Cordillera by the AFP and PNP has been rampant under the Arroyo regime: Johnny Camareg in 2001, Mt. Province (killed by elements of the 22nd Special Forces Company, 3rd Special Forces Battalion), Etfew Chadyaas in 2003, Mt. Province (killed by elements of the 54th IB under Lt. Sia-ed), Efren Agsayang,a 19 year old deaf-mute from Mankayan, Benguet killed by elements of the provincial PNP; Victor Balais in Pinukpuk, Kalinga (slain by elements 77th IB), Bernabe Bangguey (slain by elements 41st IB) and Gavino Lawagey (Abra) all in 2005-all accused to be members of the New People’s Army, and this year, Mariano Galisen (March 2008, killed by elements of the 50th IB) in Tubo, Abra; Rocky Aboli and Rey Logao in Kalinga last April and June, both killed by elements of the 21st and 77th IBs.

Victories in the face of worsened national oppression

While this might be the dismal state of indigenous peoples in the country and the Cordillera, we cite a few of the many significant victories in the struggle for indigenous peoples’ rights that have a strategic impact to the wider movement for people’s democratic rights.

The Baay Licuan communities thru BALITOK have successfully hosted the 24th Cordillera Day celebration with big mobilization last April 23 and 24 and have drawn in concrete support from other regions and abroad in their local struggle against large mines and militarization, as they continue to strengthen their resolve as a community. In Tubo, the communities did not succumb to the terror inflicted on them. Instead, they continue to strengthen themselves as they brace for more situations that challenge their collective opposition to the unending plunder interests of State and foreign companies. In Brgy. Amtwagan, resolutions were passed embodying their stand against large mines and militarization, strongly urging the municipal and provincial governments to support these. Likewise, communities in other parts of the Cordillera remain vigilant against the entry of large mines.

More recently in Apayao, SAPO has affiliated with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance during its first general assembly this July, making it the 196th member organization since the 9th Congress in December 2006. In time, SAPO will grow to comprehensively address burning issues in the province, aside from presently battling foreign companies’ attempts to mine indigenous communities in Conner. In August 7, two days before the International IP Day, mining affected and threatened communities all over Benguet together with their local government officials and advocates affirmed their unity against the entry and operation of large mines and put up the Benguet Mining Action Alert Network (BMAAN) to strengthen their unity and action.

Internationally, we gained concrete ground with the passage of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which the CPA actively lobbied for since 1985. This victory is one we share with the rest of the world’s indigenous peoples. The challenge now is the declaration’s implementation, which we should not lose sight of but fervently pursue so that its passage is meaningful to indigenous peoples. In response, CPA co-organized and hosted the Asia Workshop for the UNDRIP Implementation. In the international anti-imperialist united front, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance served as the lead organization of Study Commission No. 10 on the Rights of indigenous peoples, national minorities and nationalities for self-determination, and decolonization against discrimination, racism, and national oppression by imperialism and local reaction of the International League of Peoples Struggles (ILPS). It convened the international workshop on this concern in the ILPS’ Third International Assembly in Hong Kong.

Continuing militant resistance

Cordillera indigenous peoples have a history of militant and armed resistance for the defense of land and life, as shown in the successful anti-Chico dams and anti-CRC struggles during the US-Marcos dictatorship. To date, with the aggressive onslaught of imperialist plunder and exploitation in the Cordillera, Cordillera IPs are still collectively fighting and waging militant resistance as we achieve more victories in our struggle for self determination and right to ancestral domain.

Our notable, small but meaningful victories are a slap to the terrorist regime’s face. GMA has nobody but herself and the government to blame for her plunging popularity ratings, extreme poverty and unbearable socio-economic crisis in the country and national oppression of indigenous peoples. We call for her ouster as part and parcel of advancing our struggle for self determination. We call for GMA’s ouster being part of the marginalized citizenry the regime so strongly exploits and represses, and in support to the clamor of the democratic sectors.

Scrap the Mining Act of the 1995! Stop militarization and military terrorism in indigenous communities!

Assert our right to self determination! Enough of Mining and Imperialist Plunder! Enough of GMA! #(NorthernDispatch)

Indigenous Peoples: More Marginalized, Impoverished Under GMA

August 13, 2008

The Philippines’ indigenous peoples – who comprise some 15 percent of the population and who are among the country’s poorest – have become more marginalized and impoverished under this government.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES WATCH
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 27, August 10-16, 2008

When Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo delivered her State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 28, there was one man in the House of Representatives gallery who, upon being acknowledged, stood up. He was wearing a G-string, his tribe’s traditional male attire, and for a moment he threatened to upstage the Malacañang occupant.

That man is Rosario Camma, the overall chieftain of the Bugkalot tribe of Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, and Aurora. He is also the mayor of Nagtipunan, Quirino.

Arroyo cited him as one of the country’s local heroes. She credited him for his supposed work at improving his tribe’s livelihood following the release of their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), which covers 100,000 hectares.

“After the release of their CADT, Rosario Camma, Bugkalot chieftain, and now mayor of Nagtipunan, helped his 15,000-member tribe develop irrigation, plant vegetables and corn and achieve food sufficiency,” Arroyo said. “Mabuhay (Long live), Chief!”

Himpad Mangumalas, a member of North-Central Mindanao’s Higaonon tribe and the spokesperson of the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayang Pilipino (KAMP or National Federation of Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines), said Camma was merely used by the Arroyo government for its propaganda purposes. “Mrs. Arroyo just used him so she could look good, so she could have something to show that would make her look like she is doing something to improve the lot of the indigenous peoples,” he said in an interview.

Mangumalas recounted his encounter with Camma in a recent congressional hearing. “He is one of the pro-mining mayors, one of those who really work hard so that prospective mining projects in his area could push through,” Mangumalas shared.

“Development” aggression

The KAMP spokesperson finds it regrettable that a pro-mining mayor could be declared as one of the country’s local heroes, because large-scale mining, he says, has been and continues to be the biggest problem facing indigenous peoples’ communities. He says mining – that is, the large-scale mining conducted by multinational corporations – has led to the destruction of resources in indigenous peoples’ ancestral lands – and, in the worst cases, has led to displacement.

Data gathered by KAMP show that of the 24 “priority mining areas” marked by the Arroyo administration, 18 are in indigenous peoples’ territories. Ten of these, Mangumalas said, are in Mindanao; the rest are in Palawan, the Mindoro provinces, the Cordillera region, and the provinces of Quezon and Rizal.

Aside from corporate mining, another major issue that directly affecting indigenous peoples is the construction of large dams and other energy projects, mostly funded by multilateral institutions like the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). A document submitted by the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Monitor (IPR-Monitor), the Tebtebba Foundation, and the Philippine Indigenous Peoples Link (PIPLinks) to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)* earlier this year, “The Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines,” states that “seven ‘priority’ large dams are to be built in locations that will directly affect indigenous communities.”

Mangumalas, meanwhile, cited the construction of the Sibulan Hydro-Electric Power Plant within the territory of Davao del Sur’s Bagobo tribe as one of the major energy projects adversely affecting indigenous communities.

“Development” aggression also takes the form of big agri-business projects, the creation of industrial zones, and so-called “eco-tourism,” among others. One major eco-tourism project cited by Mangumalas is the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway Project (SCTEP), which he said “has seized some land from Aeta communities.”

The document submitted by IPR-Monitor, Tebtebba Foundation, and PIPLinks describes the effects of development aggression thus:

“The widespread implementation of extractive industries and other development projects in indigenous territories without their consent is violating their collective rights and is worsening their marginalized situation… Their adverse impact (includes) the destruction of livelihoods, the environment, land, resources and properties and has also caused conflicts, divisions and the erosion of indigenous socio-political systems.”

Indigenous peoples’ rights

The enactment of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 was supposed to serve the purpose of protecting indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination, economic and social well-being, and cultural integrity. The IPRA, in particular, includes several provisions on the protection of ancestral domain and land rights, as well as the requirement of indigenous communities’ free and prior informed consent (FPIC) for any project to be implemented within their territories, particularly those which may affect them adversely.

Shortly after its enactment, the IPRA’s constitutionality was challenged before the Supreme Court. In 2000, the High Tribunal – then led by Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. – ruled in favor of the IPRA but affirmed the State’s “prior right” over natural resources while giving indigenous peoples stewardship “rights” over their land and resources.

Meanwhile there are laws that run contrary to indigenous peoples’ rights. The Mining Act of 1995 allows 100-percent ownership of land even in indigenous areas, paving the way for displacements. The National Integrated Protected Area Systems (NIPAS) imposes restrictions on indigenous communities in their own territories. The Forestry Code of the Philippines declares lands with 18-percent slope as “public lands” – making many indigenous peoples “squatters in their own land,” as the document submitted by IPR-Monitor, Tebtebba Foundation, and PIPLinks to the UPR puts it.

Militarization and killings

Mangumalas said that the destructive effects of what he described as “pseudo-development projects” are aggravated by militarization. Militarization, he said, facilitates the implementation of “development” projects that adversely affect indigenous communities. “The military are normally used to quell any sign of local opposition,” he said.

“The entry of these so-called development programs is facilitated by military deployment and operations,” he explained. “The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) even resorts to recruitment for paramilitary troops from among IP civilians, just to ‘secure’ the current government’s economic targets in the rural areas,” he said.

In not a few cases, militarization in furtherance of “development” projects have led to the killings of indigenous people who have dared to resist for the sake of preserving their way of life.

KAMP has documented a total of 130 indigenous people killed since 2001 – when Arroyo was catapulted to power through a popular uprising. Thirty-six of them are massacre victims, Mangumalas said, while eight are leaders of indigenous communities.

“Most of these killings happened in Mindanao, where there are a lot of ‘development’ projects,” Mangumalas said. “Several of these killings also occurred in Cordillera, where there are many large-scale mining projects.”

Struggle

The Philippines’ indigenous peoples – who comprise some 15 percent of the population and who are among the country’s poorest – have become more marginalized and impoverished under the Arroyo administration, Mangumalas said. He said this leaves them no choice but to unite with other sectors pushing for Arroyo’s removal from office.

“We are not saying that her removal would immediately change things,” he said. “But that could pave the way for changing things, for the improvement of the lot of indigenous peoples and the rest of the population.” Bulatlat

*The UPR is a new mechanism that was established under General Assembly Resolution 60/251, which established the UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) on March 15, 2006. The said resolution provides that the UNHRC shall “undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfillment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States; the review shall be a cooperative mechanism, based on an interactive dialogue, with the full involvement of the country concerned and with consideration given to its capacity-building needs; such a mechanism shall complement and not duplicate the work of treaty bodies…” BULATLAT.COM

From Under This Hat: Giving up faith in public information

August 11, 2008

By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO

In the past two weeks, we were told by the radio and TV newscasts that typhoons Frank, Helen, and Igme were just passing a quite-far-distance from Baguio. In the wet state Baguio is still in, people in this city know very well it is not true. They let that news story remain only a story as they face the reality of getting drenching wet, muddy, dirty, smelling the soaked garbage pile, dodging the sewage river on the road, and going home to mildew and the rank of moldy laundry. That besides worrying about wages and the seeming non-stop price hike of basic needs.

Is that the same attitude the people have towards the recent SONA (state of the nation address)? In a restaurant, somebody jeered (no one in particular) as people listened to the SONA on TV, “Mamatpati ka pay? Is-istorya na laeng dayta!” (Do you still believe that? That is just her tell-tale!)

Partnership for action, dignity

This is the theme of the Second Decade of Indigenous Peoples.

In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly decided that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples shall be observed on August 9 every year during the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (Resolution 49/214 of 23 December). The date marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

The Assembly also proclaimed 1993 the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, and also, proclaimed the International Decade for Indigenous Peoples to start on 10 December 1994 (Resolution 48/163). The goal of the First Decade was to strengthen international cooperation for solving problems faced by indigenous people in such areas as human rights, the environment, development, education and health.

In 2004, the UN General Assembly proclaimed a Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples through Resolution 59/174. The goal of the Second Decade is to further the “strengthening of international cooperation for the solution of problems faced by indigenous peoples in such areas as culture, education, health, human rights, the environment, and social and economic development, by means of action-oriented programs and specific projects, increase technical assistance, and relevant standard-setting activities.”

In line with this, all the UN organizations and its programs are obliged to contribute or support. Like the International Labor Organization (ILO) has contributed the passing of the ILO Convention #169.

In an ILO message it stated, “In contributing to the Program of Action of this Decade, the ILO will focus on promoting Convention No. 169 as a platform for action and dialog. It will also share widely, through practical information tools, its experience in implementing the principles of the Convention.

The ILO looks forward to strengthening its partnerships with indigenous and tribal peoples – and all relevant actors towards the goal of participatory and inclusive development. As we do so, we reinforce our own capacity to support the legitimate aspirations of all peoples to live and work in dignity.”

The Baguio IP

Based in Baguio are known IP organizations, like the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and different non-government organizations (NGOs) working with indigenous peoples and the government’s National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) local office. Some of them are preparing to commemorate this international day.

On the other hand, the indigenous peoples of Baguio (to where I am counted) still have to see their leaders, both local government and non-government, truly and concretely recognize and respect their rights as IPs of Baguio. Some leaders, especially those in government, may identify themselves as IP or with the IP but that can be very different from and separate from advocating – recognizing or respecting IP rights.

Baguio IPs have, through the whole history of the city, faced court litigations, unneighbor-like relations, legal instruments used to discriminate against them as a people and as individuals, Their rights to their ancestral lands and culture is even redefined by a particular section inserted (a manipulation with impunity?) by conniving anti-IP politicians (?) in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.

The law that the national government banners internationally (and is so proud of as a compliance or contribution to the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) has a section that is read to discriminate against a particular people – the Baguio Igorot. There is also a study on an NCIP issued ancestral domain title that shows the domain excluded the specific IPs of the specific area. #(NorDis)

Army killed Kalinga hunter – Rights group

August 11, 2008

BAGUIO CITY —Another farmer-hunter was killed in cold-blood by the military elements in Kalinga.

According to the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), Rocky “Ungki” Aboli a village councilman, went to his farm in Mt. Bulos in Upper Uma last July 20 to guard his crops from wild animals.

At around 4:15 P.M., residents heard gunshots and immediately sent some youth to check what is it all about. The military in the area, however, did not allow them to pass through and just said that Aboli was safe with them and was being fed.

The next day, some members of the Uma tribe went to the site of the incident and found Aboli dead on the ground. The AFP troops just said to the community members that Aboli fired a gun to their direction and thus was fired back.  The CHRA identified the troops as belonging t the 21st and 77th Infantry Battalion f the Philippine Army.

The military, in a press statement by the 5th Infantry Division based in Upi, Gamu, Isabela, said Aboli was killed during an encounter between the military and members of the rebel group New People’s Army (NPA).

But according to a July 25 statement sent to the media by the Lejo Cawilan Command of the NPA-Kalinga, the military’s reports are nothing but “brazen lies.”

The NPA command said Aboli was shot to death by troops led by Lt. Jay Alambra, Lt. Aries Apduhan and a certain Major Domingo.

It was not the first time this year that elements of the 21st IB murdered a civilian, the statement added. Two witnesses identified Apduhan as the commanding officer of the troops who killed Rey “Aginawang” Logao in Kalasan, Mabongtot, Lubuagan on April 4.

According to CHRA statistics, at least 13 civilians were already killed by the government’s armed forces in Kalinga since 2002, all of whom were either wrongly accused of being combatants or supporters of the communist armed group.

“We, condemn in the strongest terms these military atrocities, the culture of impunity and the killings of innocent civilians,” the CHRA statement said. # (BarangayRP News Team)

Arroyo policies makes life harder for IP women

August 6, 2008

Davao City- Lumad (indigenous) women attending a large gathering of indigenous people (IP) in this city criticized President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo economic policies which they say have done nothing for them in the eight years she has been in office.

Rather than improving their lives, the indigenous women say that Arroyo’s policies have only worsened their situation. This is because her administration’s targets, such as those presented during the latest state of the nation address (SONA), ignore the real needs of the people in favor of investment priorities.

According to the IP women, the flawed development policies impact directly on their communities, and are particularly felt by them.

“She is also a mother, she should know what burdens we already bear for our families. But rather than helping, her policies instead impose additional burdens on us,” Gina Malumpong, a B’laan from South Cotabato, one of the participants of the State of Indigenous Peoples Address held in Toril, this city, said.

According to the IP women participants, development projects such as large-scale mining and plantations have resulted in the massive displacement of lumads from their ancestral homes. For the lumads this has meant increasing incidence of hunger since displacement from their ancestral lands removes them from traditional sources of food.

“Indigenous women can no longer feed their children. As a result we are forced to come down to the lowlands to work as maids so we can at least earn some money to buy food for the family,”says Gina. “If the President truly cared for women and mothers like she said in her speech, she should at least help us feed our families. The 500 pesos subsidy of her government has never reached us.”

Norma Capuyan, a tagabawa-bagobo, say that Arroyo has not done anything for women. “What her government has brought to us is increased vulnerabilities to violence.” Norma said that as a community organizer, she has documented stories of rape and sexual abuse of B’laan women during military operations in Saranggani. “Poverty and militarization are what we get from her so-called development programs.”

“Arroyo should visit our communities so to see what our real situation is. Her SONA is only for Malacanang, it does not reflect the realities we lumad women face,” Malumpong added.

Gina and Norma are part of the 140 indigenous peoples particpants of the 3-day conference which will culminate in an Indigenous Peoples Solidarty March on July 31 at the Freedom Park where the participants will symbolically turn over the SIPA document to party-list representatives and local government officials.

LRC-KsK Davao Office

479-A General Luna St., Davao City

Tel No.: 082 221 3380

Email: dvo@lrcksk.org

Website: http://lrcksk.org/sipa/

Group Urges Cordi Farmers to ‘Bear Arms’ vs Soldiers

August 5, 2008

A Cordillera-based activist group is urging the region’s farmers to bear arms to defend themselves from government soldiers who, two weeks ago, allegedly murdered a farmer in Lubuagan, Kalinga.

BY ACE ALEGRE
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 26, August 3-9, 2008

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) – A Cordillera-based activist group is urging the region’s farmers to bear arms to defend themselves from government soldiers who, two weeks ago, allegedly murdered a farmer in Lubuagan, Kalinga.

Windel Bolinget, a native from Bontoc, Mountain Province and secretary-general of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) which is the largest group of village-based organizations in the region, called on farmers and tribes in the Cordillera to defend themselves from soldiers who have been allegedly killing them.

Two innocent farmer-hunters have already been killed by soldiers from the 21st and the 77th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) in Kalinga, said Bolinget.

The latest victim was Rocky “Ungki” Aboli, a Barangay Kagawad (village councilman) of Upper Uma in Lubuagan town who was “executed” on July 20. Aboli’s family and villagers said the victim went to his farm in Mt. Bulos, Duyaas, Uma to check on his crops.

On that same day at around 4:15 in the afternoon, villagers heard gunshots from the area where the victim was headed.

Five young villagers were sent to check but were reportedly stopped by soldiers, who claimed that Aboli “is safe and he is being fed.”

The next day, Uma tribesmen went to check on Aboli and found him dead.

Maj. Gen. Melchor Dilodilo, commanding general of the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Division, denied that Aboli was summarily executed by his men. “It was a legitimate encounter with the NPA (New People’s Army),” he said. In fact, the officer said, “we recovered a U.S. carbine from him.”

Dilodilo claimed “this is all propaganda aimed at discrediting the military.”

Bolinget said that on April 4  this year, the same soldiers were allegedly involved in a killing of another innocent farmer-hunter in Mabongtot, Lubuagan.

Rey “Aginawang” Logao and another companion were reportedly on their way to get some cows in their pastureland in Mabongtot, to be butchered during a wake of their neighbor, when they met around 15 to 21 soldiers from the 21st and 77th Infantry Battalions based in Bantay, Tabuk City and headed by 2Lt. Aris Apduhan.

Logao was shot when he tried to raise his hands, Bolinget said.

Jude Baggo, an Ifugao native and secretary-general of the Baguio-based Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), strongly denounced what he called as “the on-going atrocities, gross violations of indigenous peoples and collective rights being perpetrated by the 21st and 77th IBPA against innocent civilians in Kalinga.”

The victims, Baggo said, should be given justice and the perpetrators must be punished.

Based on data from the CHRA, at least 13 civilians have been killed in the Cordillera by the military since 2002.  “All these victims were falsely accused as combatants and members or supporters of the NPA,” Baggo said, as he also condemned the “culture of impunity” in the killing of civilians tagged as “NPAs.” Contributed to Bulatlat

Bangsamoro Juridical Entity should not be used to divide the people of Mindanao

August 4, 2008

Press Statement
25 July 2008

Bangsamoro Juridical Entity should not be used to divide the people of Mindanao

The inclusion of several villages in Zamboanga City in the mapping of the Moro people’s ancestral domain should not appear as a threat to the people of Zamboanga. Rather it should be a venue for the people of Mindanao to assert their right to land and ancestral domain.

It is not new for the Moro people to hear landed families and politicians of Mindanao react to the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. However, politicians should know better than to fan anti-Moro hysteria by accusing their Moro brothers and sisters of reclaiming lands and inciting them to arm themselves the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The mapping out of the Moro people’s ancestral claim should undergo a process, and should not be forced on the people. The decision of which and how many villages should be included in the Moro people’s territorial claims should not solely be at the hands of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo or be limited at the negotiating table of the GRP-MILF peace talks.

It is the responsibility of the government to correct the pervading notion that the Moro people are out to forcibly take the lands of the Christian settlers and the Lumads. While plebiscite may be a venue for the people to decide whether they want to be part of the Moro people’s ancestral domain, the government should inform and educate the public by providing venues wherein the people can fully discuss not only the Moro people’s claim to ancestral domain, but the issue of ancestral domain and land rights of the people of Mindanao as a whole.

We may view the BJE as the Moro people’s way of correcting historical injustice, that of decades of forcible evacuation as a result of government policies on land ownership, forcible evacuation of residents due to decades of war and military operations and the accumulation of lands by the few business and landed elite families– Christians and Moros alike.

To correct our biases, we must learn lessons from our history. The settlers and the Lumads in Mindanao lost their lands for these same reasons. We were made to fight over what was left of the land, ravaged by multinationals and landed elite. Even in our small tracts we were reduced to being tenants, plantation workers with small pay and, worse, driven away.

The MILF and even the Moro National Liberation Front have yet to realize the aspirations of the Moro people’s right to self-determination. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is a far cry to the genuine autonomy they agreed with the government, for it did not even give the right for the Moro people to utilize and manage their natural resources. ARMM remained tied to the economic polices of the national government, and deep in debt.

The national government and the politicians have had so many years to correct their policies, yet they chose the status quo. Under the Arroyo administration, lands remained at hands of the rich and being sold to multinational companies. Already the government has signed a deal with Exxon Mobil for the exploration of the oil-rich Sulu Sea and other multinationals lining up to get a chunk of the natural gas in Liguasan Marsh.

President Arroyo even intensified the mining policy which has flushed out thousands of Lumads out of their mountains, and continued the land conversion programs that has forced the Christian and Lumad farmers out of their lands. Only the multinationals rake in profit from the low pay of workers in the rubber, palm and fruit plantations in Mindanao.

We must unite to resolve the problem of the people of Mindanao. The people of Mindanao should respect the land of its fellow people. Let us put a stop to the monopoly of land by one clan, one government official and foreign businesses. Let us assert that the Mindanao lands should be for the people – for the Moro, for settlers and for the Lumads. #

Amirah Ali Lidasan
National President, Suara Bangsamoro
Telefax (064)421.5860; Mobile: 09196603839
email: suarabm@yahoo.com

Advisory Board orders BATA leaders to be audited on royalty share

August 4, 2008

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso

PENDING LIQUIDATION of around P10 million from the Berong Nickel Corporation (BNC) representing their 1% royalty share from mining, the leaders of the Berong Aramaywan Tagbanua Association (BATA) in Quezon town was inhibited to further withdraw from their bank accounts by the Advisory Board (AB) that was given an authoritative order to assist and guide them in the management of their fund.

The AB also ordered them to be audited by a team of auditors that will be provided by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP); restrained from spending more funds on new projects until they have completed their Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP); and advised to deposit their remaining money to a trust fund.

These recent developments happen following reports of an internal conflict among the leaders and members of the BATA due to complaints of alleged anomalous fund disbursements, illegal withdrawals, formation of their own mining corporation, discrimination against other Tagbanuas and failure to conduct consultation with the members regarding major decisions – grievances that have affected their credibility.

The association was given until July 31 to comply with the conditions. For this period, its leaders were consented to withdraw P100,000 that they can use as revolving fund.

The impositions on the leaders of the Tagbanua association, headed by Victorino Danglong, chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), were issued on Monday, July 21, during an AB meeting held at the El Nido Function Room of the Legend Hotel.

Vice Governor David A. Ponce de Leon, representing the provincial government; and Helen Saulon, executive director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), were present in the said meeting as co-chairmen of the AB.

Ponce de Leon started the meeting with an announcement that the BNC is ready to release the royalty share of the BATA for 2008 amounting to around P6 million. He cautioned however, that this will only be made available if the association has already accounted all the expenses it incurred from the 2007 release.

Memorandum of agreement

On imposing the conditions, Ponce de Leon reminded the leaders of the BATA that as per the memorandum of agreement (MOA) they signed, under Article VII-MOA Monitoring and Evaluation Schemes, it is stated that there will be “special and/or regular financial audits of all monies by the NCIP and submission of quarterly reports among others.” These stipulations were even strengthened by a supplemental MOA signed on March 25, 2008.

Since the credibility of the BATA leaders in handling the royalty share for their members is being questioned, the AB believes that the liquidation report they will submit will provide the answer.

“We will be very frank, very straightforward here. What is happening right now is not good and must be resolved,” Ponce de Leon said at the start of the meeting.

He informed Danglong, Efifanio Marcelo, Mike Marcelo, Samuel Pantod, and other BATA members who were also present that if the internal conflict is not resolved, the BNC will be obliged to seek legal means that would determine if the BATA is still credible to receive the royalty share.

In an earlier interview with George Bujtor, the chief executive officer of the BNC, he said that ultimately, their “desire is to fulfill their responsibility stated in the MOA, and hopes that the BATA would do the same through their leaders.”

Without the conflict being resolved, he said the BNC would have difficulty determining who has the right to receive the 2008 royalty share. “I sincerely hope for the BATA to resolve the conflict,” Bujtor said.

The Tagbanua association leaders are expected to liquidate P500,000 released two years ago by the BNC; P2 million turned over on December 13, 2007 and P1.5 million in February this year — equivalent to P4 million.

On February 29, 2008, in a regular meeting of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), the BNC again released P11.4 million to the BATA, received by Danglong, to complete P15.4 million or 1% royalty share from mining operations.

As per information from the BATA leaders, the amount of money they have at the Palawan Development Bank (PDB) is P3.6 million and P1.325 million deposited in a trust fund at the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), or a total of P4.925 million.

The amount to be accounted for totals to P10.475 million, according to Ponce de Leon.

BATA leaders tell the truth

In a meeting of the AB on July 11, Ponce de Leon discussed a letter he has received from Balinsay with the following complaints: “the practice of nepotism, specifically citing the Marcelo family who have five members benefiting from the royalty fund; BATA projects arbitrarily chosen without consultations with the members; approval of the utilization of dwarf coconuts that was never consulted to the IP communities and the deduction of P100 from the share that each family received from the Pamaskong Handog (Christmas Gift) last December.”

These complaints were aside from the BATA leaders forming their own mining corporation and why; anomalous fund disbursements and illegal fund withdrawals.

In the July 21 meeting, Ponce de Leon wasn’t able to hide his disappointment on the fact that the BATA leaders didn’t tell the truth when he and Berong barangay chairman Rodrigo Hablado asked in the July 11 meeting about the Westcoast of Palawan Mining Corporation (WPMC).

During then, Danglong denied the rumor, saying that “if it is true, its existence can’t be hidden from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) where applications are filed.” He said “all were baseless charges.”

Mike, the young Marcelo, who serves as the BATA’s project manager, confirmed Danglong’s reply. He said the rumors may have started when they went to Manila to follow up on their certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT).

But on Monday’s meeting, Danglong, the Marcelos and the other BATA leaders were no longer able to hide the truth. This was because copies of the certificate of incorporation (COI) of the WPMC were distributed to the members of the AB, including representatives of the media who were invited.

Westcoast of Palawan Mining Corporation

The COI from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revealed that the WPMC was incorporated on February 6, 2008. It will be engaging in “large scale mining, quarrying, milling, processing, smelting, producing nickel and all kinds of ores, metals and minerals, as well as the byproducts thereof, to purchase, lease, or otherwise acquire mining rights, mines, building plant, machinery, equipment and other properties necessary for its business.”

With principal office at Caimito Extension Road, Barangay San Jose, the BATA leaders who belong to the mining corporation are Rosino L. Bunan, Sr., Epifanio L. Marcelo (treasurer of the BATA); Sardin A. Gurian, Victorino V. Danglong (chairman of the BATA), Safdul B. Guinto, Sr., Melecio G. Pandeno, Eddie A. Seniaga, Onsino A. Alian, Pompilo D. Damalde, Danilo S. Virtudazo (not Virto Dazo as earlier written in this newspaper), Alexis R. Balayo, Samuel N. Pandod, Durmili S. Ninge, Motaleb M. Kemil and Mike Marcelo (the BATA project manager).

The seven directors of the WPMC are Bunan, Marcelo, Danglong, Damalde, Virtudazo, Balayo and Kemil.

Balayo was apparently elected as treasurer of the mining corporation, and it was in his name that a deposit of P2.5 million was made in trust on November 17,2007 under Saving Account No. 050-109248-070, per a certification issued by the HSBC Saving Bank (Philippines), Inc.-Makati Branch.

The formation of WPMC casted doubt on the credibility of the BATA leaders, who many believe do not have money to put into the corporation. Initially, Hablado had notions that they might have taken out the money from the royalty share.

But Epifanio, the older Marcelo, said they did not pay a single centavo as share to the mining corporation. “Sa katotohanan, wala kaming ibinayad (Honestly, we didn’t pay anything),” Epifanio said.

His son Mike, on the other hand, explained that the mining corporation was set up even before the BATA was formed. But the documents obtained by the AB proved that some of the developments that happened on their application only occurred in the early months of 2008. By this time, the BATA has already been formed.

Provincial NCIP Director Roldan Parangue believes that the Tagbanuas are just being used so local mining speculators can stake tenement mining claims. “There are no more to claim. Every claim has been applied for,” Parangue told them at the AB meeting.

“Why didn’t you tell the truth? The only answer we want was a yes or no,” Ponce de Leon, obviously disappointed, asked the BATA leaders. He said that the fact the BATA leaders lied about the existence of WPMC was reason enough for their members to really doubt them.

Expensive dwarf coconuts

The NCIP and the AB also want an explanation on why the BATA leaders struck an agreement with Virtudazo for the supply of 49,300 dwarf coconut seedlings with a total price of about P3.2 million. Each costs P65.

Ponce de Leon said the municipality of Quezon, under the leadership of Mayor Ronilo Caputilla, has a coconut project that sells them cheap and that the Philippine Coconut Authority is, in fact, giving them for free.

Mike said they didn’t know that the municipality has this project, and that their mistake was failing to inquire where they can get cheap coconut seedlings.

Virtudazo, who reportedly owns the Tree of Life farm in Barangay San Jose, will be delivering the seedlings from Zamboanga.

Ponce de Leon said the PCA currently bans coconut from other provinces to be brought to Palawan without passing quarantine and through them.

In Balinsay’s complaint, he said not all Tagbanuas are amenable to the project because some of them are already old and can no longer handle a coconut tree farm.

Ponoy said this is true, and that not all of them own lands where the coconut seedlings can be planted. Apparently, this is the reason why the project was in the first place, never consulted with the rest of the BATA members.

The AB required the BATA leaders to show a copy of the agreement with Virtudazo to determine if it can still be voided. This is despite the admission from the BATA leaders that they’ve already paid in advance even if the coconut seedlings have not been delivered yet.

Ponce de Leon said the NCIP has a legal counsel that can help them cancel the agreement and coordinate with the PCA or the municipality of Quezon regarding the coconut seedlings they require.

As of press time, Epifanio has already resigned as treasurer to avoid further criticisms that his family has no “delicadeza” engaging in nepotism. In the Marcelo family, Mike serves as project manager, his sister Lea the assistant secretary and another sister is apparently a scholar of the BATA.

Danglong, on the other hand, explained that although he is the chairman of the BATA Board of Trustees, his decision is not his to command. He said he is always outvoted on major decisions.

Ponce de Leon and Saulon said that as long as the BATA leaders have not liquidated funds from the royalty share that were already spent, their members will always doubt their honesty and integrity.(PalawanTimes)

‘Lumad’ leaders deliver own Sona

August 4, 2008

By Ryan Rosauro
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:20:00 08/02/2008

WE ARE HUNGRIER NOW. WE ARE POORER.” This, according to leaders of “lumad” communities, is the state of indigenous peoples in Mindanao.

In a “State of the Indigenous Peoples’ Address” (Sipa) on Monday, they assailed President Macapagal-Arroyo and the government for turning a blind eye on the concerns of the country’s indigenous peoples. Her State of the Nation Address (Sona), while not missing mention of the “lumad”, treats them “passively,” they said.

The annual Sona spells out the Arroyo administration’s priority concerns for the coming year.

“We listened and watched with disbelief as the images we saw and the statements made by (Ms) Arroyo were a far cry from our reality—that of increased poverty, worsened hunger and further marginalization,” the Sipa stated. “Instead, she has only exaggerated the benefits of one, which obviously does not represent the true circumstances of all.”

Some 140 “lumad” leaders from all over Mindanao gathered in Davao City for three days to discuss their common plight and craft strategies on how to advance their struggle for recognition of indigenous rights.

CADT issuance

The last time Ms Arroyo spoke about the “lumad” people was in 2001, when she vowed to distribute 100 certificates of ancestral domain titles (CADTs) every year. A CADT signifies the grant by the government of a secure tenure to indigenous groups over specific land areas proven to relate to their ancestry.

But data from a nongovernment group, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KsK), revealed that for the past seven years, only 71 CADTs had been issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). Of these, eight are ancestral domain claims in Mindanao.

This means that the CADT issuance performance is short by 29 for a year’s target alone.

Judith Pamela Pasimio, LRC-KsK executive director, said that since the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (Ipra) was enacted in 1997, only 25 percent of the total CADT applications had resulted in awards.

Tenement rights

The “lumad” leaders were worried that the government could be disfavoring the fast-tracked tenurial security grant over their ancestral domain claims to favor the tenements applications of foreign mining companies.

Since assuming power in 2001, Ms Arroyo has advocated the entry of foreign capital into the minerals production sector as a principal strategy for pushing economic growth.

The LRC-KsK noted that as of December 2007, the government granted a total of 240 tenement rights to various mining companies, 60 percent of which were within ancestral domains.

Timuay Noval Lambo, a Subanen leader in the Zamboanga Peninsula, criticized the Arroyo administration for hyping about environmentally sound and “lumad”-friendly mining operations. “I cannot believe that’s happening with the current crop of miners we have,” he said.

Last month, in a series of consultations among “lumad” leaders throughout the country, the Irish Center for Human Rights found at least 40 cases of violations of the United Nations protocols against discrimination against indigenous peoples.

Cathal Boyle, who represented the center in the meetings, noted acts of racial discrimination by way of government policies that disfavored the indigenous peoples.

Of the 40 documented cases, the bulk were related to large-scale corporate mining projects within ancestral domains. A serious violation related to “short-circuiting” the process of seeking consent for mining projects.

Displacement

“Lumad” people also feared being displaced as a result of expanding crop plantations and increasing projects within their land, the Sipa said. It took issue of the declaration of portions of their lands into environmentally protected areas which limited their use of natural resource for their survival.

“The small lands we till for vegetables, corn and other root crops for our food are threatened with conversion to dams, mine sites and energy plants. The entry of plantations, timber license agreements and mining mean the loss of our sustainable livelihood practices,” the Sipa read.

“Our rights to self-determination and to self-governance are continuously violated. The government and private corporations interested in our lands have connived to employ tactics to undermine our traditional processes and customary laws,” it added.

The government’s intensified campaign against communist insurgents in the countryside is hampering the lives of many “lumad” people, the document said. It pointed out that a number of “lumad” leaders had become victims of summary killings, while others were forced to join paramilitary forces.

Many families have to evacuate to avoid getting caught in the crossfire of armed clashes, it said.

Given their plight, the “lumad” leaders pushed for the speedy issuance of CADTs as a cornerstone step to secure tenure over indigenous peoples’ lands. They also urged reforms in the country’s political administration.

“The governance of the nation should be more decentralized, inclusive and cognizant of the different systems of governance particularly in indigenous communities and territories,” the Sipa said.

By INNABUYOG-GABRIELA Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan condemns the massive military operations and human rights violations against the Aetas of Porac and Floridablanca, Pampanga, where the 72nd Infantry Battalion and the 3rd Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been deployed since July 10 as part of the Investment Defense Force scheme of the Arroyo government. “The deployment of military troops in indigenous communities under the guise of protecting the national economy but at the expense of the IPs is ridiculous. It is unlawful as it violates the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which state that the rights of indigenous cultural communities should never be compromised for the sake of development, “ Ilagan said in a press conference with the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP). The Mindanaoan solon pointed out that it is not only the Aetas of Pampanga who experience state-perpetrated abuses. Since the Revitalization of the Minerals Industry Program was launched in 2004 and 18 indigenous territories were selected to be part of the 24 priority mining areas in the Philippines, complaints of human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples have increased. “In Mindanao, for example, the Lumads of Compostela Valley and Subanens of Zamboanga del Norte are being pushed away from their homes by the easement rights granted to foreign mining firms by the Arroyo government. Any resistance is immediately quashed through the deployment of military and paramilitary forces and men, women and children who show the slightest hint of opposition are tortured, harassed, raped and murdered,” the militant party-list representative said. In the Cordillera, military operations had been going on in Abra. The militarized areas are also the areas where mining companies have their applications, the Innabuyog, an alliance of indigenous women’s organizations in the Cordillera reported. “This situation not only sows terror among indigenous women and children but also destroys the key source of livelihood and identity for the indigenous peoples,” comments Innabuyog chairperson Vernie Yocogan-Diano. GWP Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan added that as of 2007, 130 cases of extra-judicial killings that victimized IPs have been recorded. Ilagan, together with KAMP, supports the call of the Aetas and other indigenous peoples in the Philippines for the government to pullout the elements of Armed Forces of the Philippines deployed in their ancestral lands. #

August 3, 2008

By MIRIAM U. GUILLERMO*

From the dictionary the word misunderstand means “to take a wrong meaning; to define wrongly; or to take in a wrong sense.” As the word grew to its existence, it evolved in this meaning. But does the definition makes you naïve?

I am a teenager in a judgmental world called earth filled with critics, opinionated eyes and a tight social standard. As I grew and evolved, the word misunderstood has acquired me different, more complex and deeper meanings.

Getting out from the house , old people will stare at your dress, you will hear voices telling how bad you actually looked. Those criticisms like mirrors are about to kill you. For this side, you suddenly realize that being misunderstood meant a big voice shouting, “How thick can you get?”

Getting into school, forgetting your ID turns out to be a crime. Guards will reprimand you and teachers scold you. Your parents do not have any luck having a child like you. They are sending you to school to study and not to lose your memory. Analyzing it, you will know that being misunderstood meant a whole lot of embarassment- disgusting you in the middle of nowhere when you have not fought for your reasons.

Getting into the canteen, they will call you spender- burning money just for food not thinking the value of thrift. In here, when you are misunderstood, your rights are taken away.

Getting into a department store to entertain yourself, they call you a flirt for getting in such places to sight guys. Telling, you do not have any right roaming there. Misunderstood meant discrimination.

Getting home after being judged by the world, you get home being judged by the last people you expected for understanding. They ask you why you were late and where in the world were you wandering despite their hard works. They call you names and feed you with shouts and sermons. Being misunderstood is being misunderstood.

The society always had a typical judgments to teenagers- that they are too hard to be understood and that they are the worms of destruction. But is it really that?

Misunderstanding exists because the society’s standard cannot try to understand. Being misunderstood causes pain. But when you feel pain, you learn to fight. In the end, being misunderstood is not that bad. #

* Mirriam Guillermo is a 4th year AB Communications student of Mariano Marcos Memorial State University in Batac, Ilocos Norte.

Women’s Front: Aeta women face military atrocities

August 3, 2008

By INNABUYOG-GABRIELA

Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan condemns the massive military operations and human rights violations against the Aetas of Porac and Floridablanca, Pampanga, where the 72nd Infantry Battalion and the 3rd Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been deployed since July 10 as part of the Investment Defense Force scheme of the Arroyo government.

“The deployment of military troops in indigenous communities under the guise of protecting the national economy but at the expense of the IPs is ridiculous. It is unlawful as it violates the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which state that the rights of indigenous cultural communities should never be compromised for the sake of development, “ Ilagan said in a press conference with the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP).

The Mindanaoan solon pointed out that it is not only the Aetas of Pampanga who experience state-perpetrated abuses. Since the Revitalization of the Minerals Industry Program was launched in 2004 and 18 indigenous territories were selected to be part of the 24 priority mining areas in the Philippines, complaints of human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples have increased.

“In Mindanao, for example, the Lumads of Compostela Valley and Subanens of Zamboanga del Norte are being pushed away from their homes by the easement rights granted to foreign mining firms by the Arroyo government. Any resistance is immediately quashed through the deployment of military and paramilitary forces and men, women and children who show the slightest hint of opposition are tortured, harassed, raped and murdered,” the militant party-list representative said.

In the Cordillera, military operations had been going on in Abra. The militarized areas are also the areas where mining companies have their applications, the Innabuyog, an alliance of indigenous women’s organizations in the Cordillera reported.

“This situation not only sows terror among indigenous women and children but also destroys the key source of livelihood and identity for the indigenous peoples,” comments Innabuyog chairperson Vernie Yocogan-Diano.

GWP Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan  added that as of 2007, 130 cases of extra-judicial killings that victimized IPs have been recorded.

Ilagan, together with KAMP, supports the call of the Aetas and other indigenous peoples in the Philippines for the government to pullout the elements of Armed Forces of the Philippines deployed in their ancestral lands. #

Bakun folk dismayed over mining consultation

August 3, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Bakun folk who trooped to the provincial capitol here last July 21 were dismayed after the post-consultation meeting allegedly failed to tackle issues they were raising surrounding a January 25 agreement with the Royalco Philippines.

Speaking for Bakun residents, a resident of Upper Gambang in Bakun town said the consultation only tackled one of five issues left hanging after some elders representing the residents signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the company.

“The operations does not enjoy a favorable endorsement from the local government units (LGU) of Gambang and Bakun,” our informant who asked for anonymity told Nordis in an interview. He said the July 21 consultation did not even resolve the issue on local government endorsement, blaming Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan for asking Barangay Capt. Alvaro Paquito the wrong question.

The barangay captain said there was no favorable endorsement from the barangay, to which Fongwan queried if the barangay would ask for any favor from the company in exchange for an endorsement of the project.

The Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau (MGB) representative, however, opined there is no need for such approval.

Besides the question on the absence of LGU endorsement, residents question the decision-making process, which the agreement and consent underwent. Because the community chose to undergo a referendum to get the community decision, they listed all legible voters, according to our informant.

The referendum, however, yielded only 779 out of the 2,899 voters as listed. “It is not even 50 percent plus one, or simple majority,” another Bakun resident said, questioning the representation obtained.

Residents also raised an issue over the process at the barangay-level consultative assembly where the MOA was supposed to have been discussed. It was in a hotel in Buguias town where it was allegedly signed by appointed elders, who could not represent the entire affected people and areas.

According to our informant, the elders came mostly from Sitio Gambang Proper, one of many sitios of Barangay Gambang.

Free prior and informed consent (FPIC) processes require that the community identify its elders and the community decision-making processes.

Royalco obtained an exploration permit (EP) over some 988 hectares of lands in Gambang following a Certification Precondition from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). The EP includes, among others, geological mapping; geochemical sampling; ground and aerial geophysical survey; diamond drilling and construction of living quarters, waterworks, drainage, waste disposal and electrification facilities.

Earlier, MGB Regional Director Neoman dela Cruz said the DENR might recall Royalco’s EP once the NCIP withdrew its certification.

Gambang residents, through Paquito, asked for another consultation to clarify the five issues. They went home empty-handed and dismayed, according to our informant.

The MOA signed January 25 this year covers only Phase 1 of the exploration project. It covers the four sitios Gambang Proper, Yugo, Tuwa-ok and Tood. Phase 2 covers areas at the boundary with Mankayan town; while Phase 3 is at Sitio Bagtangan. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

Another Cordilleran elected to UN

July 26, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Another Cordilleran has been elected last July 15, 2008 into one of the indigenous peoples’ positions in the United Nations system.

Secretary Eugenio A. Insigne, chairman of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), was elected into the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) as one of the two Asian Region representatives for government.

Insigne, a ‘Baguio boy’ who claims to be a Tinggian from Baay-Licuan, has represented the Philippines to a number of UN fora on Indigenous peoples concerns. He was present at the UN when the Declaration for Indigenous Peoples Rights was adopted last year and was also part of the government contingent at the UN Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council hearing on the Philippines.

The UNPFII is within the mandate of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is a 16- member council composed of government representatives, accredited NGOs, peoples organizations and UN experts.

The UNPFII takes up issues and concerns of indigenous peoples all over the world on the economic and social development, environment, education, health and human rights. It provides expert recommendations and advice to the council, programs and the different agencies of the UN.

In the Forum is Victoria Tauli-Corpus, the present chair, a Cordilleran who also identifies with the Kankana-ey ethno-linguistic group of Besao, Mt. Province and Atty. Jose Mencio Molintas who was recently chosen an expert in the IP body, also an Ibaloi of Benguet.

In a talk with Corpus, the position of Asian representative is for three years and is required to meet with the body at least once a year. Insigne garnered 22 votes while the second Asian representative from the Middle East country Iran got 18 votes.# KTO(NorDis)

Conflict among Tagbanuas in Berong rises due to royalty share

July 21, 2008

By Cheryl A. Galili

INTERNAL DISPUTE due to alleged misappropriation of around P15 million turned over to them by Berong Nickel Corporation (BNC) as 1% royalty share from its large scale mining operation in barangay Berong, Quezon is threatening to break the relationship among members of the Berong Aramaywan Tagbanua Association (BATA).

The information was disclosed by Vice Governor David A. Ponce de Leon during the session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan last week. He said leaders and members of the BATA are quarreling with one another because of alleged illegal withdrawals and irregular disbursements of a large portion of the royalty fund released by the BNC from 2007.

The BATA is composed of Tagbanua families from barangays Berong and Aramaywan, recognized by the BNC as rightful IP communities living near the area it is mining.

Ponce de Leon said he has also obtained documents from reliable sources that can prove the leaders of the BATA have set up their own mining corporation, registered in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under the name West Coast of Palawan Mining Corporation (WCPMC) without consulting the general membership of the BATA.

The mining corporation, according to the documents, has an investment totaling to P2.5 million which might have allegedly come from the royalty fund.

Ponce de Leon told members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan that complaints have reached him that the BATA leaders are slowly depleting the royalty fund deposited in the Palawan Development Bank (PDB).

One million pesos, he related, was withdrawn from PDB to pay Virto Daso for 14,000 pieces of coconut seedlings. Daso, according to sources by Palawan Times, is formerly connected with the Palawan Tropical Forestry Protection Program (PTFPP) and has a farm in barangay San Jose.

Ponce de Leon is baffled why the BATA would choose to pay such large amount to an individual who is not accredited to sell coconut seedlings by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) that is in fact, distributing them for free to encourage the sprout of more coconut tree farmers.

“The supplier is not accredited by the PCA and surprisingly, he is also an incorporator in this mining corporation that some of the BATA leaders have set up,” he said.

He is also curious, he said, by the fact that the personalities that set up the mining corporation is Efifanio Marcelo, a member of the board of BATA, and its manager is his son Mike Marcelo. Another daughter is reportedly holding an important position in the WSPMC.

“They must be able to explain why this (the mining corporation) happened without the members of the BATA being consulted,” he stated.

Ponce de Leon said that because of the current situation in the BATA, Governor Joel T. Reyes has already called on the Advisory Board (AB) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to intervene. He has also requested the leaders of the association to submit their liquidation, as well as receipts of their incurred expenses.

“Illegal withdrawal is like estafa,” Ponce de Leon, who is himself a lawyer, said.

During the last meeting of the Advisory Board (AB), a body that was created to guide and assist the BATA in its development decisions and management of their royalty fund, the leaders reportedly denied the establishment of the WCPMC which was contrary to the documents he obtained.

When inquired about how much money they still have in the bank, the leaders claimed they still have around P9 million in PDB. But unverified information reaching Palawan Times claimed that the BATA’s fund has been reduced to a mere P4.5 million.

On July 16, Quezon Mayor Ronilo Caputilla called a general assembly for the BATA members to hear their grievances. From this assembly, Ponce de Leon was allegedly informed that the members have signified intention to call for a new election to change the board members of the BATA.

Prior to the meeting, Caputilla, when interviewed by the media, said he called the meeting due to numerous complaints from members of the Tagbanua association who doubt the honesty and integrity of their leaders. He said his mediation was called to mend the conflict as all remain hopeful of future developments that can help them.

“The AB has ordered the leaders of the BATA to make a liquidation of their expenses,” Ponce de Leon furthered, saying that if they fail to do so, as per a supplemental memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed earlier, the BNC will not release their 2008 royalty fund.

Believed to be already amounting to P6 million, the royalty share from the current year can be instead deposited in a trust fund under the BATA.

Should intervention fail to repair the conflict within the Tagbanua association in Quezon town, the BNC, as a last resort, can initiate an action called “Interpleader” in order to compel two or more parties to litigate a dispute.

Interpleader is a form of action originally developed under equity jurisprudence. An interpleader action originates when the plaintiff holds property on behalf of another, but does not know to whom the property should be transferred.

In the case of BNC, if the conflict within the BATA takes long to resolve, it can choose to do this action so parties can fight over the royalty share in court.

“As a last resort, BNC can file a petition to the court, this is called interpleader, and deposit the money to a clerk of court so parties fighting over it can let the court resolve the issue,” he said.

“Illegal withdrawal is like estafa,” he said, claiming he is thoroughly disappointed about how the BATA has turned out following BNC’s release of their 1% share from 2007.

“The BATA could have been part of history because this is the first time in Palawan that an indigenous group of people has received shares that’s mandated under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act,” he said.(PalawanTimes)

Cordi reps lead ILPS workshop on IPs, national minorities

July 18, 2008

NEW TERRITORIES, Hong Kong — Anti-imperialist calls reverberated in the successful staging of the International League of Peoples Struggle-Third International Assembly (ILPS-TIA) with 350 delegates from across the globe which the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) attended from June 18 to 20.

CPA headed the Study Commission on Indigenous Peoples, National Minorities and Nationalities or Commission No. 10. The 3-day assembly revolved in the theme: ‘Strengthen the people’s struggle, unite to build a new world against imperialist aggression, state terrorism, plunder and social destruction!’

Nine delegates from CPA participated in the ILPS-TIA and attended various workshops for the said 18 concerns. Windel Bolinget, Jill Carino, Joanna Carino, Donna Villamor, Maty Camfili, Vernie Diano, Flora Belinan, Carol Galvez and Chie Galvez participated in the workshops on self-determination, women’s rights, rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trasgendered, national liberation, arts and culture, environment, and freedom for political prisoners.

CPA served as the lead organization of Study Commission No. 10 on the rights of indigenous peoples, national minorities and nationalities for self-determination, and decoloni-zation against discrimination, racism, and national oppression by imperialism and local reaction. This workshop had in attendance delegates from the Philippines, Taiwan, Burma, Sri Lanka, India, Canada, United States, Colombia and Australia.

Senator Anna Margarita Madrigal and Gabriela Representative Luz Ilagan also participated and shared their legislative agenda and achievements for the indigenous peoples in the Philippines.

“Prior to ILPS, CPA organized a caucus in Baguio for the same study commission, which was also attended by indigenous peoples in the Philippines, the Moro people represented by Suara Bangsamoro and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, representatives from Nepal, Indonesia, Cambodia, Nagaland, Taiwan, Burma and Bangladesh”, said Bolinget, CPA secretary-general.

Bolinget presented Study Commission No. 10 resolution which was approved by the TIA Plenary which contain the following points for ILPS to pursue:

• To wage a campaign against the imperialist-led “war on terror” and the national security laws it spawned, with their particular impacts on indigenous peoples, national minorities, oppressed nationalities and nations; • To militantly resist displacement of indigenous peoples, national minorities, oppressed nationalities and nations from their ancestral lands and territories and the destruction and plunder of their resources by reactionary States and multinational corporations; • To expose and oppose the use of USAID, Official Development Assistance and other so-called development packages as a deceptive and divisive tool against indigenous peoples, national minorities, nationalities/nations; • To combat racism, chauvinism and discrimination against indigenous peoples, national minorities, nationalities and nations in all its forms and to recognize their distinct identities and dignity; • To reach out to other oppressed indigenous peoples, national minorities, oppressed nationalities and nations around the world and build stronger solidarity with them against imperialism and local reaction towards the realization of their right to self-determination. • To continue to deepen study and understanding of the diverse situations of indigenous peoples, national minorities, oppressed nationalities/nations; present-day forms of national oppression, and the theory and practice of self-determination; and to consciously link their struggles with the class struggle against the common enemy, which is imperialism.

CPA also presented a particular resolution on imperialist mining and plunder of resources. It was also approved by the Plenary.

CPA delegates also presented the play ‘Kaigorotan’ in the Solidarity Night where all delegates gathered for songs, poems, plays, dances and chants with a common theme; Down with US imperialism! Long Live the Fighting People of the World! Long Live ILPS!

After the ILPS, CPA delegates proceeded to the Cordillera Migrants Forum on Mining and Human Rights that was organized by ATIS (Abra-Tinggian-Ilokano Society) and Cordillera Alliance (Corall).

ILPS is an anti-imperialist united front at the international, global region and national levels. In recent years, it called for people’s action against the imperialist policies of globalization, war of terror, environmental plunder, the US war on Iraq, exploitation and oppression of people, including indigenous peoples and discrimination among others.

It is the most outstanding anti-imperialist and democratic formation that provides political guidance on 18 concerns, namely, cause of national liberation; socio-economic development; human rights; just peace; trade union; agrarian reform; women’s liberation; rights of the youth; children’s rights; right to self-determination of indigenous peoples; national minorities and nationalities; rights of teachers; right to health; science and technology; arts and culture; justice and indemnification of victims of human rights violations; rights of homeless persons; rights of the elderly; and rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered. # Chie Galvez(NorDis)

Pope praises Australia’s ‘courage’ for apologizing to Aborigines

July 17, 2008

SYDNEY, Australia — Pope Benedict XVI has praised the Australian government for its apology to the country’s indigenous Aborigines for past injustices.

Benedict made the remarks in a short speech Thursday in his first public appearance as part of the Roman Catholic Church’s youth festival in Australia, after meeting Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

He lauded the government’s “courageous decision to acknowledge the injustices committed against the indigenous peoples in the past,” which he said offered hope for people all over the world seeking justice and opportunity.

Rudd in February formally apologized to Aborigines as one of his first official acts as prime minister, and has made closing a huge gap in economic and health status between indigenous people and other Australians a priority of his government.(AP)(SunStar)


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