Philippines: Letter of concern on IP killings

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    Mr. Gilbert Paborada

    10 October 2012
    H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III
    President of the Republic
    Malacañang Palace,
    JP Laurel St., San Miguel
    Manila Philippines

    Dear Mr. President,

    Greetings from the Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defenders Network in Asia!

    We are becoming increasingly alarmed at the recent spate of killings of indigenous leaders in the Philippines and wish to express our deep concern and condemnation that these are not being addressed. Just recently, we again received a report on the killing of Mr. Gilbert Paborada, Chairperson of PANGALASAG (Indigenous Shield) an indigenous organization resisting the palm oil plantation expansion and the human rights violations committed by the A. Brown company in Opol, Misamis Oriental. According to the witnesses, Paborada had just came back from Bagocboc and was about to get down from a tricycle when two (2) motorcycle-riding men of heavy built shot him. Before the gunmen left, witnesses claim that one of them moved closer to Paborada and shot him again at the head.

    Paborada left Bagocboc in March 2011, and relocated in Puntod, Cagayan de Oro to evade threats against his life. He earned a living by opening a small store attached to his house in the slums of Puntod. He still frequented Bagocboc to lead community-based campaigns of Pangalasag as the chairperson. Gilbert is survived by his wife and 7-year old child.

    Earlier, we also received another reliable report on the torture and killing of Genesis Ambason, 23 year old secretary-general of grassroots indigenous organization Tagdumahan last September 13, 2012 (around 8pm) at Km. 39, Brgy. Binikalan, San Luis, Agusan del Sur allegedly by the CAFGUs (Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit) of the 26th Infantry Battalion headed by Artemio Sublidan.

    Ambason’s dead body was found 136 meters away from the 26th Infantry Battalion military detachment with two gunshot wounds at his right chest, two gunshot wounds at his hip, two wounds at each side of his spine, and dark bruises at his face and chest. His wife was disturbed to discover that Ambason has lost all his teeth and his head has become soft, smaller, and unrecognizable.

    Genesis has been active in defending members of Tagdumahan and their community against the campaign of suppression of the state forces. State agents allegedly violently suppress community oppositions to destructive large-scale mining operations through harassments, vilification and ultimately murder.

    Earlier, Genesis led Tagdumahan officers and village chiefs in a dialogue with the military’s 26th IB on 25 June 2012 on the illegal detention of some Tagdumahan community members charged with alleged arson. Genesis, families of the detainees, members of Tagdumahan and the village chiefs concerned, with the aid of the Provincial Department of Social Welfare and Services (Provincial DSWD), successfully pushed for the release of those illegally detained after the dialogue. Their release allegedly got the CAFGU’s ire.

    We believe that the killing of Ambason is related to his role as an indigenous leader and secretary general of Tagdumahan, an organization that has been actively campaigning against the entry of various large-scale mining ventures into their their ancestral domain.

    These two killings happened within weeks of each other and barely one month after another indigenous leader, Timuay Lucenio Manda and his son were attacked in Barangay Conacon, Bayog Zamboanga del Sur. While Timuay Manda survived the attack, his son suffered a fatal wound on the back instantly killing him. Timuay Manda was widely known for leading his tribe in opposition to the entry of logging and mining in their ancestral domain.

    Earlier this year, on March 5, indigenous chieftain and Dao village captain, Datu Jimmy Liguyon of San Fernando, Bukidnon was shot dead by members of the New Indigenous Peoples’ Army (NIPAR), a paramilitary group that has been terrorizing remote communities of indigenous peoples with the regular use of threats and violence. Liguyon was known to have refused to sign documents and in opposition to to plans which would lead to extensive mining activities in their traditional territory.

    To date, 19 indigenous leaders and activists have become victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances as a result of their active involvement in asserting their rights and defending their ancestral lands. To date, none of these cases has been resolved.

    These recent incidents lead us to believe that there is a systematic attack being made on indigenous peoples communities and their leaders that is meant to stifle their opposition and struggle to defend their ancestral lands from destructive development projects. We are alarmed that these continuous attacks, if not addressed by state authorities, will lead to more violations of the rights of indigenous peoples.

    We therefore urge His Excellency Benigno Aquino III and other concerned government agencies and institutions to:

    1. Immediately conduct a thorough and impartial investigation on the killing of Gilbert Paborada, Genesis Ambason and the other indigenous leaders and activists killed before them and prosecute without impunity all those involved.
    2. Provide immediate relief to the families of the victims.
    3. Immediately order the dismantling of paramilitary forces in the country and the pull out of AFP units based in or near indigenous communities and schools.
    4. Immediately conduct a thorough and impartial investigation on the alleged violations of the A.Brown Company in Opol and other private entities involved in the other cases of killings.
    5. Immediately issue an Executive Order for the establishment of an inter-agency Task Force on IP Killings to be spearheaded by the NCIP and allocate funds thereof for the investigation of cases of extrajudicial killings against indigenous leaders and activists, filing of appropriate charges to those responsible and establish the trends on the killings and provide policy recommendations for policy reforms in relation to the protection and respect of the rights of indigenous peoples.
    6. Invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Killings and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to investigate the killings.
      It is our hope that your administration will also give priority to the promotion and protection of the rights and welfare of indigenous peoples in our country.

    Respectfully,

    CC:

    Hon. Severo Catura
    Presidential Human Rights Committee
    Malacañang Palace,
    JP Laurel St., San Miguel
    Manila Philippines
    FAX: +63- 2 734 6761

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