Sign-on Petition: Stop the Extra-Judicial Killing of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines

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    Link to sign-on here

    H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III
    President of the Republic
    Malacañang Palace,
    Manila Philippines

    Dear Mr. President,

    Greetings from Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and the Indigenous Human Rights Defenders Network (IPHRD Network) in Asia.

    We express our deep concern, alarm and condemnation on the unabated killings of indigenous peoples in the Philippines. We also express our disappointment and frustration with the Philippine government’s slow and almost non-action towards the killings of indigenous peoples human rights defenders. These acts including the denial of justice are clearly in violation of the international and national human rights obligations of the government.  We stand firm in demanding that the government account for the recent spate of political killings of indigenous peoples and ensure that justice shall prevail.

    Yet again, we received reliable reports and as reported in media outlets on the recent brutal killing of four indigenous peoples human rights defenders.

    The recent case is that of Mr. William Bugatti, a Tuwali from Ifugao, who was killed in the evening of March 25, 2014 while on his way to his home in Ifugao province, Cordillera. William is a Regional Council Member of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance-KARAPATAN, a Regional Council Member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance representing the Ifugao Peasant Movement and the Provincial Coordinator of Bayan Muna partylist. He was a very dedicated and hard working activist seeking for the improvement of marginalised indigenous communities.  William is #21 of the 86th IB Target List out of 28 tagged as brains, members and supporters of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA). He has constantly been accused of being a member of the NPA and this resulted to notable incidents of surveillance and harassment against him derailing him from fully implementing his work. William is survived by his wife and three children.

    Another case is the massacre of Freddie “Fermin” Ligiw, Edie Ligiw and their father Licuben Ligiw on March 2, 2014 in Sukaw, Domenglay, Baay-Licuan, Abra allegedly by elements of the 41st Infantry Battalion.  They were missing since March 2nd and their severely tortured bodies were exhumed on March 8th 2014 by a police investigation team. Fermin had been coerced to serve as a guide for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on February 19, 2014 when they conducted a military operation against the NPA suspected to be present in the area. On March 4th, he was supposed to give his account to human rights workers on this violation against his person but he was never able to meet with them. That same day, the AFP forewarned the villagers not to go to the mountain because a military operation was going on.

    These incidents of gross human rights violations perpetuated against indigenous peoples leaders are taking place in the midst of their struggles to protect and defend their collective rights over their lands, territories and resources and to advance their welfare and aspirations. We believe it is not mere coincidence that “development” projects in indigenous territories are also being pursued by the government in these areas along with militarization.  We have no doubt that the systematic attack being made on indigenous peoples’ communities and their leaders  is meant to stifle their opposition and struggle to defend their ancestral lands and against militarism.

    Of particular concern is the fact that those killed appear to have been carefully selected and intentionally targeted. We are alarmed that this escalating political repression in the form of extra judicial killings, harassments, vilification and intimidation will only aggravate the worsening conditions of indigenous peoples and is a clear affront to the avowed commitment of the government to respect human rights. These acts committed with impunity must end and justice be served to all the victims of human rights violations. Further, we demand the full respect of the collective rights of indigenous peoples especially to their lands, territories and resources, as well as to genuine peace in their territories as stipulated in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

    The government’s failure to protect the rights of its citizens and to timely address human rights violations is a breach of its obligations to various international instruments to which it is a party to. As a State Party to the UN Convention against Torture, the Philippine government is obliged to prevent acts of torture. Its failure to address the continuing vilification of human rights defenders leading to their extrajudicial killings is a breach of its obligation under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to provided for equal protection to the civil and political rights for all the citizens without discrimination. The failure of the Philippine government to promptly redress these human rights violation are in total contradiction with the principles defended by the UNDRIP to which the Philippine government voted in favour for its adoption. The 1987 Philippine Constitution likewise stipulates the promotion of the rights of indigenous cultural communities within the framework of national unity and development. The killings and threats mentioned above are also breaching those domestic provisions.

    According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Part II, article 2, 3, a, which the Republic of the Philippines is a party, each State party to the Covenant undertakes: “(a) To ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an effective remedy, notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.’’

    We therefore call on Your Excellency Benigno Aquino III and other concerned government agencies and institutions to:

    1. Conduct immediately a thorough and impartial investigation on the killings of William Bugatti, Fermin, Eddie and Licuben Ligiw and the other indigenous leaders and activists killed before them and prosecute without impunity all those involved
      The investigation should not just look into the act themselves but also on the root cause of the issues.
    2. Conduct an investigation on the alleged target list that includes the name of the victim, Mr. William Bugatti, and other indigenous leaders and development workers in Ifugao;
    3. Organize an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and other relevant indigenous peoples and human rights agencies and relevant committees in the Senate and House of Representatives;
    4. Provide the immediate relief and security for the family of William Bugatti and the Ligiw family;
    5. Immediately order the pullout of the military in indigenous communities and the dismantling of paramilitary forces in the country;
    6. Take concrete steps to put an end to those aspects of counterinsurgency operations which have led to the targeting, vilification and execution of individuals working with civil society organizations, and the victimization of innocent and unarmed civilians;
    7. Immediately direct all military officers to cease making public statements linking political or other civil society groups and their members to those engaged in armed insurgencies.
    8. Invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples to investigate the killings.

    Further, we reiterate our call for the creation of an inter-agency task force to investigate all the killings of indigenous peoples human rights defenders  who now number 44 within the 45 months of the current regime.

    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,
    COPY FURNISHED TO:

    CC:
    Hon. Severo Catura
    Presidential Human Rights Committee
    Malacañang Palace, JP Laurel St., San Miguel Manila Philippines FAX: +63- 2 734 6761
    Email: phrc.phil@gmail.com

    Hon. Nancy Catamco
    Chairperson
    National Cultural Communities Committee of the 15th Congress
    House of Representatives
    Batasan Complex, Quezon City
    Fax: +63029315106
    Email address: repncatamco@yahoo.com; katutubongpilipino@yahoo.com

    Hon. Teddy Baguilat
    Vice Chairperson
    National Cultural Communities Committee of the 15th Congress
    House of Representatives
    Batasan Complex, Quezon City
    Fax: +63029315106
    Email address: gstring_teddy@yahoo.com, katutubongpilipino@yahoo.com

    Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire T. Gazmin
    Secretary, Department of National Defense
    Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
    E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
    Voice:+63(2) 911-6193 / 911-0488 / 982-5600
    Fax:+63(2) 982-5600
    Email: osnd@philonline.com, dnd.opla@gmail.com

    Atty. Leila De Lima
    Secretary, Department of Justice
    Padre Faura St., Manila
    Direct Line 521-1908
    Trunkline 523-84-81 loc.211/214
    Fax: (+632) 523-9548
    Email: lmdelima@doj.gov.ph, lmdelima.doj@gmail.com, lmdelima.doj2@gmail.com

    Hon. Leonor T. Oralde-Quintayo
    Chairperson
    National Commission on Indigenous Peoples
    West Avenue, Quezon City, Philippines
    Email: ncipchairmansoffice@yahoo.com

    Hon. Loretta Ann P. Rosales
    Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
    SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
    Commonwealth Avenue
    Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
    Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
    Fax: (+632) 929 0102