Submission to Victoria Tauli Corpuz, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples | March 16, 2018


Submission to Victoria Tauli Corpuz,
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights
March 16, 2018

KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights – Philippines[i] submits this report in response to the call of the Office of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for inputs to her thematic report on the issue of criminalisation and attacks faced by indigenous peoples asserting and defending their rights. In this submission, KARAPATAN critically examines the Philippine government’s compliance to international human rights instruments, in relation to indigenous human rights defenders, and presents our views and recommendations on the practice of State actors, under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, of filing criminal charges against these defenders. 

In the nearly two years of his presidency, Duterte has employed the resources of the State to attack, criminalize and target individuals and entire communities. Amid the alternatives given at the start of his term, Duterte has chosen to make State terrorism his irreversible and grim response to the public clamor for systemic and substantial change. Early on his first year in office, the President has relied on militarist solutions to the country’s problems. To date, his war on drugs has reportedly caused some 20,000 individual victims of extrajudicial killings[ii], precipitated by Duterte’s own orders and pronouncements[iii]. The government’s counterinsurgency program called Oplan Kapayapaan has resulted in grave human rights violations, including 126 victims of extrajudicial killings of mostly peasants and indigenous people, illegal arrests and detention, nearly half a million victims of bombings and forced evacuation, threats, intimidation and harassment of those critical of the President, including indigenous peoples and their defenders.[iv] 

Duterte unilaterally terminated the government’s peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, despite the clamor of numerous sectors for an agreement on social and economic reforms to help address the dire poverty experienced by the poor majority, including that of indigenous communities. This event further escalated acts of violence in the name of counterinsurgency, including threats of the President to bomb schools put up by the indigenous people in Mindanao. In addition, in the wake of the attack on Marawi, the government responded by bombing the city and completely destroying its infrastructures, making it virtually inhabitable. This spawned a massive humanitarian crisis in the region. Martial law was declared in the Mindanao, resulting in gross human rights violations, including massacres, killings, torture, looting, bombings and military occupation and operations in communities in the whole island, among other violations also affecting thousands of indigenous communities.[v] 

Duterte continued to pursue the neoliberal economic framework upheld by previous administrations, favoring big foreign and local investments and businesses at the expense of the poor majority, as indigenous people’s rights to land, territories and resources and their right to self-determined development and free, prior and informed consent continue to be trampled on. For example, in 2017, the Duterte administration has approved at least 229 approved applications from foreign and domestic companies promoting destructive large-scale mining operations that encroach on 542,000 hectares of ancestral territories[vi]. New economic zones and dams are being built on ancestral lands, while new deals have been clinched by the government for oil palm plantation expansion covering a million hectares of land in Mindanao and Palawan. 

These projects have not benefitted the people at all. Most of the provinces where there is a high concentration of indigenous peoples are still among the poorest provinces in the country. Food insecurity and hunger rates are at a high incidence. There is continuing government neglect to deliver basic and appropriate social services like health and education, while indigenous peoples are reeling from landgrabbing and the impacts of militarization, due to the collusion of private mining and logging companies, national and local governments, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and paramilitary forces. 

The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) in its 21 years of existence has not addressed the plight of indigenous peoples. The signing of the Philippine government to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007 has yet to be translated to concrete actions to ensure that their obligations to protect indigenous peoples rights are fulfilled. 

Communities, including their leaders, members and advocates asserting and defending indigenous people’s rights through their collective struggles have been tagged by State forces as “communist sympathizers” or “terrorists” to justify their political persecution and other forms of attacks against them, including the practice of hailing them to court on trumped-up charges. Their illegal arrest and detention are being “legitimized” by the government through repressive laws and the use of instruments such as the John/Jane Doe and alias warrants, the spurious filing of cases with defective warrants and perjured testimonies of hired witnesses by the military, the widespread planting of evidence to justify the filing of non-bailable criminal offenses against activists, gross distortion of laws and violations to longstanding jurisprudence such as the Hernandez doctrine, which emphasizes that those who are accused of political offenses should not be charges with criminal offenses. All these schemes are being done in an attempt to impede, deter and/or stop the defenders and their communities from pursuing their work and advocacies and to further enable the policies, projects and designs that do not benefit the people, including indigenous communities. All these are in direct violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Declaration of the Rights of Human Rights Defenders and other international human rights instruments. 

The most recent case documented by Karapatan is the absurd, baseless, and arbitrary inclusion of names of activists and human rights defenders in the list of supposed leaders and members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) in a Department of Justice petition proscribing the two entities as terrorist organizations under Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007, otherwise known as the anti-terrorism law. Filed on February 21, 2018, the petition[vii] named at least 46 human rights defenders, including the names of at least eighteen (18) indigenous human rights defenders including Victoria Tauli Corpuz, a Kankanaey, current United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, former Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples and former Secretary General of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance.

Also included in the said list are the following indigenous human rights defenders: Beverly

Longid, a Kankanaey-Bontok, current global coordinator of the International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), former CPA Chair and current member of the Advisory Council member; Joan Carling, a Kankanaey, current member of Co-convenor of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for the Sustainable Development Goals, past Secretary General of the Asian Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP), and former member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; Jose Molintas, an Ibaloi human rights lawyer, former Asia representative to the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP), former CPA Chair and current member of the Advisory Council member; Joanna Cariño, an Ibaloi, member of the CPA Advisory Council and Co-Chair of the SANDUGO Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self Determination; Windel Bolinget, a Kankanaey-Bontok, current Chairperson of the CPA and National Co-convenor of KATRIBU national alliance of indigenous peoples in the Philippines; Jeanette Ribaya-Cawiding, Kankanaey, former chairperson of CPA-Tongtongan ti Umili and current Regional Coordinator of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers – Cordillera; Datu Isidro Indao, Matigsalog-Manobo village chief, council member of the PASAKA Lumad Confederation in Southern Mindanao and an active member of the Parent-Teacher Community Association of the lumad school run by the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, Inc.; Datu Mandayhon Han-ayan, Talaandig village chief in Malaybalay, Bukid and member of the PIGYAYONGAAN Lumad organization; Datu Mandayhon, a Talaandig village chief and member of the PIGYAYONGAAN lumad organization; Sergio Lumonday, a Manobo and the Tinananon Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa secretary general; among other indigenous leaders, activists and community organizers. The list also contains numerous aliases and John and Jane Does, making it susceptible for inclusion of numerous other names of human rights defenders. 

These human rights defenders are not connected in anyway to the CPP and NPA and they vehemently deny any knowledge or participation with the alleged incidents cited in the petition. The filing of the said petition is an effort to harass, target and criminalize persons and defenders who have been working for people’s rights and welfare, including that of indigenous communities. This list is a take-off from the Order of Battle (OB) lists of the Gloria Arroyo and Noynoy Aquino regimes, wherein persons listed in the OB often ended up arrested based on false charges, incarcerated and even tortured, missing or killed. Not only do such lists incite human rights violations, they also legitimize and make "normal" to the public the government's abuse of power in suppressing dissent and decimating the supposed "enemies of the state.” The creation and enforcement of the said lists are also part of the government’s counter-insurgency programs which, under Duterte, is now named Oplan Kapayapaan (Operational Plan Peace). 

The inclusion of Tauli Corpuz’s name is also a clear case of reprisal from the Duterte government for Corpuz’s expressed concern over possible cases of human rights violations against indigenous communities due to the imposition of martial law in Mindanao. She and another UN SR released a statement in response to a letter of allegation submitted by Karapatan to her office. 

This case followed what have been systematic efforts and attempts to criminalise the work of human rights defenders, including indigenous defenders, and in furtherance of the counterinsurgency objectives of the Duterte regime, which is apparent in the following cases:

 

The arrest of indigenous rights defenders on fabricated charges in Sultan Kudarat province, Mindanao

The Center for Lumad Advocacy Networking Services Inc. (CLANS), an institution that delivers free education for indigenous children, has 33 alternative learning schools serving at least 1,328 indigenous children in villages in different provinces in Mindanao. Among these were schools put up in the communities of the Dulangan Manobos in Sultan Kudarat, where their ancestral lands have been targeted for encroachment by the D.M. Consunji, Inc. (DMCI) corporation that has engaged in mining and logging businesses. Indigenous people’s organizations in the provinces have worked in CLANS in the establishment of these schools, as public schools remain non-existent in their communities. These efforts however have been continuously and repeatedly blocked by the military, the local government and DMCI, whose security personnel have been trained as investment defense forces by soldiers, who have been working to pave the way for DMCI’s investments in the said province.    

On October 11, 2016, the CLANS school Diya Menuwa which caters to some 1,000 Dulangan -Manobo children in 18 school sites in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat became the subject of red-tagging when soldiers put up tarpaulins with the message warning residents that the schools are allegedly not legally recognized by the Education Department and for supposedly teaching communist ideology, allegations denied by CLANS. On October 13, Palimbang Mayor Karon Dipatuan Sabiwang, accompanied by some 20 elements of the 6th Marine Battalion Landing team in full battle gear called for a local leaders’ meeting with the same warning against the CLANS school. A reward of PhP5,000 was also offered for pictures of teachers and staff of CLANS school.[viii] 

On July 11, 2017, at 3am, using a questionable search warrant, at least four truckloads of elements of the 2nd Marine Battalion Landing Team and Philippine National Police illegally raided the house of Pastor Kama Sanong, a Dulangan Manobo pastor at an evangelical church and a member of Kesasabanay sa Dulangan Manobo (Keduma) lumad organization. The police and military planted a .38 caliber gun and a rifle grenade at the second floor of his house, alleged that these were Sanong’s, and arrested him for falsified charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.[ix] 

On July 20, 2017, warrants of arrests were issued against seven members of the Parent-Teachers Community Association of the CLANS school in Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat and the following CLANS volunteer-teachers, all Dulangan-Manobo: Jolita Tolino, Cheryl Tolino, Alma Salaya, Junifer Tuwan, Antoinette Kampair, and Gina Ciano.[x] Without their knowledge and any prior summons to them for preliminary investigation, the 13 were charged with trumped up cases of one count of murder and nine counts of frustrated murder for an alleged encounter between the military and NPA rebels on March 20, 2017, which they all deny involvement with. On February 7, 2018, Jolita Tolino was arrested by two soldiers from the 2nd Marine Battalion Landing Team.[xi] 

Both Sanong and Tolino are detained at the Kalamansig police station in Sultan Kudarat. As a result of these attacks, the CLANS schools in Sultan Kudarat are now closed.

 

Trumped up criminal charges against indigenous rights defenders in Surigao del Sur, Mindanao

On December 16, 2015, in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, trumped up cases of child trafficking and child abuse against the following teachers of Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS): Annabelle Campos, Jenalyn Campos Flores, Julieto Trimidal; against the following teachers of Alternative Learning for Community and Agricultural Development, Inc. (ALCADEV): Reynaldo Campos and Ronald Bague; and against the following community leaders and members of Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU): Roland Enriquez, Tata Enriquez, Genasque Enriquez, Jalandoni Campos, Rengel Duhac, Joan Sinzo, Raby Rivas, Bebot Enriquez, Nilo Bautista, Datu Umbid Sinzo, and Joan Pagalan.[xii] The said complaint was filed by a certain Rosalinda Tejero and her two sons Reneboy, 17, and Saniboy Tejero Acebido, both minors, who are under the custody of 401st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army at New Leyte, Brgy. Awa, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur. 

In the complaint of Reneboy, he alleged that the community leaders and teachers taught them to “fight the government.” He also alleged that he heard from these individuals that in due time, NDF leader Jorge Madlos aka Ka Oris will become president. Reneboy also claimed that he was instructed to bury the cadaver of Jestoni Galdiano and Renz Rivas, both killed during the NPA attack at Brgy. Sta. Irene, Agusan del Sur. Complainants also alleged that they were ordered by the above-mentioned individuals to be trained by the NPAs at a place known as “Camarin,” supposedly a place 700 meters away from the ALCADEV school; they were supposedly lectured and taught to hold firearms like armalite, M14, AK47, M203, .45 calibre, carbine and other firearms. They also alleged that were taught to destroy military camps and throw grenades. Reneboy said that he was a student of both TRIFPPS and ALCADEV, while Saniboy said he studied in TRIFPPS. 

The indigenous leaders and teachers of ALCADEV and TRIFPPS strongly refuted the facts and denied the allegations in the said complaint. In their view, the trumped-up cases were instigated by the 401st Infantry Brigade and 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army to harass and intimidate them, who were all witnesses to the September 1, 2015 massacre, when Lumad leaders Dionel Campos, MAPASU chairperson, Datu Juvello Sinzo and ALCADEV executive director Emerito Samarca were killed[xiii]. The cases are also seen as part of the previous and ongoing attacks against indigenous schools. Both educational institutions were previously tagged by the military as NPA schools, and thus were at the receiving end of efforts to close down the school and/or turn it into a military camp with the frequent encampment of military and paramilitary groups in the schools’ premises. The AFP has always set its sights on the said schools because of the progressive mandate of the institutions as part of the alternative learning system, which, to the military and government’s view, is not acceptable. 

The trumped up charges against community leaders are also part of the continuing attacks against human rights defenders in the community led by MAPASU. Aside from the community leaders who filed their counter affidavits, Jalandoni Campos and Genasque Enriquez, two well-known Manobo leaders, have been charged with trumped up criminal offenses before. The facts enumerated by the complainants are all false and perjured testimonies. It is important to note that the complainants wrote their accounts while under the custody of the 401st Infantry Brigade. They may have executed the affidavits under duress and they were coerced to do so by the military. The grandparents of the two boys and their schoolmates belied the accounts of the two. The trafficking charges are also unsubstantiated, even by perjured testimonies. Trusted sources have informed the victims that the 402nd ID officials have been pressuring the Court not to dismiss the case and issue warrants of arrest against the teachers and community leaders.

 

Filing of fabricated charges against indigenous women human rights defenders in Cordillera 

Indigenous women human rights defenders in the Cordillera Region namely Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Sherry Mae Soledad, Joanne Villanueva, Rachel Mariano, Asia Isabella Gepte and Shirley Ann Angiwot[xiv] were maliciously charged with frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder on August 14, 2017. 

A Department of Justice (DOJ) Investigation Data Form names the five women activists - Sarah, Sherry Mae, Joanne, Rachel and Asia - along with 18 individuals for frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder related to a gun firing incident that occurred in Sitio Mabileg, Brgy. San Ramon, Sigay, Ilocos Sur in August 4, 2017. According to accompanying statements of the DOJ Data Form, a certain Cpl Melvin Sevilla Saura alleges that the women activists were with a group of the NPA, a group that is being pinpointed by the AFP to have engaged that day. Also, since August 2017, the 24th Infantry Battalion has consistently maligned Shirley Ann Angiwot in social media after tagging her and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Peace Negotiations Observer Roman Catholic Bishop Sergio Utleg and other church workers as “enemies of the State” and connected with the NPA. The 71st Division Reconnaissance Company, the 81st IB and the 24th IB are military units of 7th ID.  

All the named women activists belong to legal and legitimate organisations in the Cordillera people’s movement. Sarah and Sherry Mae are both with the Katinnulong dagiti Umili ti Amianan-Regional Development Center (KADUAMI-RDC NL). Sarah is a pioneer of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA). Rachel is with the Cordillera Health, Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera (CHESTCORE). Villanueva works with the Cordillera Women’s Education, Action, Research Center (CWEARC) and Asia is a convenor of Binnadang, a network of advocates in Metro Manila supporting Cordillera indigenous peoples’ issues and campaigns, and a staff of the joint secretariat of the NDFP nominated section to the Joint Monitoring Committee on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. Shirley Ann is a member of the Innabuyog-Gabriela. These organisations are actively engaged in the Cordillera people’s movement for the defense of ancestral land, right to self-determination, genuine peace and democracy. 

With this situation and cases, we recommend that the UN Human Rights Council call on the Philippine government to respect, promote and protect the rights of indigenous human rights defenders, in accordance with the rights enshrined in the ICCPR, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and Human Rights Council and General Assembly resolutions. In light of this, the following specific recommendations are made:

· Stop the criminalisation of the work of human rights defenders, illegal arrest and detention, and the practice of filing trumped-up criminal charges against activists and human rights defenders, and withdraw any false charges filed against them;

· Unconditionally free all detained human rights defenders, including indigenous rights defenders, whether those arrested, charged, prosecuted, tried or convicted of political crimes or, as is the practiced by the government, common crimes but with clear or convincing evidence that such are politically-motivated;

· Stop the implementation of Oplan Kapayapaan and similar counter-insurgency programs that target human rights defenders and civilians;

· Repeal legislative, administrative, executive and judicial acts that violate human rights including Human Security Act of 2007, those on warrantless searches and arrests, allowing the filing of common crimes with respect to political offenses, among others. Effectively address and immediately prosecute and punish acts of terrorism and human rights violations by agents of the State; 

· Stop labeling of national liberation movements, progressive people’s organizations and patriots as “terrorists” both in the national and international forums. Stop the harassment and vilification of human rights defenders;

· The Government should systematically apply legal provisions that promote and protect human rights and establish mechanisms that protect human rights activists by adopting a specific law on the protection of human rights activists in accordance with Resolution 27.31 of the Human Rights Council. More specifically the Human Rights Defenders Bill, which has been lingering in Congress since 2007, should be passed into law and put into practice to ensure adequate protection of human rights defenders.

· Disband paramilitary groups, through the repeal of policies that legitimize their existence;

· End extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other gross and systematic violations of human rights committed with impunity;

· Stop military operations in communities and immediately pull-out military units. End military’s practice of using schools, municipal halls, and public facilities as military camps and detachments;

· Continue and build on the peace talks between the GPH and parties to the armed conflict, as well as adhere to and implement previously signed agreements;

· Render immediate and substantive justice to all victims of human rights violations, including victims of trumped up charges, illegal arrest and detention, through adequate compensation, indemnification, restitution and rehabilitation.

 

Endnotes:


[i] KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights or KARAPATAN is an alliance of individuals, groups and organizations working for the promotion and defense of human rights in the Philippines. Its founders and members have been at the forefront of the human rights struggle in the Philippines since the time of the Marcos dictatorship. Founded in 1995, KARAPATAN has 16 regional chapters and is closely linked with various people’s and mass organizations through their human rights desks, including that of indigenous people’s organizations. KARAPATAN views human rights comprehensively in all fields – political, civil, economic, social, and cultural. The alliance has continued to work for the promotion and defense of human rights through its programs on education and training, campaign and advocacy, documentation and research, the provision of services to human rights victims, the creation and deployment of teams to immediately respond to and investigate reported violations, and network building and alliance work.