Activists will commemorate International Day of the Worlds’ Indigenous Peoples (IPs) on Thursday, August 9, in Baguio City to call for a stop to intensified attacks, plunder of ancestral land and resources, militarization, and the criminalization of indigenous human rights defenders,
In a press conference in the said city Monday, August 6, the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) said different forms of protest activities will be held in the city, including the launch of an internationally coordinated social media campaign and a cultural and protest march to be attended by indigenous peoples from around the country and abroad.
CPA Secretary General Bestang Dekdeken said that this year’s World’s IP Day will be observed against the backdrop of intensified tyranny, criminalization, harassment and political killings of indigenous human rights defenders in the region.
She said they will drumbeat the killing of anti-dam activist Ricardo Mayumi, the filing of trumped-up cases against five Cordillera women development workers and human rights defenders as well as innocent civilians, and the the terrorist proscription of seven past and present leaders of the CPA as among the issues on Thursday.
The militarization and bombings of communities resisting development aggression, the intensified surveillance and harassment of the offices of regional and provincial IP organizations are included in their campaign, she added.
“Widespread terror against the indigenous peoples is unleashed by the government forces in connivance with big corporations to silence the strong opposition against development aggression or attacks on land, life and rights,” Dekdeken said.
The CPA also accused the Rodrigo Duterte government of being in cahoots with the mining and energy corporationsto destroy our ancestral lands and attack the indigenous peoples, with the help of foreign loans.
“The intensified militarization of communities such as in Besao, Mountain Province is resulting in human rights violations, including trumped-up charges against innocent civilians Edmond and Saturnino Dazon, and disruption of peoples’ livelihood,” Dekdeken added.
Members of the Women Resist Tyranny, meanwhile, expressed alarm over “intensified attacks” against human rights defenders in the Cordilleras.
Jeanette Ribaya-Cawiding, one of the seven CPA leaders named in a DOJ proscription list released last February, said that women activists and development workers have been at the receiving end of various trumped-up charges since last year.
This, she says, made it more difficult for the delivery of basic social services, projects and campaigns in remote communities which has suffered government neglect for too long now.
“What women development workers are guilty of is having the courage to fight for our children and our kakailian against the evils that try trespass our ancestral lands. We are guilty of carrying on the fight of the brave Kalinga, Ina Petra and Bontoc women who opposed the Chico dam, the women of Abra who fought the operation of Cellophil Resources in Abra, and the all the women warriors of Cordillera who resist national oppression,” Cawiding said.
The CPA shall launched its social media campaign dubbed #DEFENDCORDILLERA from August 8 to 10.
They said they enjoin the support of all Igorots around the world and advocates of indigenous peoples rights to post, write and share their solidarity through their social media accounts.
On thursday, a protest cultural march to Baguio’s Malcolm Square will also be held by mostly indigenous groups from all the six provinces of the region and Baguio City. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)