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Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact

EMRIP16: Item 3 – Study and Advice on the Impact of Militarization on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by Beverly Longid

We urgently call for the support of EMRIP and member states to ensure justice, peace, and the protection of our rights through an independent investigation into the human rights situation, particularly concerning Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines.

Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) Sixteenth Session
17-21 July 2023, Geneva, Switzerland
Agenda no. 3: Study and advice on the impact of militarization on the rights of Indigenous Peoples
Presented by: Beverly L. Longid, Katribu, National Convener

We, the Katribu National Alliance of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines, the Sandugo Alliance of Indigenous and Moro Peoples, the Bai Philippine Network of Indigenous Women, Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Defend Panay Network, TUMANDUK, and the International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), submit this statement on the impact of militarization on our rights, culture, and existence.

Militarization in the Philippines has taken various forms, serving as a counter-insurgency tool and corporate defense force. It is based on the national internal security policy of the state, as defined in Executive Order (EO) 70, which institutionalizes the whole-of-nation approach. It utilizes all local government units, agencies, state security forces, and other civil society formations for counter-insurgency purposes. 

Additionally, it established the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which is responsible for the malicious red-tagging and terrorist labeling of government critics and dissenters. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), a government entity entrusted with promoting and protecting Indigenous Peoples’ (IP) rights, is an active element of this national task force and serves more for counter-insurgency than for indigenous rights.

Furthermore, past presidents often appointed many retired military and police generals to top executive positions in the civilian bureaucracy, such as the Chair of the NCIP.

Our communities are unjustly labeled as “rebel areas,” branding us as communists, terrorists, and threats to national security, resulting in severe human rights violations, including:

  1. Bombings, shelling, and strafing
  2. Extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances
  3. Criminalization, trumped-up charges, terrorist tagging, and political vilification
  4. Occupation of homes, schools, places of worship, and gatherings
  5. Fabricated surrenders as rebel soldiers
  6. Declarations of persona non grata against progressive IP leaders and organizations.

In 2019, the government forcibly closed 215 Lumad Indigenous schools, denying 5,500 Lumad youth and children their right to education.

Under the administration of Bongbong Marcos, we have witnessed a significant escalation in these violations. Since July 2022, ten (10) incidents of bombings, shelling, and strafing have occurred in rural communities, impacting approximately 30,000 people. Seven of these incidents occurred in resource-rich ancestral lands of Indigenous Peoples, where there is opposition to dams, mines, and unwanted government projects.

In 2014, the US and Philippine governments sealed the Enhance Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which could intensify the militarization of ancestral lands. Last February 2023, bombings occurred in Cagayan Province, where two (2) of the four (4) new EDCA sites are located. 

Extrajudicial killings are a tragic consequence of militarization. Massacres like TAMASCO, Tumandok, the second Lianga, and the New Bataan 5 exemplify the violence inflicted upon us by state forces.

Furthermore, militarization leads to the criminalization, red-tagging, and terrorist labeling of Indigenous organizations, activists, and advocates. We have documented 63 Indigenous political prisoners facing fabricated charges, and this year alone, the Karapatan Human Rights Alliance recorded eleven (11) cases of enforced disappearances, six (6) of which involve Indigenous Peoples’ human rights defenders. The Philippines is once again the deadliest country in Asia for land defenders and has the highest reported cases of enforced disappearances in Southeast Asia.

The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and Executive Order (EO) 70 have further weakened human rights safeguards and undermined our rights to self-determination and development. Militarization prevents the exercise of free, prior, informed consent as enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA), as well as other human rights such as free expression and association, as our communities are under constant siege.

Therefore, we urgently call for the support of EMRIP and member states to ensure justice, peace, and the protection of our rights through an independent investigation into the human rights situation, particularly concerning Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines.

We urge you to support our call on the Philippine government to:

  1. Cease militarization, bombings, red-tagging, and terrorist vilification of Indigenous Peoples.
  2. Resume peace talks with the revolutionary forces to address the roots of the armed conflict and seek a political settlement as a viable alternative to these escalating attacks.
  3. Abolish the NTF-ELCAC and redirect its multi-million budget to Indigenous Peoples’ social services.
  4. Repeal the Anti-Terrorism Law and EO 70, and enact effective protective measures for Indigenous Peoples’ human rights defenders.

Thank you.

Click here to download the full statement by Beverly