Philippines: Indigenous peoples’ organizations across Asia call for immediate end to continued killings and abuses of Lumads in Mindanao
Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)
20 October 2015 – More than seventy indigenous peoples’ organizations across Asia are calling for an end to the continued killings of and other abuses against Lumads in Mindanao in their joint letter of appeal letter to President Benigno Aquino III after another Lumad leader was killed last September. These organizations also call for an independent and transparent investigation on the roles and accountability of both the paramilitary forces and the Philippine Army in the violence against the Lumads who are the indigenous peoples of southern Philippines in the island of Mindanao.
Lito Abion, a Lumad leader and human rights defender, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen and military troops allegedly abused and tortured three other Lumad men in separate incidents on 28 September. At least 13 Lumads have been killed since January this year – that is at least four Lumads killed every three months – allegedly by the army and paramilitary troops. There ar e hundreds of reported cases of harassments and arbitrary detentions while more than twenty thousand displaced Lumads are now living in evacuation camps across the region. Seventy-three organizations and two individuals from fourteen countries that signed the letter issued by AIPP urged the President to not let Abion and the three men end up in the long list of unresolved cases of killings and abuses.
The victims of these abuses share common experiences: they are leaders or members of Lumad communities accused of being members or supporters of the New Peoples’ Army; their communities are opposed to the entry of mining in their ancestral domains; and there is military presence and armed conflict in the vicinity of the victims’ communities. Paramilitary groups, who are themselves from i ndigenous communities, have been openly campaigning for the entry of mining companies and threatening those opposed to these, often in the presence of State security forces.
Abion is not the last victim as reports of other incidents are still coming despite the international attention they have drawn. Abion’s killing came less than a month after the killing of three rights defenders – a school director and two tribal leaders. The UN Special Rapporteurs on the rights of indigenous peoples, on the situation of human rights defenders, and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, had called for a full and independent investigation into the killings of the three rights defenders.
In response to local and international pressure, the Department of Justice has announced an investigation into the transgressions against the Lumads of eastern and northern Mindanao. While the AIPP and other organizations welcome this announcement, they also demand that the investigation probe into the roles and accountability of paramilitaries as well as the military forces for the serious violations of human rights done with impunity against Lumads across Mindanao and the root causes of the transgressions in the region. They likewise appeal to the President to immediately disband all paramilitary groups and revoke Executive Order 546, which legitimizes paramilitary groups. The letter reminds the obligations of the Philippine government to protect and respect the rights of indigenous peoples under its own laws and in line with its international human rights obligations including the Ind igenous Peoples Rights Act, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
For media inquiries
Joan Carling, Secretary-General, AIPP, +66-(0)85-694-0100, [email protected]
Prabindra Shakya, Human Rights Campaign and Policy Advocacy Programmme Coordinator, AIPP, +66-(0)90-319-7751, p [email protected]