QUEZON CITY, Philippines – The European Union through its Manila office, theof the European Union in the Philippines, and Dinteg, the Cordillera Peoples' Legal Rights Center, recently launched a five-year project that will enhance the capacity of indigenous peoples for a more consolidated political participation and representation in development.
“In short, this project will upgrade the capacity of ten indigenous peoples in the Philippines to monitor human rights violations inflicted against their communities and their persons in the course of pursuing so-called development projects in their territories,” clarified Rhoda Dalang, project coordinator.
Dalang is a Kankanaey ofProvince in the Cordillera region.
Dinteg, an Igorot term translated literally as law, has been advancing indigenous peoples' rights since 1994. With a group of Igorot lawyers, anthropologists and activists in its core, Dinteg offers assistance in legal and policy research; public advocacy; education and training; legal aid; and solidarity campaigns.Dinteg also works closely with local churches and church-based institutions.
Its track record dating back to the times when the Philippine counter-insurgency program Oplan Lambat Bitag was inflicting various forms of human rights violations against the Cordillera peoples in the, Dinteg finds it fit to capacitate communities now experiencing similar agony with Opan Bantay Laya (OBL) 1 & 2 under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“The situation has never improved even with the new administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III,” said Joseph Torafing, Jr. Dinteg's administrative officer. He cited the spate of extra-judicial killings during the first few days of the Aquino government. OBL has lapsed technically on June 30, when Arroyo stepped down from Malacañang.
Torafing is from the Sadanga tribe of Mountain Province.
Counter-insurgency program as a backdrop
In the forum on the occasion of the World Indigenous Peoples' Day at the University of the Philippines on August 9, Joan Jaime, national coordinator of the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp) mentioned the July 19 summary execution of three Dumagat tribesmen from Rodriguez, formerly Montalban, in Rizal Province.
A report from Central Luzon also mentioned that an Aeta leader was missing as of August 8, at the height of the Kamp and Katribu partylist national council of leaders' meetings.
Lumad representatives from Mindanao talked about fake datus being introduced to the communities by transnational companies seeking the indigenous peoples' free, prior, informed consent.
“These are all in the context of utilizing the rich resource base within the traditional ancestral domain of indigenous peoples with the military doing counter-insurgency operations as a backdrop,” said Torafing.
IP territories as resource base
Several active mining operations are in the territories of Cordillera Igorot peoples. Three of the most profitable mining ventures are in Benguet, while several mining applications are in five other provinces of the Cordillera.
The Agno River, which finds its headwaters in Mt. Data at the Benguet-Mountain Province border, has been dammed three times for hydro-electric power, now being harnessed by private companies SN-Aboitiz Power (SNAP) and San Roque Power Corporation (SRPC).
Big road infrastructure projects displace Aeta communities in Zambales, Pampanga and Tarlac in Central Luzon, according toMallari of Kamp in an earlier interview.
Despite IPRA and UNDRIP
Mindanao Lumads have similar stories of rights violation as so-called development projects encroach into their territories and in the course of obtaining the FPIC as prescribed in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and as provided for in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The Philippines is a signatory to the said international policy.
Aptly stated in the project rationale, “inspite of the fact that the Philippines has IPRA and is under obligation to comply with various UN human rights instruments including UNDRIP, the country's indigenous peoples continue to suffer from multiple forms of human rights violations, and remain among the most impoverished and marginalized sectors in the Filipino society.”
According to Dinteg, development, especially mineral, forest and water resources, has long been a contentious issue associated with conflicting frameworks in resource utilization.
For indigenous peoples, development is about maintaining a healthy balance in the relationship between the human community and nature.
For coporations and states, however, development is about owning, extracting and profiting from nature, and achieving economic growth as a result.
“It is in the context of this gap in development perspectives that the project would come in, to facilitate in bridging the said gap,” said Dalang. One way is by ensuring the free, prior and informed participation of indigenous communities in development planning.
According to Dalang, there is a felt need to introduce some changes in the process of formulating area development plans for the process to be consistent with the human rights-based approach as applied to indigenous peoples.
Besides FPIC, IPRA also prescribes the formulation, implementation and evaluation of Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Program (ADSDPP), an arena available for intefacing the development perspectives of indigenous peoples with national development goals.
Enhancing the rights-based approach
With financial support from the European Union – Delegation of the EU in the Philippines, Dinteg and its project partners will embark on awareness-raising activities for communities to get a comfortable grasp of FPIC, memoranda of agreement, organizational management nd policies.
It will also lobby and coordinate with local government units to facilitate local planning processes.
Dinteg will also conduct fora, round-table discussions press conference and legislative inquiries as a result of its activities on monitoring, documentation and reporting of human rights violations.
Partner organizations include Cordillera Peoples' Alliance; Kamp; Koalisyon ng mga Katutubong Samahan ng Pilipinas (Kasapi); Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanaw (Kalumaran); Legal Rights and Natural Resources – Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KSK); EED Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples' Rights (EED-TFIP); Tebtebba Foundation; Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC) and peoples organizations in 10 communities throughout the country.
Most of the service areas are in Mindanao and Cordillera.
The human rights monitoring project was launched on August 9 in a fitting sunrise ritual called Panawagtawag at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Shrine in Quezon City. Another project with the European Union for the strengthening of Lumad idemtity was also launched simultaneously in the same venue. (That is another story.) #V. Ramo