The Philippines and more specifically Mindanao – the second largest island in size, located in the southern tip of the country, rich in natural resources and minerals – are being plundered by transnational and multinational corporations that carry out extractive operations with impunity for violations they commit against human rights. (*1)
Image: The courage, leadership and perseverance of human rights defenders in Mindanao, especially women lumad, is a lesson of humility and inspiration for us.
Note: Enough is Enough is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.
Philippines: Lumad Communities Resisting Extractive Operations
The Philippines and more specifically Mindanao – the second largest island in size, located in the southern tip of the country, rich in natural resources and minerals – are being plundered by transnational and multinational corporations that carry out extractive operations with impunity for violations they commit against human rights. (*1) The Philippine Government provides paramilitary forces to suppress and eliminate people belonging to the lumad (*2) communities [Lumads are said to be composed of 17 entholinguistic groups, all found in southern Philippines] in Mindanao if they confront both the neoliberal agenda of the government and transnational and multinational corporations.
The lumad communities have lived in Mindanao for centuries, developing customs and practices unique and necessary for their survival. They refuse to leave their land and are committed to the struggle to protect their ancestral territory and resources.
Women in the lumad communities are taking the lead in organizing resistance and defending their communities, while facing many challenges related specifically to their gender when they carry out actions to promote and defend human rights against the collusion of corporate interests private and government.
AWID spoke with Cristina Palabay, a human rights defender in Karapatan [the Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights], about why the human rights struggles in the Philippines are stronger than ever, at the same time that they face tremendous challenges.
Image: The 15 biggest mining operations in Mindanao cover up to 131,775 hectares of land, which are situated on or near Lumad communities. All mining operations in Mindanao cover up to 948,209 hectares. #StopLumadKillings #Manilakbayan2015
AWID: How is the current state of the struggle for human rights in the Philippines from the perspective of a defender?
Cristina Palabay (CP): The situation of human rights in the Philippines is getting worse. Karapatan documented numerous horrific attacks on human rights defenders during the current administration of Benigno Aquino III.
Extrajudicial executions of political motivation have increased in Mindanao, especially against the indigenous population. From July 2010 to September 30, 2015, Karapatan documented 294 extrajudicial executions and 27 enforced disappearances. In addition, 172 people were tortured and 911 were arbitrarily arrested and detained, mainly on the basis of false accusations. Karapatan also documented the cases of more than 65,000 people who were forcibly evicted and 15 massacres that occurred because indigenous communities defended their lives and communities. In analyzing the pattern of these killings we see that many of them were perpetrated by the paramilitary forces, under the command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the “Defense Forces of Investment” that defend extractive companies.
Another worrying pattern is the criminalization of work for human rights, advocacy and political activism. These are fundamental rights to which the people of the Philippines have a right under our own Constitution and the international treaties that our Government has signed. The greatest threat we face in our work for human rights is the government’s anti-insurgency program – Oplan Bayanihan – which has resulted in numerous atrocities on the part of the paramilitaries and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. This program is designed to eliminate anyone who represents a threat to the neoliberal agenda of the Philippine Government and to the highly lucrative operations of transnational and multinational corporations. Within the framework of this operational plan, those who oppose the government’s antidemocratic, neoliberal and misogynist policies are considered “enemies of the State”.
Within the framework of this operational plan, those who oppose the government’s antidemocratic, neoliberal and misogynist policies are considered “enemies of the State”.
AWID: What role do paramilitary forces play in the murders of lumad people?
CP: Paramilitary forces are pawns of state security forces to divide and rule the lumad communities and deprive them of power using brutal state repression. Some members of the paramilitary forces are recruited from indigenous communities with the intention of breaking the strong links between indigenous communities in Mindanao.
The paramilitary forces seem to have unquestionable power to evict and attack the lumad people in Mindanao if this suits the interests of the Government and the large transnational or multinational corporations. We were shocked and dismayed at the massacre of three of our three defending brothers, Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos and Bello [Juvello] Sinzo on September 1, 2015. We believe they were selected because of their leadership in the struggle of indigenous communities for their rights and their dignity.
There has not been a single case in which members of paramilitary forces have been sentenced and fully held accountable for the harassment, intimidation or murder of lumad people.
AWID: How do the murders of people affect the struggle for peace, justice and human rights in the Philippines?
CP: It afflicts us every time we receive the report of a massacre. However, with that grief come the feelings of anger, determination and persevering courage to continue what these human rights defenders spoke up and fought for. Our communities feel more determined than ever to seek justice and a genuine, lasting peace. Despite all the massacres and intimidation, lumad people remain committed to defending their history, land and livelihoods. Therefore, your courage and commitment should be a source of humility and inspiration to us. The massacre of our fellow human rights defenders Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo has made it clear that the murders are targeted. They were active members of the popular movement in Mindanao.
AWID: What are some gender aspects of the struggle for human rights in the Philippines?
CP: State security forces employ specific forms of gender-based violence, including harassment and rape, to silence the broad and strong popular movement, in which women take the lead in shaping resistance.
For example, Bai Josephine Pagalan is a dedicated, lumad leader and human rights advocate who has been involved in mobilizing resistance in the Caraga region of Mindanao. It was in front of her house where her fellow lumbald leaders Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo were ruthlessly murdered in the presence of all the people in her community, including girls and boys.
After killing Campos, Sinzo and Samarca, the paramilitary forces told residents to leave their land and threatened to kill them if they disobeyed. On the morning of September 1, Bai Josephine, her daughter, her newborn and the rest of the community were forcibly evacuated. Having deprived them of the time and space to mourn their loss, they walked for more than eight hours to the city of Tandag, where they are still staying.
Lumad community members and activists report explicit cases of sexual harassment and gender-based violence, including rape, committed by paramilitary forces and state security forces. It is a matter of concern that such cases are not thoroughly investigated. On the contrary, in addition to attacks against their land, territory and history, lumad communities are subjected to multiple incidents of gender discrimination and violence.
AWID: What role do women defenders in Mindanao play in advocating for the rights of local communities and what are some strategies they have developed to defend their land, territory and lives?
CP: The courage, leadership and perseverance of human rights defenders in Mindanao, especially women lumad, is a lesson of humility and inspiration for us. They are at the forefront of the struggles and advocate for their communities. Advocates run organizations and work as volunteer teachers in alternative schools for people who are lumad, and organize and mobilize women and other community members to defend the land and their lives.
Human rights defenders in Mindanao receive political education within their own communities and are empowered through their participation in political struggles. Many leading organizations are now [fighting for] the land, life and their communities. Advocates in Mindanao take responsibility and receive recognition on an equal footing with their male counterparts. Some have also assumed leadership roles when their husbands or other loved ones are killed.
AWID: How can the international human rights community support Karapatan’s #StopLumadKillings campaign?
CP: There are concrete actions that the international community can take to support our struggle in the Philippines. There are currently official requests from the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders to visit the Philippines. The Philippine Government has not responded to the requests of Special Rapporteurs who are mandated to conduct independent investigations and analyzes of the seriousness of human rights violations in the Philippines. Organizations, individuals, institutions and members of the international community can make appeals to amplify these requests at the international level, as well as urge the Philippine Government to fulfill its international obligations.
We urge the international community to maintain pressure on the Philippine Government to account for extrajudicial executions, harassment, criminalization and illegal arrest of human rights activists and politicians, as well as for depriving people of their access to their land and livelihoods. During these difficult times, let us show once again how international solidarity can support the resistance and struggle of the lumad communities and the Filipino people.
We are also requesting humanitarian aid for the nearly 5,000 lumad people in Mindanao who are in evacuation centers because they can not return to their communities due to ongoing military operations.
(*1) See an infographic (in English) that highlights the 15 largest mining operations in Mindanao (WARNING Facebook link)
See also the Declaration of the Workshop on Gender Impacts Caused by Mining (International Conference of Peoples and Mining, Manila, Philippines, 30 July-1 August 2015).
(*2) Lumad is the collective name used for indigenous communities in Mindanao.
Mutual aid: On September 14 Cars of Hope Wuppertal will arrive in Greece to support refugees who are trapped in the EU member state, some for more than a year now. Cars of Hope will be active in Athens and on Lesvos. A few members of the Enough is Enough collective will join them. They will work together with refugees and distribute food, sanitary products and other basis needs. Our work with refugees is only possible because of the many donations we receive. Read more about the support work with refugees in Greece by Cars of Hope; here and in this interview.
Please support the Cars of Hope Wuppertal Crowdfunding Campaign for refugees in Greece: https://www.youcaring.com/cohsupportrefugees
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