Rachel Mariano and Betty Belén, Indigenous women and human rights advocates share their incarceration stories due to trumped-up charges and evidence. The cause of their persecution is clear: they defend their ancestral lands. Because of their activities, their families and communities also suffer the impacts of prison. At present, both leaders have currently been released and continue to fight against the development projects of transnational companies in the context of escalating attacks against the Indigenous Peoples of the country.
The number of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines is unknown, but it is estimated that between 10% and 20% of the country's population. The Philippines has adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but has not yet ratified ILO Convention 169.
Republic Law 8371, known as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), was enacted in 1997. It has been praised for its support for the cultural integrity of Indigenous Peoples, the right to their lands and the right to self-directed development of these lands.
A more substantial implementation of the law is still sought, as the Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines continue to live in geographically isolated areas with lack of access to basic social services and few opportunities for widespread economic activities, education or political participation.
The Igorot, the Lumad and the Mangyan
The last census of 2010 included an ethnic variable for the first time. However, an official figure for the Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines has yet arrived, and it is estimated that the country's indigenous population is between 10% and 20% of the national population, which currently stands at around 102.9 million.
The indigenous groups in the mountains of northern Luzon are collectively known as Igorot, while the groups on the southern island of Mindanao are collectively called Lumad. There are smaller groups collectively known as Mangyan in the central islands, and even smaller and scattered groups in the central islands and Luzon, including several groups of hunter-gatherers in transition.
Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines have retained much of their traditional, pre-colonial culture, social institutions and living practices. In general, they live in geographically isolated areas with lack of access to basic social services and few opportunities for major economic activities, education or political participation. In contrast, commercially valuable natural resources such as minerals, forests and rivers are found mainly in their areas, which makes them continuously vulnerable to aggression against development and land grabbing.
Main challenges for the Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines
Indigenous Peoples participated in the electoral process by presenting their own political party, Sulong Katribu, to represent their interests in the 2016 national elections. Their attempt to win seats in Congress through the party-list system failed not because of lack of votes, but because the Elections Commission and the Supreme Court refused to accredit Sulong Katribu to participate in the elections.
The disqualification of the party list was condemned by many Indigenous Peoples, who filed appeals stating that all requirements for the accreditation of party lists had been met and that the disqualification of Sulong Katribu was a measure to further marginalize and discriminate against the parties Indigenous Peoples. However, these appeals were also denied.
KATRIBU, the national alliance of the regional organization of Indigenous Peoples, recorded 37 cases of extrajudicial executions of Indigenous Peoples, 62 illegal arrests, 21 political prisoners, 20 incidents of forced evacuation that affected 21,966 Indigenous Peoples, more than a hundred people faced charges, and the forced closure of 34 Lumad schools since Duterte assumed the presidency in July 2016.
Possible progress for the Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines
2,600 Indians and Moro carried out successfully, under the SANDUGO movement of national minorities for self-determination, the second Lakbayan or Caravan of Protest of National Minorities for Self-Determination and Just Peace in Metro Manila.
As in many other areas of the world, Philippine Indigenous Peoples are being forced to defend their territories from extractivism; however, the main problem they are facing here is the State’s attempt to criminalise them through accusations of terrorism. Massacres, persecution of leaders, illegal arrests, false evidence and police and military repression are just some of the emerging consequences of the new Anti-Terrorism Law.
Deadly operations through coordinated police and military actions on Indigenous Peoples under Duterte’s regime in the Philippines must stop!
The population census conducted in the Philippines in 2010 for the first time included an ethnicity variable but no official figure for Indigenous Peoples has been released yet. The country’s Indigenous population thus continues to be estimated at between 10% and 20% of the national population of 100,981,437, based on the 2015 population census.
The Indigenous groups in the northern mountains of Luzon (Cordillera) are collectively known as Igorot while the groups on the southern island of Mindanao are collectively called Lumad. There are smaller groups collectively known as Mangyan in the island of Mindoro as well as smaller, scattered groups in the Visayas islands and Luzon, including several groups of hunter-gatherers in transition.
Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines have retained much of their traditional, pre-colonial culture, social institutions and livelihood practices. They generally live in geographically isolated areas with a lack of access to basic social services and few opportunities for mainstream economic activities, education or political participation. In contrast, commercially valuable natural resources such as minerals, forests and rivers can be found primarily in their areas, making them continuously vulnerable to development aggression and land grabbing.
GENEVA (28 January 2021) – UN human rights experts today called on Philippine authorities to drop a reportedly unwarranted murder charge against an indigenous rights defender who submitted himself to police after a “shoot to kill” order had been issued if he resisted arrest, and to ensure his safety and well-being while in custody.
Windel Bolinget speaking at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, Geneva
January 12, 2021
A trumped-up case of murder against Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) Chairperson, Mr. Windel Bolinget, was filed by a police officer in a court in Tagum City, Davao Del Norte, Philippines in 2020. The Cordillera Peoples Alliance learned that a warrant of arrest has been issued against Bolinget in relation to the case.