• Indigenous peoples in Philippines

    Indigenous peoples in Philippines

    The number of the Philippines’ indigenous peoples remains unknown, but it estimated to be between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of the 102.9 million national population.
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  • International human rights organizations condemn the recent Panay Massacre

International human rights organizations condemn the recent Panay Massacre

Deadly operations through coordinated police and military actions on Indigenous Peoples under Duterte’s regime in the Philippines must stop!

We the undersigned organisations across the world condemn the apparently extrajudicial execution of 9 Indigenous leaders, and the illegal arrest of 17 additional leaders and members of Tumanduk nga Mangunguma nga Nagapangapin sa Duta kag Kabuhi (TUMANDUK). The massacre took place in various villages in Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog, Iloilo in Panay Island, through a coordinated police and military operation on 30th December. We the undersigned organisations stand in solidarity with the Tumanduk of Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog, Iloilo in condemning the incident and seeking justice for the victims.

On 30th December 2020 when the holiday season was just beginning, 9 individuals were apparently extrajudicially executed, shot at point-blank range in their respective houses, and 17 were arrested and detained after having gone missing for 5 days. Reports from the community states that cellular phones were confiscated to restrain people from taking photos and videos of the summary execution. In one case the family members were forced out of their house and in other cases the military forcibly entered their homes and shot the leaders while they were sleeping.

Among the identified victims of the Tumandok massacre are Roy Giganto, Chairperson of the Tumandok IP Organization and member of KATRIBU’s National Council of Leaders and Councilor of their community; Mario Aguirre, former Chairperson of Tumanduk and Councilor of Barangay (village unit) Lahug, Tapaz; and Reynaldo Katipunan, Village Councilor of the same village. Out of the 17 arrested and detained, 6 of them are Indigenous women who are active members of Anggoy (an Indigenous women’s organization in Panay island).

Those killed were recognized leaders in their respective barangays. They were civilians and not armed combatants. These Tumandok communities have consistently opposed militarization and human rights violations in their localities and have advocated for the protection of their rights as an Indigenous People. These communities were active and vocal in resisting the construction of the Jalaur Mega Dam in Calinog, Iloilo and the Pan-ay mega dam in Tapaz, Capiz. The leaders and members of these Tumanduk communities have been red-tagged and accused by the military as members and supporters of the CPP-NPA (armed opposition group) because of active assertion of their rights. Just last month, the community leaders of Barangay Lahug and Tacayan sought the help of the Commission on Human Rights because their residents were being threatened by the Philippines Army and Philippines National Police (PNP) deployed in these barangays.

Roy Giganto (one of the killed leaders) became the subject of continuous military harassment and was forced to surrender as he was leading the resistance against the dam construction and leading their collective lands rights advocacy. It is not the first time that indigenous human rights activists are harassed and killed, but an increasing trend under the current government. SEMPO (Synchronized Enhanced Managing Police Operations) was conducted in Negros Island in December 2018 that resulted in the killing of 6 persons and the arrest of 31 indigenous activists. Before June 2020, a military officer threatened Roy Giganto and his community with the same fate of the Negros and Samar’s community, if they do not cooperate.

In June 2020, the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (IDPA) had summoned the civilian victims who were labeled as NPAs and asked to sign documents supposedly to "surrender" and "clear their names". Since they were not members of the NPA, and did not want to be considered as surrenderers, the Tumandoks refused to sign. Threats against them mounted, with soldiers who threatened them to be charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act. The community leaders stood their ground and clarified that they were Indigenous Peoples asserting their collective rights to their ancestral lands and self-determination.

Preliminary reports indicate that the search warrants used during the operation were issued by different courts in Metro Manila, particularly, the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 4, of Manila, presided by Judge Jose Lorenzo R. Dela Rosa, and Branch 18 of the same RTC, presided by Judge Carolina Icasiano Sison.

In the Philippines, Military and other paramilitary and security forces have quelled local resistance to development projects, resulting in wide-scale violations of their civil and political rights, including criminalization and vilification of their legitimate actions. The sinister designs in quelling local resistance often are use of threats, violence, judicial and other forms of harassment, arbitrary detentions, illegal arrests, evidence planting, eforced disappearances and summary executions.

The Tumandok of Iloilo, Tapaz and Capiz are only the latest in the long list of communities across the Philippines that have been attacked by security forces because of their advocacies in the field of human rights and resistances to projects which are detrimental to them.

In one of the statements condemning the incident, one of the leaders said that, ‘our fight against the construction of Jalaur and Pan-ay Dams have not ended yet, so we remain resolute in defending what’s left of our rivers and forests. Despite violence and threats, we will relentlessly and fiercely stand against corporate plunder and the destruction of the environment’. [i]

Such acts of blatant killings and gross violation of human rights occur in authoritarian regimes and is unexpected of in a democratic country. We strongly condemn the incident and stand in solidarity and support with the community whose human rights is grossly violated. We stand with them in seeking justice for the victims of the Panay Massacre. We stand in their struggle in advocating and advancing the rights of the Indigenous Peoples, in their struggle for self-determination, peace and justice. 

We call upon the government of Philippines to immediately conduct impartial and credible investigations. We call on the House of Representatives and Senate to conduct inquiries, especially on the persistent issuance of search warrants, conduct of police and military operations marred by summary executions and evidence-planting, and “systematic” conduct of these deadly operations as experienced in Samar, Negros, Metro Manila, and most recently in Panay Island.


  1. Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, AIPP, Chiang Mai, Thailand
  2. International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), Denmark
  3. Network of Indigenous Women in Asia, NIWA
  4. Bai Indigenous Women's Network, Philippines
  5. Project HEARD, the Netherlands
  6. Lawyers' Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP)
  7. The Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC, Malaysia)
  8. Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO), Uganda
  9. Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), Nepal
  10. Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education), Philippines
  11. RIDH-Red Internacional de Derechos Humanos
  12. Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Network, Bangladesh
  13. Witness Radio - Uganda
  14. Both ENDS, The Netherlands
  15. Oyu Tolgoi Watch
  16. Rivers without Boundaries Coalition, Mongolia
  17. Rivers without Boundaries Coalition
  18. Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples' Network on Climate Change and Biodiversity (BIPNet), Bangladesh
  19. Chin Human Rights Organization, Myanmar
  20. Friends of the Earth, USA
  21. The Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research (PODER) 
  22. Land is Life, USA
  23. CSDM – Centre for Sustainable Development in Mountainous Areas, Vietnam
  24. VTIK – Vietnam Indigenous Knowledge network
  25. Nationalities Youth Forum (Myanmar)
  26. Equitable Cambodia
  27. National Indigenous Disabled Women Association Nepal (NIDWAN)
  28. Nepal Indigenous Disabled Association (NIDA)
  29. International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP)
  30. International Indian Treaty Council, USA
  31. Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum
  32. ALTSEAN-Burma
  33. Indigenous World Association
  34. Na Koa Ikaka KaLahui Hawaii
  35. Avaaz-global campaign community
  36. Network of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand (NIPT)
  37. Indigenous Women's Network of Thailand (IWNT)
  38. Papora Indigenous Development Association, Taiwan
  39. Taiwan Ping-pu Indigenous groups youth Alliance, Taiwan
  40. CJC Timor-Leste
  41. Recourse, Netherlands 
  42. The Indigenous Environmental Network
  43. Porgera Alliance, Papua New Guinea
  44. Porgera Landowners Association, Papua New Guinea
  45. Sami Parliament, Norway
  46. Indigenous Women and Children Foundation, India
  47. Asia Indigenous Peoples Network on Extractive Industries and Energy (AIPNEE)
  48. Adivasi Women's Network, AWN, India
  49. SONIA for a Just New World, Italy
  50. AFPAT-Association des Femmes Peules Autochtones du Tchad
  51. Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee, IPACC
  52. SAGBO, Benin
  53. Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago, AMAN, Indonesia
  54. Chhattisgarh Tribal Peoples forum, India
  55. National Indigenous Women's Federation (NIWF), Nepal
  56. Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC)
  57. International Union for Conservation of Nature National Committee of The Netherlands (IUCN NL).
  58. Front Line Defenders
  59. SIGLO XXIII - El Salvador
  60. Rainforest Action Network
  61. Federación por la Autodeterminación de los Pueblos Indígenas FAPI
  62. IMPACT, Kenya
  64. Global Witness, UK
  65. Forest Peoples Programme, UK
  66. International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change
  67. Lelewal Foundation, Cameroon
  68. Center for support of indigenous peoples of the North (CSIPN), Russia
  69. GITPA - Groupe de travail pour les peuples autochtones, France 
  70. Chirapaq, Center of Indigenous Cultures of Peru
  71. Continental Network of Indigenous Women of the Americas- ECMIA
  72. Pastoral Communities Empowerment Programme (PACEP)
  73. Association of Indigenous Village Leaders in Suriname (VIDS)
  74. Manushya Foundation
  75. The Saami Council
  76. Nepal Indigenous Society for Indigeneity
  77. Nirmanee Development Foundation 
  78. Civil Society Women’s Organization, CSWO, Meghalaya, India 
  79. Lok Shakti Abhiyan, India
  80. Na Koa Ikaka KaLahui Hawaii 
  81. DIB, Denmark
  82. Center for Indigenous Peoples' Research and Development CIPRED, Nepal
  83. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  84. Friends of the Earth, Sweden
  85. The International Indigenous women’s forum (FIMI)
  86. Centre of Research & Development in Upland Area (CERDA), Vietnam
  87. Naga Women Union, India
  88. INPADE Instituto para la Participación y el Desarrollo,  Argentina
  89. TARA-Ping Pu, Taiwan
  90. CHIRAPAQ – Centro de Culturas Indígenas del Perú 
  91. Narasha Community Development Group
  92. Minority Rights Group International, UK 
  93. Human Rights Law Network, India
  94. Green Advocates International 
  95. CNS and Socialist Party (India) 
  96. National Fisheries Solidarity Movement, Sri Lanka
  97. International Commission of Jurists
  98. Human Rights Law Network, India
  99. Al-Haq, Palestine
  100. Inclusive Development International
  101. Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defenders (IPRHD) Network – Philippines
  102. Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples' Rights (TFIP)
  103. Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC)
  104. Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas
  105. Kabataan para sa Tribung Pilipino (KATRIBU Youth)
  106. Philippine Indigenous Peoples Community-Conserved Territories and Areas (ICCA) Consortium
  107. LILAK Purple Action for Indigenous Women's Rights
  108. Inged Fintaylan
  109. International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL)
  110. Protection International
  111. Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI)
  112. The Chittagong Hill Tracts Citizens Committee
  113. Association for the Integral Development of Victims of Violence in the Verapaces, Maya Achi. Guatemala - ADIVIMA
  114. Jus Semper
  115. Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples, North America
  116. Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente, AIDA (regional organization)
  117. FESPAD -El Salvador
  118. Due Process of Law Foundation, Washington, D.C.
  119. Mining Watch Canada
  120. Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN)
  121. ICCA Consortium


  1. (Mr. Chupinit Kesmanee), Chairperson, Inter-Mountain Peoples Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT)
  2. Aashish Xaxa, Visiting Assistant Professor,Institute of Public Policy,National Law School of India University,Bengaluru
  3. Rani Yan Yan, Advisor, Chakma Circle, Bangladesh
  4. Devasish Roy, Chief of Chakma, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh
  5. Binota Moy Dhamai, Member, AIPP Executive Council and Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum.
  6. William Nokrek, Asia Pacific Coordinator, International Movement of Catholic Students-Pax Romana
  7. Ms Ruth V Spencer, Local community  Advocate  from Antigua and Barbuda
  8. Francisco Rosado May
  9. Kenneth Deer
  10. Jaykishan Godsora, India


[i]For more information visit




IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting and defending Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Read more.

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