ASEAN lawmakers condemn killing of indigenous activist

Protesters, mostly indigenous peoples known as "Lumads," gather at the Department of Justice to repeal charges of possession of firearms, explosives and even murder Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 in Manila, Philippines. The protesters also demand President Rodrigo Duterte to step down over his dictator-style rule.

AP/Bullit Marquez

ASEAN lawmakers condemn killing of indigenous activist

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - March 12, 2018 - 3:19pm
MANILA, Philippines — A group of Southeast Asian lawmakers raised alarm over the killing of an Ifugao tribal leader and activist which reflects the threat against land and environmental rights defenders in the Philippines.
The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), a group of Southeast Asian lawmakers working to improve human rights, called for an investigation into the killing of environmental activist Ricardo Pugong Mayumi.
Earlier this month, Mayumi was shot dead at his home in Ifugao province. The victim was leading the Ifugao Peasant Movement, which strongly opposed a major hydropowerplant project in the in his hometown of Tinoc, Ifugao.
"This case is emblematic of the grave dangers faced by Filipinos, particularly those from indigenous communities, who choose to exercise their fundamental rights as they seek to protect their land, natural resources, and livelihoods," APHR Board Member Eva Kusuma Sundari said in a statement released Monday. Sundari is also a member of the Indonesian House of Representatives.
The ASEAN parliamentarians noted that the Philippines has been the deadliest country in Asia for land and environmental rights defenders in the past three years and that the case of Mayumi is one of a larger number of similar killings.
In 2017, 41 land environmental rights defenders were killed in the Philippines, out of the total 200 murdered globally, according to NGO Global Witness.
"It’s dangerous to be an environmental rights defender anywhere in the world these days, but especially in the Philippines, where large corporations are increasingly trampling on community lands and livelihoods, and impunity too often reigns. It is also deeply distressing that the government appears actively hostile to the idea of protecting human rights defenders," Sundari said.

UN rapporteur in terror list

The Southeast Asian lawmakers also expressed concern over the inclusion of United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz on the list submitted by the Department of Justice to be tagged as "terrorist organizations."
Tauli-Corpuz, along with alleged members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army were included on the DOJ's list.
"This is a deeply dangerous move by the government. In a context where indigenous people put their lives on the line each and every day to defend their rights, labeling them as ‘terrorists’ adds insult to injury and further undermines their security and basic rights," APHR Board Member and former Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said.
The threat against indigenous and environmental activists goes beyond the Philippines and extends across the region, the ASEAN parliamentarians said.
In January, three Cambodians, including conservation workers, were shot dead after a confrontation with illegal loggers. An indigenous activist was also killed in Thailand last year.
The APHR warned that corporate elites see the environment as a poaching ground.
"As ASEAN integration proceeds apace, we must work as a region to make sure that the benefits do not accrue only to the elite and corporations, but also to people at the grassroots. Safeguards are needed to ensure that local communities do not continue to be victimized and attacked for demanding their rights," Bello said.
Bello added that multinational corporations, which are usually linked to these incidents, need to take responsibility while lawmakers are expected to put safeguards for local communities.

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