Lawmaker calls for end to discrimination against IPs, respect for their rights

Lawmaker calls for end to discrimination against IPs, respect for their rights
A group of Lumads, including students from Salugpongan, on Nov. 4, 2019 visited the House of Representatives to support the resolution filed the same day by party-list Rep. Eufemia Cullamat (Bayan Muna) calling for an investigation on the closure of Lumad schools.
Salugpongan, Release

MANILA, Philippines — On the celebration of International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples on Sunday, a House lawmaker called for an end to the discrimination of IPs and the protection of their rights. 

Rep. Eufemia Cullamat (Bayan Muna) said in a statement issued Sunday: "Today, hundreds of thousands of Indigenous Peoples are making their stand known for the end of discrimination against the country’s minority."

The Lumad leader cried foul over the continued closure of Lumad schools and what she said was the encroachment into ancestral lands for mining ang large-scale plantations.

RELATED: Lumads, Makabayan bloc urge House probe into schools closure

"Defend our ancestral land. Defend our rights. [The administration] is putting first measures that are inhumane and do not cater to the needs of the people, including the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and now, the death penalty, instead of laying down clear plans to protect the people from severe hunger due to the virus," she said. 

"We've historically been in a difficult situation, but we remain strong in our struggle knowing we are aware we are not alone in this fight," she added. 

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples held an online celebration on Sunday morning themed "Katutubong Kaalaman, Sistema at Pamamaraan sa Bagong Karaniwan" as a way to "recognize the history, struggles, and victories of the IPs nationwide especially at this present time."

Cullamat called for the celebrations to serve as a reminder of the sector's continued struggle for self-determination.

RELATED: For Lumad schools, even holding class is a struggle | NYC: Schools closure should not compromise Lumad education

The Save Our Schools Network on Saturday called out the same NCIP for holding a webinar that it said spread "false information and malicious propaganda...[that] discredits various IP organizations," including the SOS Network, Katribu, Sandugo and Sabokohan.

It said that the NCIP, in a web forum on August 5, "discredited verified IP and non-IP organizations along with other NGOs...by accusing them as fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and altogether a hindrance to the development of indigenous communities." It pointed out that the organziations named by NCIP have been resisting intrusion of industries into ancestral land.

"The report, instead of highlighting important ongoing issues surrounding indigenous peoples, vilified and demeaned the valuable efforts of all organizations, advocates, and volunteers who continue to work hard to help the Lumad community and other IP communities," SOS Network said.

"Even worse, the NCIP invalidated and refused to acknowledge the actual struggles that many Lumad experienced. This is grave black propaganda being spread against the very institutions that are committed to truly protecting the rights of Lumad peoples," it said.

'Historical position of disadvantage'

In early July, the Bangsamoro Parliament passed a resolution urging the chief executive to veto the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill, which has since been signed into law, arguing that it would lead to abuses and would unfairly target Muslim Filipinos who have historically faced religious discrimination.

Representatives of indigenous and Moro peoples have raised the same objections in a petition against the anti-terrorism law filed on Friday.

READ: Citing long struggle to self-determination, indigenous, Moro peoples assail anti-terror law

"This historical position of disadvantage along with the government’s neglect to respect and recognize indigenous peoples’ rights [has] often found government and indigenous peoples at opposing ends of huge government projects," the petitioners said.

Global Witness, an international non-government organization found that the Philippines in 2019 recorded the highest number yet of land and environment defenders who were murdered in a single year with 212 land and environmental defenders killed in 2019, or an average of more than four people a week.

"The relentless vilification of defenders by the government and widespread impunity for their attackers may well be driving the increase," the nonprofit said in its report which was released in late July. — Franco Luna

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