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Macli-ing Dulag Monument: Stop The Demolition, Stop The “Disrespect” To Igorot People

Over 250 global and local groups pledge to defend Cordillera

On Indigenous People’s month, more than 250 human rights and civil society organisations from all over the world expressed “support for the defense of the Cordillera region in the Philippines—the people, their land, heritage, and right to self-determination.” More than 600 individuals and organisations from North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia signed an online global pact amid intensifying attacks against the Igorot people indigenous to Northern Philippines.

“We sign this global pact both as an expression of support to their struggles and a condemnation of continuing attacks against their land and lives. In the indigenous tradition of community solidarity we signify our unity and commitment to the Cordillera people”, says Peter Murphy, a rights advocate based in Australia and the current chairperson of International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP).

According to the pact, development aggression and violations of indigenous peoples’ rights persist in the Cordillera. Their ancestral lands continue to be treated as a resource base for profit by the State working hand in glove with multinational corporations. Large-scale mining, dams, energy, and other foreign projects are masqueraded as ‘development’ at the expense of indigenous peoples’ self-determination and human rights.

Most recent of these attacks is the threat from the Philippine government to demolish the monument of Macli-ing Dulag, Pedro Dungoc, Lumbaya Gayudan and other local heroes. The marker was installed in 2017 to honour the historic resistance against the World Bank-funded Chico Dam in the Northern Philippines.

“The heroes' monument, built through the joint undertaking by the martyr's family, the communities, and the Cordillera People's Alliance (CPA), is a legacy and reminder of the bravery of those who stood in all forms of resistance from people's movements to armed struggle,” says Beverly Longid, global coordinator of International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), and a co-signatory of the global pact.

This October, the Philippine government through the executive office of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) issued a notice to remove the heroes’ monument citing issues of encroachment, despite the fact that it was constructed on ancestral land. Related maneuvers from the police were documented. General Rwin Pagkalinawan, chief of the Cordillera police, visited the community where the monument is located and forced the issuance of a resolution condemning the CPA.

Signatories of the global pact said that both efforts of the government are directed to sanitize and disrespect the Cordillera's history of struggle while invalidating the contribution of indigenous activist groups defending ancestral lands.

“This misplaced priority reeks of disrespect to indigenous people's heritage and their long history of struggle. We are appalled by the government’s concerns during this pandemic. Filipinos and Cordillera people are demanding medical and economic support and the last thing they need is for the State to make a mockery of their heroes,” says American citizen Brandon Lee, also a signatory of the pact. Targeted by state-authorities for his human rights work in the Philippines, Lee survived an assassination attempt in Ifugao, Philippines in August last year and is still recovering from the attack.

The same organisations behind the #DefendCordilleraPH global pact started a petition to stop the demolition of the heroes monument, which has now garnered more than 4000 signatures. According to the online petition, it has already been more than three years since the monument was built, saying that the government's sudden maneuvers to dismantle it are but questionable. “These heroes died from the hands of the government and now their legacy is bound to be killed once more. This is downright tyranny!” says the petition which is currently hosted by online platform Change.org.

“These global initiatives are just the start. We are encouraging our fellow human rights advocates, and all peace-loving peoples of the world to stand with the Cordillera people. If we don’t act now this could mean not only the erasure of their heroic history but the eventual ethnocide of our Igorot brothers and sisters,” Murphy

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