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Indigenous Peoples, National Minorities And CARHRIHL

Last March 16, staff members of the ILPS Commission 10 joined Seeing through the lens of CARHRIHL: A Forum in commemoration of the 26th year of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and its continuing significance to uphold human rights and the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

Sponsored by Karapatan )Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights), the forum discussed and discerned the situation of human rights in the Philippines and the need to continuously lay the ground for a just and lasting peace.

Reports and stories of the human rights situation on the ground were shared by Jeverlyn Seguin, KASAMA TK a peasant organization in Southern Tagalog, Philippines referring to her traumatic experience in dealing with the desecration of remains by the government military and the reports of aerial bombardment and community harassment.

Heavy militarization and fake surrenders among farmers and fisherfolk in Ilocos Region was shared by Genaro dela Cruz of Ilocos Human Rights Alliance. Coming from the province of the current president Bongbong Marcos Jr., he historicized how the targeted attack on peasant and human rights workers campaigning against corruption, for land and peoples rights later on led to the terrorist-tagging and vilification of Ilocos activists, including himself.

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More recently, the IHL violation trend of “fake surrender” of activists and civilians paraded as armed rebel returnees resonated personally to the story of Jonila Castro of AKAP KA Manila Bay. She recounted how she and her companion Jhed Tamano were first abducted, coerced and tortured to terrorist-tag their organization and community work before eventually coming out strong in denouncing the military.

Continuing significance

Dean Tony La Vina of Council of Leaders for Peace Initiatives and Cristina Palabay of Karapatan shared on the history of CARHRIHL and how the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) entered into the agreement.

The concession made by both parties is seen as a confidence booster in showing sincerity to talk about genuine, just and lasting peace, as viewed by the speakers. It also underscored how the existing national and international laws were just reiterated in CARHRIHL, but became a powerful tool for local people in asserting their lives and rights. Like any other good meaning laws, the big challenge remains in its implementation and monitoring.

With the recent public expression of both parties to explore the resumption of peace talks, youth activists Carhrihl Aguilar of Artista ng Rebolusyong Pangkultura (Artists for the Cultural Revolution) and senior rights defender Tata Pido Gonzales of Hustisya remains hopeful that the Filipino people can achieve peace, justice and accountability.

CARHRIHL, IP and national minorities in search of peace

The reality of war and conflict is deep and present for Indigenous Peoples and national minorities across the globe. There are some who fight in the name of their identity, their land, territories, resources and self-determination as Indigenous Peoples. Some IP and national minorities are part of liberation armed groups. In some cases, they organize their own armed and freedom groups. Inter-tribal and inter-group wars also exist in different countries.

During the celebration of the 27th Cordillera Day in Abra in April 2011, the first Joint Peace Consultation between the GPH and the NDFP was hosted and participated by grassroots indigenous people’s organizations.

It resulted in recommendations… for the people to support the peace negotiations between the GRP/GPH and NDFP, and actively engage both Parties to address the roots of the armed conflict, specifically the exploitation and oppression of IPs, for a just and lasting peace; and

for both Parties to conduct continuing consultations and dialogues with IP particularly at the grassroots level, and institute responsive mechanisms and reforms especially the GRP/GPH – being the Party in power.

With the US-backed war on terror and counter-insurgency onslaught adopted by local subservient governments, IP and national minorities, like the Bangsamoro people, directly and indirectly carry the brunt of HR and IHL violations. Highest cases of forced displacement, recruitment, rape, killing of civilians and destruction of livelihood remains recorded in IP and minority areas.

The non-recognition and violation of the right to ancestral land and self-determination continues, especially with the aggressive profit–driven “development projects”. Villages remain militarized to pave the way for land and resource encroachment.

Under the banner of respect for their right to self-determination, the Bangsamoro people have never waned their demand to stop militarization of Moro areas and forcible massive displacement of Moro civilians in the guise of making Moro communities terrorist-free.

Indigenous Peoples remain active in calling for the Philippine government to abandon its counter-insurgency programs, pursue peace negotiations, and ensure the implementation of CARHRIHL to ensure civilians and combatants declared hors de combat are protected in the course of armed conflict.# Read on our website: Reference: ILPS Commission 10

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