APPEAL. Secretary Allen Capuyan (right), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) chairperson, appeals to the United Nations to listen and appreciate all of the country’s efforts in promoting and protecting indigenous peoples’ rights. Capuyan, in his speech during a side event of the 42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday, said the Philippine government is a promoter and protector of the rights of every Filipino citizen. (Contributed photo)
MANILA — Contrary to claims made by Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) and its allies, the Philippine government is not the enemy of the country’s Indigenous Peoples (IPs) but their staunchest partner and protector.
This, according to Secretary Allen Capuyan, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) chairperson, in his speech during a side event of the 42nd session of the United Nations Human Right Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday.
Efforts to demonize the Philippines, Capuyan said, is part of the ongoing efforts of “certain interest groups” who are working to overthrow the country’s democratic institutions and using alleged abuses committed against IPs as one of their weapons.
“In every UNHRC session, they have waged massive heavily funded disinformation campaigns that purvey falsehoods on alleged human rights violations by the Philippine government against indigenous peoples, with the sole objective of shaming our country before the eyes of the world,” he said.
Capuyan added that it high time that the Philippines do something about the lies and deception being perpetrated by the CPP-NPA concerning the government’s alleged ill-treatment of IPs.
The government is combating these lies by telling the truth, he added.
“The Philippine government is a promoter, protector, and fulfiller of the rights of every Filipino citizen, especially its indigenous peoples. And it does so guided by a clear normative framework on indigenous peoples rights,” he said.
This is proven by the country’s adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ especially on its inclusivity provision on the coverage of rights and freedoms, principles which Philippine commitment remains firm and unwavering, Capuyan said.
“We are a State party to the eight-core human rights instruments, foremost in this regard is the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as it applies to indigenous Filipino peoples,” he said.
This, he said, is very important as these are the foundations that define the 1987 Philippine Constitution as a human rights and freedom instrument.
“In 1997, from out of these directions emerged the Indigenous People’s Rights Act, predating the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by 10 years,” he added.
Capuyan is also pleased to note the country has set appropriate mechanisms to protect its IPs.
Part of this effort is the creation of the NCIP which is mandated as the Philippines’ lead agency to recognize, promote and protect the well-being of IP with due regard to their customs and traditions, he said.
“The State-led Indigenous People’s Participation Framework sustains the active involvement of Indigenous Peoples in government decision-making, especially in self and community development,” he added.
With these mechanisms in place, Capuyan said significant milestones for the IPs have been obtained like recognition of the indigenous right to native titles, the sustainability of development and protection of ancestral domains, mandatory representation of indigenous peoples in local governments, recognition of indigenous governance structures and systems, and improved access to education.
“These milestones are reflected in the Philippines’ periodic reports to the UN, specifically to the UNHRC under its Universal Periodic Review, as well as in State compliance reports that are regularly submitted to the relevant treaty bodies. And we are proud that the Philippines is now in its fifth term as a member of the UNHRC,” he added.
CPP-NPA threats destroying PH gains
While the Philippine government can be commended for its sterling achievements in promoting and protecting IP rights, its human rights obligations are being threatened by the CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front (NDF).
“However, as the Philippines takes pride in what it has done and achieved thus far in promoting, protecting and fulfilling the rights of its indigenous peoples, it continues to confront threats that disrupt the State’s effective compliance with its human rights obligations. And these threats come from local terrorism perpetrated by the CPP-NPA-NDF. This triumvirate is referred with disdain as the Communist Terrorist Groups or CTGs,” he said.
Capuyan added that atrocities committed by communist rebels and their allies have resulted in the summary execution, enforced disappearance and thousands of IP leaders and members over the past 50 years.
“There has been a genocide of members of indigenous communities, including beheading/ mutilation even inside places of worship,” he added.
Aside from these, there is an ongoing effort to indoctrinate IP children to terrorism through hate speech, exploitation, including sexual abuse by the CPP-NPA and its allies.
“Our IP children have been taken away from their families and communities and trained as armed combatants and as makers of bombs/explosives. Our IP children have been trafficked and sexually abused; with so-called human rights defenders being caught red-handed. Our IP children and youth with high scholastic marks have especially been targeted for recruitment,” Capuyan disclosed.
He added that IP leaders are being forcibly replaced and even killed so that their posts can be given to communist lackeys and sympathizers.
“They have also been used in kangaroo courts to sentence fellow IPs for execution. And IPs have also been deprived of their right to suffrage,” he revealed.
Aside from efforts to eradicate and replace legitimate IP leaderships with their supporters, he said communist rebels have also established camps and strongholds inside sacred ancestral domains.
“Our ancestral lands have been converted as detention farms for indigenous peoples who oppose terrorists. Our policy of Free and Prior Informed Consent has been totally disregarded. And labor and safety equipment in indigenous communities have been destroyed,” said Capuyan who is also an IP by blood as he comes from the Manobo Tribe of Agusan del Sur,
Aside from these encroachments, communist rebels and their sympathizers have been hard at work coercing IP youths and students into joining violent political and terrorist actions against the government, he said.
“IP groups have been mobilized in support of terrorist cells. And our revered indigenous term ‘Bagani’ has been misused to refer to terrorist death squads,” he added.
The CPP-NPA is also destroying IPs means of livelihood by extortion and by destroying their properties if they refused to give in to the rebels’ illegal demands, he lamented.
Reds misrepresenting IPs
What is much worse, he said, is the misrepresentation of IP as anti-state supporters of the communist groups in international forums.
“IP issues have been falsely used to vilify government in international forums, such as the UNHRC, resulting in weakening the integrity of the same as a human rights institution,” Capuyan said.
He added that all these abuses can be confirmed voluntarily by the IP themselves.
“I wish to emphasize that the CTGs which are behind the human rights abuses and atrocities against our Indigenous Peoples are unwittingly supported by funds from international donors,” he said.
Capuyan said the Philippine government deeply respects the important role of the IPs.
“We highlight the importance of protecting the civil society space from abuse by those who purport to be human rights defenders but who actually perpetrate these atrocities against our indigenous peoples,” he said as he appealed to the UN to listen and appreciate all of the country’s efforts in promoting and protecting IP rights.
“I call on the various Permanent Missions, the UN Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts, and especially no less than the High Commissioner on Human Rights to listen and appreciate the truth regarding the Philippines’ efforts to promote, protect and fulfill of the rights of IP in the Philippines,” he added.
He also called on all Permanent Missions to tell their capitals not to support the front organizations of the CPP-NPA-NDF.
“And I make a special call for Permanent Missions to convey this truth to their capitals not to support the front organizations of the Communist terrorist groups,” he said.
“We need you in this human rights campaign. Thank you for having the time to listen, and the heart to act with resolve,” Capuyan said.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United Kingdom, European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)