PENANG, Malaysia – We respect the authority of the Philippine government to promote the security of the country. But we are concerned that in the course of fulfilling this duty, some of its moves could harm the human rights of the people. These include those whom we have been working with in advancing the rights of indigenous people, farmers and other rural sectors in the Philippines and in the region.
As advocates of the people’s rights to land and resources, we were surprised and alarmed with the inclusion of personalities that represent legitimate institutions, regional networks and people’s organizations in a list of supposed ‘terrorists’ prepared by the Philippine Justice ministry.
In our campaigns to stop land grabbing, promote food sovereignty and agroecology, and advance the rights and welfare of rural women, we have engaged in various ways with the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, Asian Indigenous People’s Pact (AIPP), International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), and the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD). We have also worked with the Philippine peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and human rights alliance Karapatan.
That current and former officials of these institutions, networks and organizations are being tagged as terrorists by the Justice ministry is deeply upsetting. We have witnessed the legitimacy of their work and methods in carrying out advocacy to challenge official programs and projects that undermine the access and control of rural communities, including of indigenous people, over their own land and resources.
There is nothing ‘terroristic’ in what they do or in how they do it. On the contrary, they are helping to protect the poor and marginalized rural communities from the ‘terrorism’ of land and resource grabbing and wrong agricultural and rural policies through lobbying, public education, research and documentation, and community mobilization.
Further, many of those in the list are not even the real or legal names of the people being accused of terrorism. This makes any indigenous person, farmer and land activist – or any Filipino critical of the government, for that matter – a vulnerable target of repression.
We are disturbed by this development as we note how increasingly difficult it has become for land rights advocates in the region, especially in the Philippines, to work without fearing for their life and liberty. In our monitoring of human rights violations related to land conflicts, we recorded at least 155 victims of political killings and 329 victims of arrest, detention and legal persecution in Asia and other regions in the past 13 months. Eighty-nine of the victims of killings were monitored in the Philippines.
We strongly urge the Philippine government to rethink the list that its Justice ministry submitted to a local court and made public. The list could be used to justify the attacks by state forces or other groups on those named in the list and hamper their ability to perform their advocacy for the Filipino people whose lands are being unjustly and violently taken away in the name of profits for a few. #
Reference: Ms. Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org)