Twenty-six years after the implementation of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 or Republic Act 8371, Indigenous Peoples (IP) in the Philippines remain under attack, the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples Rights (TFIPR) said.
The group is blaming the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for allegedly failing to promote IP rights—sometimes against police and military “aggression.”
In a statement issued to mark the 26th anniversary of the enactment of IPRA, the group said human rights violations against IPs and their advocates persist, adding that IP rights to self-determination and ancestral lands are neglected.
The reported plunder of ancestral territories and misrepresentation of indigenous culture and political institutions allegedly are tolerated and dissent by the IPs against destructive projects and repressive policies and actions are allegedly criminalized.
According to the group, the NCIP, which was created through Republic Act No. 837A or IPRA in 1997, allegedly remain silent amid intensified attacks against the IPs and rights defenders.
“They remain indifferent to the current issues confronted by Indigenous Peoples, such as the Anti-Terrorism Council’s malicious designation of Cordillera Peoples Alliance leaders as terrorists, abduction of Bontoc-Ibaloi-Kankanaey Dexter Capuyan and advocate Bazoo De Jesus, illegal detention of advocates Mary Joyce Lizada and Arnulfo Aumentado, continuing incarceration of Manobo Leader Julieta Gomez and advocate Niezel Velasco, construction of so-called development projects in indigenous communities, and community bombings,” the group stressed.
“We challenge recently installed NCIP Chairperson Jennifer Sibug-las to uphold the NCIP’s mandates and #StandWithIP in protecting their land, life, and resources. We must, at all times, defend the rights of the Indigenous Peoples and their advocates to ensure the preservation and transfer of indigenous culture and knowledge, especially on environmental protection. Stop state terrorism and systematic attacks in indigenous communities. Acknowledge the Indigenous Peoples’ struggles as legitimate actions in exercising their rights,” the group said.
For its part, the youth group Katribu said the law that is supposed to protect IPs is not helping protect and promote the welfare of IPs.