Print Version    Email to Friend
Indigenous people nominated for global rights award

MANILA (UCAN) : The indigenous people of the southern Philippine region of Mindanao, collectively known as the Lumad, have been nominated for an annual human rights award in Belgium.

The nomination came after some 3,000 indigenous people fled their homes in fear of attacks by armed militias to seek refuge in temporary shelters in the provinces of Surigao del Sur and Davao del Norte.

The award, which is being presented by Stop the Killings, an alliance of trades union, non-government organisations and solidarity movements in Belgium, aims to “draw attention to the rising trend of environmental defenders who have faced attacks (and) have become victims of extrajudicial killings.”

The Belgian non-government groups, Solidagro, Third World Health Aid, and 11.11.11 nominated the tribal people of Mindanao who “have long been at the mercy of military brutalities.”

The nominating groups said the indigenous people in Mindanao are victims of abuse, because of their resistance to the entry of mining companies into their communities.

The groups said in a statement that attacks on indigenous communities in Mindanao started when the government opened up land to mining investments in traditional indigenous areas, to which the people have control by Philippine law.

They noted that 80 per cent of all 131 mining permits issued in Mindanao cover tribal land.

Also nominated for the award, which will be announced on December 18 in Brussels, are workers in Palmeras of Colombia, the Maxima Acuna in Peru and the Association of Mayan Lawyers in Guatemala.

Jhong Monzon, the spokesperson for Pasaka, said on October 22 that an indigenous peoples’ organisation in Mindanao has been nominated for the award, which underscores the situation of terror experienced by Mindanao’s tribal people.

In a statement, Stop the Killings said the nomination is a “just recognition of their right to fight for their ancestral lands and self-determination, and that their struggle has been borne out of their social and political awareness.”

The statement adds, “For standing in the way of development, the Lumad have been accused of being anti-development and enemies of the state, hence, becoming targets of military operations.”

Katribu, a national alliance of Philippine indigenous people, said at least 70 tribal leaders, most of them Lumad from Mindanao, have been killed since June 2010.

The group also recorded 99 cases of harassment, 22 cases of arrest of tribal leaders, nine incidents of bombing of communities and farmlands, and 54 cases of forced evacuation in Mindanao tribal communities.