By VENMAR CECILLE
MANILA – Advocates, development workers, and indigenous peoples from the Cordillera region are calling for an investigation on the intensifying human rights violations in Northern Luzon that have resulted in the displacement of indigenous peoples communities.
Windel Bolinget of the Cordillera People’s Alliance said the consecutive aerial bombings in the communities of Balbalan and Pinukpuk, where indigenous peoples communities are rejecting the construction of dams, constitute violations of human rights and the international humanitarian law, directly affecting about 60 families.
Bolinget said the livelihoods of the families are affected and schools are forced to close due to the physical, emotional, and psychological damages brought by the bombings to the communities.
Bolinget is part of a delegation of advocates who went to Manila to shed light on the human rights situation there. They have called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the House of Representatives to conduct investigations.
During the protest in front of the CHR, two men in civilian clothes took photos of the protesters and falsely identified themselves as part of the government rights body’s security personnel.
Advocates brought with them documented incidents of bombings and strafing in the communities of Baggao, Cagayan and Gawaan, Kalinga on Jan. 20 and Mar. 5, respectively.
According to Bolinget, the attacks aim to sow fear in the communities who reject the impending dams in Kalinga and the entry of mining firms.
Last year, the Department of Energy approved five dam projects that will affect the municipalities of Balbalan and Pinukpuk, which the residents strongly opposed.
The approved dam projects also put the indigenous peoples at a great disadvantage in defending their ancestral lands. The CPA said those resisting these projects are subjected to terrorist tagging.
Meanwhile, Panaghiusa Philippine Network to Uphold IPs’ Rights reported that there are cases of fake surrenders in Ilocos region.
“There are four senior citizens who were forced to pose in a picture holding guns in return for relief goods,” their group said.
This is on top of the trumped-up charges of rebellion accused of the members of the rights groups based in the Cordillera and Ilocos regions.
“The cases filed since the administration of Rodrigo Duterte, combined with those from the current administration, must be scrutinized and the perpetrators held accountable,” CPA stated.