On Indigenous People’s Month, more than 250 human rights and civil society organizations from all over the world pledged to defend the impending demolition of Macli-ing Dulag’s monument erected by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) along the national road in honor of his heroism for resisting the infamous Chico Dam project.
More than 600 individuals and organizations from North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia recently signed an online global pact amid intensifying attacks against the Igorot people indigenous to the Northern Philippines.
“We sign this global pact both as an expression of support to their struggles and a condemnation of continuing attacks against their land and lives. In the indigenous tradition of community solidarity we signify our unity and commitment to the Cordillera people”, Peter Murphy, a rights advocate based in Australia and the current chairperson of International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), said in a statement.
According to the pact, development aggression and violations of indigenous peoples’ rights persist in the Cordillera.
“Their ancestral lands continue to be treated as a resource base for profit by the State working hand in glove with multinational corporations. Large-scale mining, dams, energy, and other foreign projects are masqueraded as ‘development’ at the expense of indigenous peoples’ self-determination and human rights,” it said.
During the previous weeks, the Provincial Advisory Council (PAC) of the Kalinga Provincial Police Office (KPPO) agreed to request the provincial government through the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Committee on Oversight to pass an ordinance for the removal of the marker of the three local heroes built within the road right of way (RROW) of a national road.
Aside from Dulag, two other tribal leaders, Pedro Dungoc and Lumbaya Gayudan’s special markers were also erected along the Mt. Province boundary-Calanan-Pinukpuk-Abbut Road.
A report said KPPO Director PCol. Davy Vicente Limmong also wrote to PAC Chairman Engr. Andres Ngao-I urging the Council to look into this project, which he said is in violation of Provincial Ordinance No. 2017-003 declaring Barangay Bugnay as “Heritage Village” and the provisions of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) guidelines.
The NHCP guidelines provides that “No monument sponsored by any private individual, organization, or the honoree’s kin shall be allowed on any public space, unless the same is intended as a donation to the government and is sanctioned by a national government agency or local government unit, subject further to public acceptance and approval of a board resolution by the sanctioning government agency.”
This October, the national government, through the executive office of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), also issued a notice to remove the heroes’ monument citing issues of encroachment, despite the fact that it was constructed on ancestral land.
General Rwin Pagkalinawan, chief of the Cordillera police, visited the community where the monument is located and forced the issuance of a resolution condemning the CPA.
“The heroes’ monument, built through the joint undertaking by the martyr’s family, the communities, and the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), is a legacy and reminder of the bravery of those who stood in all forms of resistance from people’s movements to armed struggle,” Beverly Longid, global coordinator of International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), and a co-signatory of the global pact, said.
Signatories of the global pact said that both efforts of the government are directed to sanitize and disrespect Cordillera’s history of struggle while invalidating the contribution of indigenous activist groups defending ancestral lands.
“This misplaced priority reeks of disrespect to indigenous people’s heritage and their long history of struggle. We are appalled by the government’s concerns during this pandemic. Filipinos and Cordillera people are demanding medical and economic support and the last thing they need is for the State to make a mockery of their heroes,” American citizen Brandon Lee, also a signatory of the pact, added.
Targeted by state-authorities for his human rights work in the Philippines, Lee survived an assassination attempt in Ifugao, Philippines in August last year and is still recovering from the attack.
The same organizations behind the #DefendCordilleraPH global pact started a petition to stop the demolition of the heroes monument, which has now garnered more than 4,000 signatures.
According to the online petition, it has already been more than three years since the monument was built, saying that the government’s sudden maneuvers to dismantle it are but questionable.
“These global initiatives are just the start. We are encouraging our fellow human rights advocates, and all peace-loving peoples of the world to stand with the Cordillera people. If we don’t act now this could mean not only the erasure of their heroic history but the eventual ethnocide of our Igorot brothers and sisters,” Murphy said.