The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) has called for a stop to human rights violations against indigenous people.
In a statement dated January 20, the group said they are “deeply distressed” by the way in which human rights violations have been committed against indigenous people who defend the environment from development aggression.
“Increasingly in our nation, the rule of law is manipulated to persecute the poor and to attack those who advocate for them including indigenous people advocating for the preservation of the integrity of God’s creation,” said NCCP.
The group cited the killings of nine indigenous people’s leaders and the arbitrary arrest of 17 individuals who were their colleagues in the Tumanduk nga Mangunguma nga Nagapangapin sa Duta kag Kabuhi (TUMANDUK) which took place in Panay last December 30, 2020.
“Their community was actively struggling against the Jalaur Mega Dam project. Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Carlos, observed that the massacre of the Tumandok is similar to the massacre of six and the mass arrest of 26 in the towns of Guihulngan, Mabinay, and Sta. Catalina in Negros Oriental in December 2018 as well as the killing of 14 farmers in the island in March 2019,” NCCP said.
“Not only was the ‘nanlaban’ scenario used by the police to justify the killings, the TUMANDUK members were also ‘red-tagged,”‘ the group added.
The NCCP said they echo the call of the Roman Catholic bishops from Western Visayas for the unconditional release of the 17 Tumandoks and the impartial investigation of the Tumandok 9 Massacre.
The group also called for the withdrawal of the manufactured charges that have been brought against Windell Bolinget and for an end to the harassment and red tagging of indigenous activists.
According to NCCP, Bolinget, the Chairperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), has been falsely accused of killing Gariti Malibato on March 22, 2018 together with nine other people.
“This most recent manufactured case against Mr Bolinget is part of a long history of harassment and intimidation including red-tagging, that is being conducted by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) against Mr Bolinget and other indigenous activists and human rights defenders,” the group said.