DC Pinoy groups press stop to mining-related human rights abuses

News Philippines Dec 14, 2012 at 3:57 pm

(Petition delivery part of “National Day of Action” calling on Philippine government to hold military accountable for Tampakan Massacre and other acts of violence against indigenous people’s resistance to foreign large-scale mining on their lands.)

WASHINGTON, DC – On Monday, December 10—a day officially recognized as International Human Rights Day—representatives from DC-area Filipino community groups delivered a letter and a petition demanding that the Philippine government hold the Armed Forces of the Philippines accountable in the deaths of an indigenous, anti-mining advocate’s pregnant wife and young children. The petition, which was signed by supporters around the globe, also called for the Philippine government to end the large-scale mining industry’s exploitation of indigenous lands and for U.S. taxpayer dollars to stop being directed to military activities resulting in gross violation of human rights in the Philippines.

The DC-area groups that participated in the petition delivery included KATARUNGAN, a Filipino human rights advocacy group, and ILAW DC, a women’s group focused on organizing and empowering Filipinas in the metro DC area. Filipino human rights groups held similar actions on the Tampakan massacre and the large-scale mining issue in cities across the country including San Francisco, Portland, and New York City. The December 10 “Day of Action” marked the culmination of a week of mobilization efforts that included call-ins to the Philippine Embassy and a social media campaign to generate petition signatures and educate the public of the continuing human rights violations occurring in the Philippines because of destructive large-scale foreign mining projects.
The KATARUNGAN and ILAW DC representatives who went to the Embassy were unable to meet with Ambassador Cusia who was in the Philippines at that time. When they asked to enter the Embassy, they encountered difficulties gaining admittance until Dr. Dante Simbulan of KATARUNGAN requested to speak with PNP General Armando Ramolete, the Police Attache, and Major General (Ret.) Delfin Lorenzana, the Presidential Representative for Veterans Affairs. The group was then allowed to meet with the most ranking Embassy official who can represent the Ambassador, Minister Maria Andrelita Austria.

The petition and letter of concern were delivered and Dr. Simbulan attemped to engage the officials over the ongoing atrocities against indigenous peoples and their communities in Mindanao.

“While President Benigno Aquino III and generals in the AFP and police issue press releases saying they will respect the human rights of people, the killings of innocent civilians and anti-mining activists continue—the murder of a Catholic priest, Father Tentorio, who was killed by hired civilian militias and security forces of the mining companies, and the recent massacre of a B’laan family where the military admitted to killing the pregnant wife and two minor children of Daguil Capion, a B’laan anti-mining activist.

“Why is it that the military perpetrators of the crime are just ‘relieved’ from their assignments?  The military says they will be investigated, but we do not hear any more about their being charged in court.  We do not hear any more about their being punished.  In fact, they even get medals and are promoted,” emphasized Simbulan.

According to members of the petition delivery delegation, it was apparent that the Embassy employees and officials were aware of the mining related human rights violations, specifically citing the Tampakan massacre themselves. However, delegation members noted that Embassy officials “appeared surprised that Filipinos in the U.S. would take time to deliver these concerns and push for an audience.”

“The Embassy’s reaction seemed somewhat unprepared as how to handle the issues we brought up. They didn’t know who would be able to receive these concerns, nor were they able to suggest a follow up or next steps for what can be done,” said ILAW DC representative Joanna Quiambao.  “Based on the manner in how they reacted, it can be inferred that human rights may not be a priority for the Aquino administration after all.

“Victims of human rights violations and human rights advocates in the Philippines, the US, and elsewhere in the world are demanding that the human rights of people in the Philippines, particularly the Indigenous people in Mindanao, be respected and they are demanding justice. As human rights activists and advocates remain targets of killings, torture, and abductions in the country, a culture of impunity continues to protect the perpetrators of these acts,” concluded Quiambao.

“Promises alone will not suffice,” added  Simbulan. “Words, if not matched by deeds, become meaningless.  The President repeatedly claims that the people are his boss. ‘Kayo ang boss ko,’ he says in his speeches.  But it appears that those who are protected by the government and the military are the big foreign mining companies while the marginalized communities become victims,”  Dr. Simbulan concluded.

Minister Maria Andrelita Austria, the Deputy Chief of Mission, and the two generals listened but did not offer any explanation.  Ms. Austria stated that she will deliver the letter and petition to the persons concerned.

For background information on the Tampakan Massacre and the history of human rights violations that occurred due to commercial mining of indigenous lands, visit: http://bit.ly/U8uYk8

To see the content of the petition delivered to the Philippine Embassy, visit: http://chn.ge/ViUBnH

(PRESS RELEASE)