1 December 2012: URGENT LETTER OF APPEAL FOR WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN THE PHILIPPINES

December 1, 2012

Dear sisters and fellow human rights advocates,

As women all over the world recently observed the International Day of Women Human Rights Defenders, Tanggol Bayi (Defend Women) – Philippines  wish to bring to your attention the many travails and challenges being faced by women defenders in the Philippines. There are not a few instances and experiences when specific rights violations of state security forces are committed against our ranks. Many of them are being violated in the course of their defense for their rights to life and land.

Juvy Capion, an indigenous woman HRD, led her Blaan[1] community in the struggle against incursions of the Philippine government and the Australian mining company SMI-Xstrata. Juvy and her organization of Blaan peoples have resisted the various pay-offs offered by the mining company to drive them away from their ancestral lands. Her husband launched a pangayaw, a traditional form of defense of their ancestral domain.

In morning of October 18, 2012, Juvy, who was two months pregnant, and her two sons John Mark, 7 years old, and Jordan, 13 years old, were massacred by 13 members of the 27TH Infantry Battalion Philippine Army under the command of 1st Lt. Dante Jimenez. According to witnesses, despite Juvy’s pleas, bullets continued to be fired by the military. Her 5-year old daughter Juvicky Capion was wounded in the left side of her head. If not for the immediate intervention of the residents, Juvicky would have been killed by the military.[2]

The family of Julia Manlus-ag was among the families who were harassed and forcibly displaced by members of the paramilitary group NIPAR (New Indigenous Peoples’ Army for Reform) in March 2012, after the killing of the Matigsalog[3] tribal head Jimmy Liguyon. The said paramilitary group is under the 8th Infantry Battalion of the Phil. Army. Julia and her family were unable to join the rest of the members of the community who evacuated to provincial capitol grounds to seek help from the local government, and stayed in nearby village. Julia’s community has resisted the entry of Sto. Christo Mining Inc., a large-scale company.

On October 7, 2012, Julia and her four children – Jeron (9 years old), Eron (6 years old), Manilyn (4 years old), and Micel (9-months old) – passed by the village where they evacuated from to visit her parents, when they were held by members of the NIPAR. Upon hearing what happened to his family, Julia’s husband Sitoy went to the village to rescue them. He was held at gunpoint by the NIPAR members, who also told him that they will only release his wife and children if he can convince the evacuees at the provincial capitol to return to the village. He was likewise threatened to be killed. Up to this time, Julia and her children are yet to be released by the paramilitary group.[4]

Filipina human rights defenders are also subjects of threats and harassment by the Philippine military.

Sr. Stella Matutina is a Missionary Benedictine nun whose mission in the Mindanao began in 2007. Her human rights work includes community organizing, grassroots education, advocacy and lobbying with the local governments to defend communities and the environment from commercial logging and large-scale mining.  Sr. Stella is currently the secretary general of Panalipdan! Mindanao, a network of environmental advocates in the island.

She has been a subject of several incidents of threats and harassment of the Philippine Army elements, in the course of her work as a missionary and as an environmental activist. In 2009, she and her co-workers in Panalipdan were held at gunpoint, interrogated for eight hours and were accused as members of the New People’s Army (NPA). Since then, military surveillance and harassment against Sr. Stella have not stopped.[5] In March 2012, Sr. Stella joined the Philippine UPR Watch delegation at the United Nations Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss with foreign missions and international organizations the human rights situation in Mindanao. Since then, reports of Karapatan chapters in the island state that the military has been mentioning Sr. Stella’s name in their fora, citing her as a member of the NPA.[6]

Higaonon tribe woman leader Bae Adelfa Belayong lost her daughter, husband and brother because they refused to give up their land and community to mining. In 2005, the government, through the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) asked them to sign a contract that would pave the way for foreign mining companies to get hold of their resource rich ancestral land. The NCIP claims that the land belongs to the government and they should not resist the signing of the contract. But aware of the harm that the mining operation and the alleged ‘development’ would do to their community and their families, they insisted “This land is our ancestral land, and this land is ours long before you established that government of yours. Where will we farm if we give our lands to you?” During that time, government troops in large numbers began to operate in their area in Agusan del Sur.

Bae Adelfa vividly remembers the conduct of military operations during Martial Law in the country, especially when she recounts the pain of how her four year old child was decapitated after being shot by paramilitaries on the neck while she carried her child on her back. Her husband and her brother were killed in 2009 and in 2011 respectively by paramilitaries under the command of the Philippine Army. Other communities in the mountain area where the Belayongs came from have been permanently dislocated because of military operations and harassment. Due to threats to her life, she is unable to go back to her ancestral land and perform her duties as a leader. She is now based in Butuan City as she works with KASALO (Kahugpungan sa Lumadnong Organisasyon).[7]

Bebeth Calinawan Enriquez, a 29 year old member of the Mamanwa tribe and a mother of four, bear the scars of bullet wounds fired by government soldiers in Agusan del Norte in Mindanao last year. Her family was eating lunch at their farm when the first volley of bullets hit her in the chest and arm. Bleeding and fighting for her life, she was brought by the military to their camp and forced her to sign a paper admitting that she is an NPA rebel. When she declined, she was denied proper medical care but was given dextrose with no food for a week. She was detained for one month without charges and was finally released with the help of her father’s relentless appeal through a local radio station. Their ancestral land in Agusan is rich in copper, nickel, and gold and is being explored by numerous foreign mining companies.  The area is also being targetted for the building of a dam for the development of hydroelectric power by the First Gen Hydro Power Corporation, company owned by the Lopez family whose members are known supporters of Phil. Pres. Benigno Aquino III.[8]

According to Karapatan, out of the 114 victims of extrajudicial killings under Aquino (July 2010 to September 30, 2012 data), 15 are women and girl-children.[9] No perpetrator has been prosecuted and arrested for these violations.

We are concerned that the continuous implementation of the Philippine government’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan will cause more human rights violations as those inflicted on the abovementioned women human rights defenders and civilians. Specifically, the indigenous women leaders and environmental activists who stand against the entry of foreign mining corporations to protect the environment and their ancestral domain have been targeted and vilified by the state. For this reason, many of them are now under attack. They have been killed, harassed and charged with trumped-up cases. Notwithstanding the attacks, women human rights defenders in the Philippines continuously uphold the struggle of their communities for their right to ancestral domain and defense of the environment against destructive mining.

The killings, threats, harassment, and military operations and occupation of communities are all being conducted under the guise of the military’s “winning the peace” operations, when in truth and in fact, the list of violations, especially among the indigenous peoples, farmers and environmental advocates defending their right to land and life, goes on.

We appeal to you to send letters of concern to agencies of the Philippine Government calling for:

  1. Immediate action to stop the killings and attacks against women human rights defenders
  2. The pull-out of members of military troops in communities and the disbandment of paramilitaries.
  3. The military to stop the labelling and targeting of human rights defenders as “members of front organizations of the communists” and “enemies of the state.”
  4. Immediately render justice for those whose rights are violated and file cases against the perpetrators.
  5. The withdrawal of its counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which victimizes civilians and human rights defenders.
  6. The Philippine Government to be reminded that it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of these instruments’ provisions.

Also attached is a sample letter which you may use in sending these letters. Letter to Phil Government Agencies

You may send your communications to:

H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III

President of the Republic

Malacañang Palace,

JP Laurel St., San Miguel

Manila Philippines

Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80

Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968

E-mail: op@president.gov.ph

Sec. Teresita Quintos-Deles

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)

7th Floor Agustin Building I

Emerald Avenue

Pasig City 1605

Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066

Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216

stqd.papp@opapp.gov.ph

Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire T. Gazmin

Secretary, Department of National Defense

Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,

E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City

Voice:+63(2) 911-6193 / 911-0488 / 982-5600

Fax:+63(2) 982-5600

Email: osnd@philonline.comdnd.opla@gmail.com

Atty. Leila De Lima

Secretary, Department of Justice

Padre Faura St., Manila

Direct Line 521-1908

Trunkline  523-84-81 loc.211/214

Fax: (+632) 523-9548

Email:  lmdelima@doj.gov.phlmdelima.doj@gmail.com,lmdelima.doj@gmail.com

  1. Hon. Loretta Ann P. Rosales

Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights

SAAC Bldg., UP Complex

Commonwealth Avenue

Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines

Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188

Fax: (+632) 929 0102

Email: chair.rosales.chr@gmail.comlorettann@gmail.com

Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, to our address below.

 

Tanggol Bayi (Defend Women) – Philippines

2/F Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin cor Matatag Sts.,

Brgy. Central, Diliman, Quezon City 1100 PHILIPPINES

Voice/Fax: (+632) 435 4146

Email: tanggolbayi@gmail.com, urgentaction@karapatan.org

Website: www.tanggolbayi.wordpress.com


[1]The Blaan are one of the indigenous peoples groups in Mindanao, Southern Philippines.

[2] You may refer to http://karapatan.org/node/648 . The fact finding mission report is available upon request.

[3]The Matigsalog are indigenous peoples in Bukidnon, Central Mindanao.

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About Tanggol Bayi

Established in 2008, Tanggol Bayi is an association of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in the Philippines. It is formed primarily for the recognition, advancement, and protection of the rights of women human rights defenders who are advocating for the realization of human rights.
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2 Responses to 1 December 2012: URGENT LETTER OF APPEAL FOR WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN THE PHILIPPINES

  1. Pingback: Women Human Rights Defenders Spearhead the Struggle for Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Land, Livelihood, and Environment in Mandanao | Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development

  2. Pingback: MANILAKBAYAN: Support Mindanao’s People Mobilisation for the Defense of Land, Environt and Human Rights | Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development

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