Civic groups numbering 121, and 10 prominent individuals around the world have risen in strong condemnation of an alleged extra-judicial execution of nine Indigenous leaders, and the illegal arrest of 17 additional leaders and members of Tumanduk nga Mangunguma nga Nagapangapin sa Duta kag Kabuhi (TUMANDUK).
Some of the organisations include, International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), Denmark; Network of Indigenous Women in Asia (NIWA); Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP); The Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC, Malaysia); Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organisation (BIRUDO), Uganda; Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), Nepal; and Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education), Philippines
Others are, Friends of the Earth, USA; Equitable Cambodia; National Indigenous Disabled Women Association Nepal (NIDWAN); International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW AP); International Indian Treaty Council, USA; Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum; Minority Rights Group International, UK; Human Rights Law Network, India; and Green Advocates International
Among the prominent individuals are, Chairperson of Inter-Mountain Peoples Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT), Chupinit Kesmanee, Visiting Assistant Professor,Institute of Public Policy,National Law School of India University,Bengaluru, Aashish Xaxa; Advisor, Chakma Circle, Bangladesh, Rani Yan Yan; and Chief of Chakma, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh, Devasish Roy.
The rest include Binota Moy Dhamai, member, AIPP Executive Council and Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum; William Nokrek, Asia Pacific Coordinator, International Movement of Catholic Students-Pax Romana; Ms Ruth V Spencer, Local community Advocate from Antigua and Barbuda; Francisco Rosado May; Kenneth Deer; and Jaykishan Godsora, India
According to them, the massacre took place in various villages in Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog, Iloilo in Panay Island, through a coordinated police and military operation last December 30, adding, ‘’we stand in solidarity with the Tumanduk of Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog, Iloilo in condemning the incident and seeking justice for the victims.
‘’On December 30 when the holiday season was just beginning, nine individuals were apparently extra-judicially executed, shot at point-blank range in their respective houses, and 17 were arrested and detained after having gone missing for five days.
‘’Reports from the community state that cellular phones were confiscated to restrain people from taking photos and videos of the summary execution. In one case the family members were forced out of their house and in other cases the military forcibly entered their homes and shot the leaders while they were sleeping.
‘’Among the identified victims of the Tumandok massacre are Roy Giganto, Chairperson of the Tumandok IP Organisation and member of KATRIBU’s National Council of Leaders and Councilor of their community; Mario Aguirre, former Chairperson of Tumanduk and Councilor of Barangay (village unit) Lahug, Tapaz; and Reynaldo Katipunan, Village Councilor of the same village.
‘’Out of the 17 arrested and detained, six of them are Indigenous women who are active members of Anggoy (an Indigenous women’s organisation in Panay island).
‘’Those killed were recognized leaders in their respective barangays. They were civilians and not armed combatants. These Tumandok communities have consistently opposed militarisation and human rights violations in their localities and have advocated for the protection of their rights as an Indigenous People. These communities were active and vocal in resisting the construction of the Jalaur Mega Dam in Calinog, Iloilo and the Pan-ay mega dam in Tapaz, Capiz.
‘’The leaders and members of these Tumanduk communities have been red-tagged, and accused by the military as members, and supporters of the CPP-NPA (armed opposition group) because of active assertion of their rights.
‘’Just last month, the community leaders of Barangay Lahug and Tacayan sought the help of the Commission on Human Rights because their residents were being threatened by the Philippines Army and Philippines National Police (PNP) deployed in these barangays.
‘’Roy Giganto (one of the killed leaders) became the subject of continuous military harassment and was forced to surrender as he was leading the resistance against the dam construction and leading their collective lands rights advocacy. It is not the first time that indigenous human rights activists are harassed and killed, but an increasing trend under the current government.
‘’SEMPO (Synchronised Enhanced Managing Police Operations) was conducted in Negros Island in December 2018 that resulted in the killing of 6 persons and the arrest of 31 indigenous activists. Before June 2020, a military officer threatened Roy Giganto and his community with the same fate of the Negros and Samar’s community, if they do not cooperate.
‘’In June 2020, the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (IDPA) had summoned the civilian victims who were labeled as NPAs and asked to sign documents supposedly to surrender and clear their names. Since they were not members of the NPA, and did not want to be considered as surrenderers, the Tumandoks refused to sign.
‘’Threats against them mounted, with soldiers who threatened them to be charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act. The community leaders stood their ground and clarified that they were Indigenous Peoples asserting their collective rights to their ancestral lands and self-determination.
‘’Preliminary reports indicate that the search warrants used during the operation were issued by different courts in Metro Manila, particularly, the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 4, of Manila, presided by Judge Jose Lorenzo R. Dela Rosa, and Branch 18 of the same RTC, presided by Judge Carolina Icasiano Sison.
‘’In the Philippines, military and other paramilitary and security forces have quelled local resistance to development projects, resulting in wide-scale violations of their civil and political rights, including criminalisation and vilification of their legitimate actions.
‘’The sinister designs in quelling local resistance often are use of threats, violence, judicial and other forms of harassment, arbitrary detentions, illegal arrests, evidence planting, eforced disappearances and summary executions.
‘’The Tumandok of Iloilo, Tapaz and Capiz are only the latest in the long list of communities across the Philippines that have been attacked by security forces because of their advocacies in the field of human rights and resistances to projects which are detrimental to them.
‘’In one of the statements condemning the incident, one of the leaders said that, ‘our fight against the construction of Jalaur and Pan-ay Dams have not ended yet, so we remain resolute in defending what’s left of our rivers and forests. Despite violence and threats, we will relentlessly and fiercely stand against corporate plunder and the destruction of the environment’. [i]
‘’Such acts of blatant killings and gross violation of human rights occur in authoritarian regimes and is unexpected of in a democratic country. We strongly condemn the incident and stand in solidarity and support with the community whose human rights are grossly violated.
‘’We stand with them in seeking justice for the victims of the Panay Massacre. We stand in their struggle in advocating and advancing the rights of the Indigenous Peoples, in their struggle for self-determination, peace and justice.
‘’We call upon the government of Philippines to immediately conduct impartial and credible investigations. We call on the House of Representatives and Senate to conduct inquiries, especially on the persistent issuance of search warrants, conduct of police and military operations marred by summary executions and evidence-planting, and ‘systematic’ conduct of these deadly operations as experienced in Samar, Negros, Metro Manila, and most recently in Panay Island.’’