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Justice for the murdered leaders and activists of the indigenous peoples!

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On the occasion of the assembly of the Citizens' Council for Human Rights (CCHR), FORUM-ASIA extends its heartfelt solidarity to this broad gathering of human rights advocates in the Philippines seeking to address grave and burning human rights issues. We join the growing swell of voices in the international community ringing the alarm over the worsening human rights situation under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo presidency . Read the statement condemning the killings of indigenous peoples in the country.FORUM ASIA’s Statement on Political Killings in the Philippines

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) views with deep alarm the recent turn of events vis-à-vis the human rights of indigenous peoples in the Philippines. It boded ill enough that the Philippine government abstained in the voting on the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in June 2006. And now this – the sharp rise in extra-judicial killings in the Philippines victimising leaders of indigenous peoples' organisations and their kin.

The attempt on the life of the Chairperson of Bayan Muna-Kalinga Chair and the Vice Chair of the Cordillera People's Alliance (CPA) – Kalinga, Dr. Constancio Claver in Tabuk, Kalinga, tragically resulted in the death of his wife Alice-Omengan Claver. The incident also caused immeasurable emotional trauma to their seven-year old daughter, and injured 23-year old Janet Ewag. This came only within two months of the still unsolved murder of Rafael Markus Bangit, CPA Regional Elders Desk Coordinator and Bayan Muna-Kalinga Vice Chair in Isabela in June this year.

These atrocities continue unabated, with not one suspect apprehended in connection with these incidents. Is there a more glaring measure of the Philippine government's failure to live up to its human rights standards and many other international mechanisms it has signed? Are there indicators graver for this callousness to the situation of the indigenous peoples, who are already among the most excluded and marginalised sectors in Philippine society? Other sectors have just as flagrantly been violated of their most basic civil and political rights — a situation of impunity that has prompted no serious response from the Philippine government to bring offenders under the full force of the law.

More than 300 unresolved,  politically motivated murders in just a single year, over a hundred enforced disappearances since 2001* is not the track record of a government that claims to be founded on hallowed democratic principles and continues to mouth its respect for and promotion of democratic rights. It is track record that hews too closely and uncomfortably to the dark days of political repression under the Marcos dictatorship.

(* Figures from the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates)

FORUM-ASIA joins the international community in calling for an end to this deplorable situation. The Philippine government hardly needs reminding that it is also an elected member of the UN Human Rights Council, and signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the UN Convention Against Torture, and the Convention on Enforced Disappearances, among many other international human rights accords.

It is up to the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo — given its current crisis of credibility and legitimacy — to make good its promise for an immediate resolution to these killings through a process conducted diligently, justly, transparently and with unquestionable probity.

We call on the Arroyo government to demonstrate its avowed concern over these reported atrocities, by immediately inviting for a country fact-finding mission the UN Special Rapporteurs on Extra-Judicial and Summary Executions, and on the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples.

We also urge the Philippine government to invite without delay the UN Secretary General's Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders. These are calls that many indigenous peoples and other human rights organisations have been issuing, and one that FORUM-ASIA fully supports.

It would also be a measure of sincerity and decisiveness on the government to hold accountable Philippine National Police – Kalinga Provincial Director Pedro Geronimo Ramos, under whose watch these rising human rights violations have been taking place.

FORUM-ASIA extends its deepest sympathies to the indigenous communities, whose members are being victimised by the impunity with which critical voices to the current dispensation are being brutally silenced. Political terror did not realise its ends then, and it will not achieve its ends now.

Uphold the rights and freedoms of the indigenous peoples!
Justice for all victims of human rights violations!
End political repression now!


Anselmo Lee
Executive Director