By Florante S. Solmerin and John Paolo Bencito
MORE that 70 organizations of indigenous people from across Asia urged President Benigno Aquino III to put an end to the killing and other human rights abuses against the lumad of Mindanao.
In a letter sent Oct. 20, the Thailand-based Asia Indigenous People’s Pact expressed alarm over the spate of killings of lumad under Aquino’s watch and the “hundreds of cases of harassment, arbitrary detention and displacement of thousands of lumad now living in evacuation camps across the region.”
The AIPP is a regional organization founded in 1988 by indigenous peoples’ movements, and is committed to promoting and defending their IP rights and articulating issues of relevance to indigenous peoples.
Indigenous organizations from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam endorsed the appeal, as did groups from France, the United Kingdom and Australia.
In its letter, the AIPP called for an investigation of the roles played by paramilitary groups and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the human rights abuses.
The group also urged the President “to take immediate measures to disband all paramilitary groups, whether these are within the investment defense forces or not, and revoke Executive Order 546, which legitimizes formation of such paramilitary groups.”
The group reminded the Philippine government of its obligation to protect and respect the rights of the indigenous peoples under its own laws and its obligation to fulfill its international human rights commitments.
In its appeal, the organization highlighted the killing of Lito Abion, a Manobo human rights defender from San Luis, Agusan del Sur, allegedly killed by state security forces on Sept. 28, as well as three Higaonon men who were said to be tortured by soldiers belonging to the 5th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army on the same day.
The AIPP appealed to the President not to let Abion and the three tortured tribesmen become mere statistics.