By Roy Mabasa
The United Nations has called on the Philippine government to immediately remove the names of indigenous human rights defenders from the list of terrorist group affiliates.
The indigenous human rights defenders whose names were reportedly among a list of 600 alleged communist guerrillas that President Duterte’s government wants declared as terrorists include,Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Joan Carling, former member of the Permanent Forum and Jose Molintas, former member of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In a statement, the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues expressed its grave concerns about the Philippine government’s accusation against indigenous human rights defenders as terrorist group affiliates.
“We are informed that a petition has been filed by the State Prosecutor of the Department of Justice, which seeks to declare the indigenous human rights defenders among more than 600 individuals as “terrorist and outlawed organizations and/or group of persons” under the National Security Act of 2007 of the Philippines,“ it pointed out.
The UNPFII is the UN’s central coordinating body for matters relating to the concerns and rights of the world’s indigenous peoples. “Indigenous person” means native, original, first people and aboriginal.
The Forum expressed its belief that the charges against the indigenous human rights defenders are “unsubstantiated” and that they are being targeted for their advocacy and efforts to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples.
“We find this unacceptable in a country that is based on principles of democracy and good governance,” the UNPFII said.
It further urged the Philippine government to uphold its obligations under international human rights instruments and its duty to guarantee the right to promote and to strive for the realization of human rights under the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.
“We wish to point out that the vision of indigenous peoples’ movements across the world has been to ensure implementation of democratic principles in their countries. We note with alarm that reprisals and attacks against indigenous rights defenders are increasing,” the Forum said.