“Do not use your positions to embarrass the Philippine government in the international community.”
This was the message of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque to two Filipino United Nations (UN) special rapporteurs, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, who have warned the government of a “massive” impact of military operations on indigenous people in Mindanao following a one-year extension of martial law in the region.
In a statement on Wednesday, Tauli-Corpuz, special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, and Jimenez-Damary, special rapporteur on internally displaced people, said the ongoing militarization in Mindanao has “massive and potentially irreversible” impact on human rights of some Lumads.
“Both special rapporteurs should be more circumspect on their statements, given that they were elected to the post upon the behest of the former administration and that their observations made so publicly as they were appeared to be very partisan,” Roque said in an audio statement.
“So I appeal to these two Filipinos, or be it special rapporteurs, not to use their post for the purpose of embarassing the Duterte administration,” he added.
Roque said that the experts should have had documented the cases of alleged targeting of Lumads and brought these cases to proper authorities so that the court could hold those involved to account.
“The fact that they did it so publicly would only have been because they intended to embarrass the Philippine government in the international community,” the spokesperson added.
In their joint statement, Tauli-Corpuz and Jimenez-Damary urged the Philippine government to “observe its obligations under international law to protect the human rights of indigenous peoples, including in the context of armed conflict.”
“The authorities must ensure that all human rights abuses are halted and that there is justice and accountability for past attacks,” the experts said. /jpv
“This includes killings and attacks allegedly carried out by members of the armed forces against the indigenous communities,” they added.
The special rapporteurs expressed concern over the safety of Lumads threatened by bombings and military attacks, which had displaced about 2,500 since October.
They also raised alarm over the reports that Lumad farmers had allegedly been killed by military forces on 3 December in Barangay Ned in the province of South Cotabato.
“The Government of the Philippines must ensure that military personnel do not engage in violations of the human rights of indigenous peoples,” the experts said.
“We fear that some of these attacks are based on unfounded suspicions that Lumads are involved with militant groups or in view of their resistance to mining activities on their ancestral lands,” they added. /jpv