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International human rights group decry Philippine government closure of Lumad sanctuary

Duterte’s gross violation of indigenous people’s rights amounts to crimes against humanity

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) condemned last Thursday the resolution to close the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) sanctuary for Lumad indigenous people in Davao, Philippines.

This is not only an attack against the already displaced Lumad people and but an outright harassment of the church workers and human rights defenders opening their institutions for victims of internal displacement.

Peter Murphy, ICHRP chairperson

A resolution issued by the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) endorsed the closure of the sanctuary in UCCP Haran Center last January 15. The council also threatened supporters of the Lumad people with arrests and trumped-up charges.

“There are more than 500 indigenous people seeking refuge in the UCCP Haran from different towns of Arakan, Talaingod, Kapalong, and parts of Compostela Valley province. We are here because our families, children are constantly under threat from militarization, increased presence of soldiers and aerial bombings,” says local group PASAKA (Confederation of Lumad Organization in Southern Mindanao) leader Jong Monzon.

The closure is the newest of the Philippine government’s series of attacks against the indigenous people of the island. Last October, the Department of Education, in the same region, ordered the permanent closure of 55 schools of the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center solely based on a report from army generals that students are being taught to rebel against the government. According to the human rights organisation Karapatan, there are 54 killings of indigenous people under Duterte as of June of 2019.

“What more do they want? They’ve murdered our people. They’ve already displaced us from our ancestral land. They’ve also shut down our schools,” said Datu Mentroso Malibato who has been staying at UCCP Haran center since 2015.

“[We] stand firm on our commitment to serve the indigenous people in Davao region. By doing our duty to act as shepherds of the poor and the deprived we manifest our unwavering commitment to defend the rights of those who are deprived of their civil liberties” says in the statement of UCCP Southeast Mindanao Jurisdictional Area which maintains the Lumad sanctuary.

“We are appealing to the international community—to human rights advocates and organisations, to other churches, to peace-loving individuals, to other indigenous groups and nations that we denounce this violation of the right to life of the Lumad people,” says Murphy.

The ICHRP will also be submitting its report to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights which includes attacks on indigenous peoples and national minorities amounting to crimes against humanity. The submission is in response to the call of the UN Human Rights Council’s resolution to look into the human rights situation in the Philippines.#

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