Members of an indigenous Dumagat community from the mountains of Rodriguez, Rizal, just east of Manila have fled their homes after soldiers reportedly drove them away from their village. The villagers are now sheltering elsewhere around the capital.
Vanessa Cruz, a Dumagat woman who is now staying with protesting farmers in Quezon City, said three members of her tribe have been gunned down and her brother arrested.
She said the “harassment” started June 11 when government troops took over a 300-hectare piece of Dumagat land in the village of Carugu.
Cruz believes some businessmen wanted to plant trees in the area and asked the military to drive away at least 15 tribal families living there.
“The military intruded into our homes and threatened our lives. They tied up the men, including two elderly family members. They took Eddie [her brother], saying he is a leader of an armed group,” Vanessa told ucanews.com at a forum today, marking the Aug. 9 International Day of the Indigenous Peoples.
Representatives of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan sa Pilipinas (KAMP), an alliance of indigenous peoples and groups, reported a “recent surge” of human rights violations against members of indigenous communities, saying these have become “alarming.”
KAMP recorded 139 tribal people killed allegedly by state agents during the nine-year administration of former president Gloria Arroyo.
“Less than a month after [President Benigno] Aquino came to power, three more are dead,” said Dulphing Ugan, a B’laan leader and member of KAMP’s council of elders.
During the forum, another group of KAMP members dressed in their traditional costumes attempted to deliver their Indigenous Peoples’ Agenda to Aquino at his presidential office.
They want a review of the country’s mining laws and a halt to the sending of the military into areas where indigenous people live.
KAMP cited mining as the “largest cause of distress” among indigenous peoples in the Philippines. Most mining areas in the country are located in ancestral lands of these communities, he noted.