Cagayan de Oro City Philippines
In the Philippines, paramilitary groups operate with impunity and are infamous for committing human rights violations, particularly against indigenous peoples. In the region of Mindanao in June 2011, one such group attacked and killed several indigenous peoples in their homes. In response, the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) hosted an international petition on-line to demand an end to the violence and killings of indigenous peoples by paramilitary groups. Only two days later, the government approved a military proposal to “institutionalize” these groups with the funding of private firms, particularly mining companies. Fearing that this would exacerbate the already escalating situation of violence, Madagway Babaeyon (MB) requested funds to hold a summit entitled “Face-to-Face: Northern Mindanao Indigenous Peoples’ Summit on Para-militarization and Human Rights” and invite participants from relevant government agencies to attend and listen to indigenous peoples’ accounts of violations occurring on the ground. MB also plans to continue APWLD’s petition and present it at the summit, as well as create a manifesto calling for the disbandment of the paramilitary in indigenous communities to be signed by participants and given to government agencies and the President.
MB works for the empowerment of the Lumad (indigenous peoples) women in their defense of their Ancestral Domains against development aggressions that destroy their lands and consequently transgress against the very fabric of their culture that is primarily dependent on nature.
Funds were used to hold a summit on December 9th, 2011 (in line with the celebration of International Human Rights Day) entitled “Face to Face: Northern Mindanao Indigenous Peoples’ (IP) summit on para-militarization and human rights.” An important dialogue began between government representatives from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Mines and Geosciences bureau and indigenous communities and human rights groups. While the grantee realized that their original call for the government to immediately disband paramilitaries was not likely to happen, there were a few unexpected victories that were products of the summit. The CHR was able to advise participants on how to engage with government agencies in order to address their specific concerns and days after the summit the CHR called for the demilitarization of indigenous peoples’ areas in Bukidnon. Resolutions that will benefit indigenous women and children were also passed such as obtaining access to sanctuary with the CHR for widows and children of slain HRDs
The gathering of different indigenous people also provided an opportunity for solidarity and new indigenous peoples’ organizations were formed as a result of what they learned through the summit. IP women were encouraged and inspired to increase their capacities as leaders in their communities. In total over 200 people attended the summit and 1000 booklets, which included signatures from an online petition against paramilitary abuses, were printed and distributed to government representatives.