IN CELEBRATION of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (TFIP) condemned the attack on journalist Brandon Lee.
“The government is targeting indigenous activists in its “IP-centric” and “Whole-of-Nation” counter insurgency programs. In fact, it formed a National Task Force to End Communist Insurgency involving various government agencies, even those with purely civilian mandates as providers of social services. Many of President Duterte’s appointees in agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), National Irrigation Administration (NIA), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), among others are formerly high officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Even legal and duly registered non-profit organizations are not spared as they are alleged to be engaged in terroristic activities and are suspected of receiving terrorist financing from abroad,” TFIP in a statement said.
Lee was shot multiple times and sustained severe wounds and he continues to fight for his life. Prior to the incident, the human rights advocate and his fellow staff at the Ifugao Peasant Movement were constantly harassed by state agents.
They also received death threats and had posters of them listed and announced as terrorists and leaders of the New People’s Army in the province of Ifugao. In fact, two Ifugao leaders, William Bugatti and Ricardo Mayumi, had earlier been killed in 2014 and 2018 respectively, after experiencing similar threats and red-tagging.
“Such incidents of vilification, harassment, surveillance of homes/offices, killings and trumped-up charges have been happening to indigenous peoples, their advocates, and institutions doing development work in communities all over the Philippines. Indigenous peoples’ organizations, non-government organizations working in indigenous communities and staunch advocates of indigenous peoples’ rights were vilified and were considered as recruiters of “innocent” indigenous peoples for the NPA,” TFIP added.
TFIP said the situation does not discourage development workers and our partner indigenous peoples’ organizations from pursuing our campaigns and advocacy to stop destructive projects from ravaging ancestral lands.
“Our work could never be considered terroristic activities as we only want to pursue self-determined and genuine development of indigenous communities in the country,” TFIP stated.