Civil society and faith groups supporting displaced tribal people in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao received a human rights award in Belgium on Dec. 10.
The annual award recognized the groups’ leadership in calling for justice for crimes committed against indigenous people.
The award was given by Stop the Killings, an alliance of trade unions, nongovernmental organizations and solidarity movements in Belgium,
“The lumad organizations in Mindanao were granted the prize because of their ongoing struggle in Mindanao,” Stop the Killings said in a statement.
Percinita Sanchez, executive director of the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation, said the award “gives hope to the lumads [collective name for indigenous people] to continue the struggle for their rights and self determination.”
Sanchez, who received the award on behalf of the organization, said tribal people in Mindanao have a “historic culture of resistance.”
She said Mindanao’s ancestral domains are the “last frontiers” of the Philippines, but these lands are “being plundered and our communities attacked by the military.”
The presence of government troops in tribal communities in Mindanao resulted in the displacement of thousands of tribal people and the closure of tribal schools in recent months.
“Our schools have been targeted for closure, encampment, vilification, and harassments,” Sanchez said.
Indigenous families gather in a tent city in Agusan del Sur province after fleeing their homes Sept. 1. (Photo by Vincent Go)
The award came as some 4,000 indigenous people continue to live in temporary shelters in the province of Surigao del Sur after fleeing their hinterland homes on Sept. 1.
In a statement, Stop the Killings said the award aims to “draw attention to the rising trend of environmental defenders who have faced attacks [and] have become victims of extrajudicial killings.”
Katribu, a national alliance of Philippine indigenous people, said at least 70 tribal leaders, most of them lumad from Mindanao, have been killed since June 2010.
The group also recorded 99 cases of harassment, 22 cases of arrests of tribal leaders, nine incidents of bombing of communities and farmlands, and 54 cases of forced evacuations in Mindanao tribal communities. | Jefry M. Tupas for Ucan