i-Files #2: Indigenous Peoples’ Struggles in the Philippines

We are pleased to announce the publication of the second issue of the i-Files entitled Indigenous Peoples’ Struggles in the Philippines. It is initially available only in English. Spanish and French translations are under way.  If you wish to download the English issue, click here.


Foreword To i-Files Issue #2:

The three articles in this publication are windows to the current situation of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines: that of the horror of extrajudicial killings that accompany the militarisation of IP territories and its resources; that of the failure of Philippine government to protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples with an inutile law called the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act or IPRA; and, that of alternative learning centers or schools for indigenous children which are being attacked by government forces as part of the state’s military stance on indigenous peoples.  While this vociferous attack on IP is being perpetrated in what human rights organisations call the climate of impunity that prevails in the Philippines, consolidated indigenous peoples organisations (IPOs) with their NGO partners in civil society, persist to struggle for their right to organise, mobilise and advocate for the respect and defense of IP rights to land, life and identity.

In this fearful situation, the organised collective action of Indigenous Peoples is most necessary to protecting and defending their rights.

Furthermore, there is still much to be done in asserting IP rights to life, land and culture, given the intensely comprehensive investment climate that is being touted by the Philippine government to transnational extractive industries that exploit natural resources which are usually found in Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral lands. This investment climate was aggressively pushed in the 1970s during Marcos’s martial law, and has been the Philippine government’s policy ever since to accommodate all types of foreign investments whether detrimental or not to the environment. The effect of this government policy is their need to bring in the military to quell any opposition or discontent regarding these extractive industries. The militarisation of the countryside and of IP areas is government’s response to the Indigenous Peoples’ call for development justice and peaceful consensual conflict-resolutions.

The Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines are generally poor, and they are marginalised by both government and the lowland majority, and yet they live in well-preserved natural environments that are rich in natural resources.  While their indigenous practice is considered “sustainable development”, outsiders are forever treacherously encroaching into these territories craving to own or exploit these resources for their own greed. The defense of land, life and identity is related to the Indigenous Peoples’ sense of protecting the “world” they live in, which is often times called by non-IP people as “the environment”. The natural habitat of most IP in the Philippines is in the hinterlands where they still practice traditional and sustainable cultural beliefs that protect and preserve the health of the natural environment for many generations to come.

There is still much to be done. There is still need to do more in terms of monitoring and documentation, not just in defending and protecting the Indigenous Peoples civil, political and cultural rights, but also in promoting and protecting their right to development as a means to find peace between their communities and in the country as a whole.

Working for development justice is also being on the road to achieving peace, hence, the openness of the new government to seek peace with all contending forces must be given active help and encouragement. It is, therefore, imperative to support the peace talks between the new government of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

All Filipinos including the Indigenous Peoples should be able to build a collective voice in seeking and working for a just and lasting peace in the country.

Josephine Dongail
Board of Directors


No Amount Is Worth Our Lives

Ko-i Meemi, the 105-year-old spiritual leader of the Karen, listens to the Thai court decision to recognize their eviction on 7 September 2016

The IPMSDL is deeply concerned with the Thai court’s decision to uphold the eviction of the Karen people from their ancestral lands in the Kaeng Krachan National Park in Thailand.

On September 7, the Thai Administrative Court declared legal the eviction of the Karen people from the Kaeng Krachan National Park, where they have been living for generations. The Thai court also allotted 10,000 baht for each family as compensation for the eviction. Previous to the decision, the administration of the park forcibly evicted the Karen people from their ancestral lands within the park and burned down their homes. What is more worrisome is the former chief of the National Park’s statement that the court’s decision will be used by forestry officials “to carry on with their mission to protect natural resources and forests without fear of legal action,” to the possible detriment of thousands more Indigenous Peoples living in their ancestral lands, threatening their ways of life.

The eviction clearly violates the Karen people’s right to land and territories. The Karen as well as other indigenous groups in Thailand face a growing threat to their ancestral lands and ways of life due to the Thai government’s non-recognition of the Karens’ right to self determination. We urge the Thai courts to immediately reverse this ruling and return the ancestral lands of the Karen. We call on the Thai government to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which it adopted in 2007 and recognize the right of the Karen and other Indigenous Peoples to freely determine how to use their ancestral lands and territories.

Ancestral lands are vital to the culture of Indigenous Peoples. Because indigenous lives are intimately connected to their ancestral lands, depriving the Karen of their lands will ultimately lead to the destruction of their culture and way of life. It will destroy them as a distinct group of people. We believe that this ruling of the Thai court and the Thai government’s refusal to recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples is tantamount to ethnocide and must be addressed immediately.

We are one with the Karen and other Indigenous Peoples in Thailand in their fight for recognition and the right to self determination. We are united with them in the quest to defend their territories and ways of life. We call on friends and advocates to continuously support the fight of the Karen for recognition and the right to self determination. The Karen do not need 10,000 baht per family, they do not want 10,000 baht as payment for being evicted from their ancestral lands.

Because no amount can ever equal the life of the Karen.

Ms. Beverly Longid
IPMSDL Global Coordinator


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Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples

Algiers, 4 July 1976


We live at a time of great hopes and deep despair; a time of conflicts and contradictions; a time when liberation struggle have succeeded in arousing the peoples of the world against the domestic and international structures of imperialism and in overturning colonial systems; a time of struggle and victory in which new ideals of justice among and within nations have been adopted; a time when the General Assembly of the United Nations has given increasing expression, from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the Charter on the Economic and Social Rights and Duties of States, to the quest for a new international, political and economic order.

But this is also a time of frustration and defeat, as new forms of imperialism evolve to oppress and exploit the peoples of the world. Imperialism, using vicious methods, with the complicity of governments that it has itself often installed, continues to dominate a part of the world. Through direct or indirect intervention, through multinational enterprises, through manipulation of corrupt local politicians, with the assistance of military regimes based on police repression, torture and physical extermination of opponents, through a set of practices that has become known as neo-colonialism, imperialism extends its stranglehold over many peoples.

Aware of expressing the aspirations of our era, we met in Algiers to proclaim that all the peoples of the world have an equal right to liberty, the right to free themselves from any foreign interference and to choose their own government, the right if they are under subjection, to fight for their liberation and the right to benefit from other peoples’ assistance in their struggle.

Convinced that the effective respect for human rights necessarily implies respect for the rights of the peoples, we have adopted the Universal Declaration for the Rights of Peoples.

May all those who, throughout the world, are fighting the great battle, at times through armed struggle, for the freedom of all peoples, find in this Declaration the assurance of the legitimacy of their struggle.

Section I. Right to Existence

Article 1
Every people has the right to existence.

Article 2
Every people has the right to the respect of its national and cultural identity.

Article 3
Every people has the right to retain peaceful possession of its territory and to return to it if it is expelled.

Article 4
None shall be subjected, because of his national or cultural identity, to massacre, torture, persecution, deportation, expulsion or living conditions such as may compromise the identity or integrity of the people to which belongs.

Section II. Right to Political Self-determination

Article 5
Every people has an imprescriptible and unalienable right to self-determination. It shall determine its political status freely and without any foreign interference.

Article 6
Every people has the right to break free from any colonial or foreign domination, whether direct or indirect, and from any racist regime.

Article 7
Every people has the right to have democratic government representing all the citizens without distinction as race, sex, belief or colour, and capable of ensuring effective respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.

Section III: Economic Rights of Peoples

Article 8
Every people has an exclusive right over its natural wealth and resources. It has the right to recover them if they have been despoiled, as well as any unjustly paid indemnities.

Article 9
Scientific and technical progress being part of the common heritage of mankind, every people has the right to participate in it.

Article 10
Every people has the right to a fair evaluation of its labour and to equal and just terms in international trade.

Article 11
Every people has the right to choose its own economic and social system and pursue its own path to economic development freely and without any foreign interference.

Article 12
The economic rights set forth shall be exercised in a spirit of solidarity amongst the peoples of the world and with due regard for their respective interests.

Section IV. Right to Culture

Article 13
Every people has the right to speak its own language and preserve and develop its own culture, thereby contributing to the enrichment of the culture of mankind.

Article 14
Every people has the right to its artistic, historical and cultural wealth.

Article 15
Every people has the right not to have an alien culture imposed upon it.

Section V. Right to Environment and Common Resources

Article 16
Every people has the right to the conservation, protection and improvement of its environment.

Article 17
Every people has the right to make use of the common heritage of mankind, such as the high seas, the sea-bed, and outer space.

Article 18
In the exercise of the preceding rights every people shall take account of the necessity for coordinating the requirements of its economic development with solidarity amongst all the peoples of the world.

Section VI. Rights of Minorities

Article 19
When a people constitutes a minority within a State it has the right to respect for its identity, traditions, language and cultural heritage.

Article 20
The members of a minority shall enjoy without discrimination the same rights as the other citizens of the State and shall participate on an equal footing with them in public life.

Article 21
These rights shall be exercised with due respect for the legitimate interests of the community as a whole and cannot authorise impairing the territorial integrity and political unity of State, provided the State acts in accordance with all the principles set forth in this Declaration.

Section VII. Guarantees and Sanctions

Article 22
Any disregard for the provisions of this Declaration constitutes a breach of obligations towards the international community as a whole.

Article 23
Any prejudice resulting from disregard for this Declaration must be totally compensated by whoever caused it.

Article 24
Any enrichment to the detriment of the people in violation of the provision of this Declaration shall give rise to the restitution of profits thus obtained. The same shall be applied to all excessive profits on investments of foreign origin.

Article 25
Any equal treaties, agreements or contracts concluded in disregard of the fundamental rights of peoples shall have no effect.

Article 26
External financial charges which become excessive and unbearable for people shall cease to be due.

Article 27
The gravest violations of the fundamental rights of the peoples, especially of their right to existence, constitute international crimes for which their perpetrators shall carry personal penal liberty.

Article 28
Any people whose fundamental rights are seriously disregarded has the right to enforce them, specially by political or trade union struggle and even, in the last resort by the use the force.

Article 29
Liberation movements shall have access to international organisations and their combatants are entitled to the protection of the humanitarian law of war.

Article 30
The re-establishment of the fundamental rights of peoples, when they are seriously disregarded, is a duty incumbent upon all members of the international community.

The Kari-Oka II Declaration (in English and Espanol)

Photo Courtesy of IPMSDL

We, the Indigenous Peoples of Mother Earth assembled at the site of Kari-Oka I, sacred Kari-Oka Púku, Rio de Janeiro to participate in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20, thank the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil for welcoming us to their territories. We reaffirm our responsibility to speak for the protection and enhancement of the well-being of Mother Earth, nature and future generations of our Indigenous Peoples and all humanity and life. We recognize the significance of this second convening of Indigenous Peoples of the world and reaffirm the historic 1992 meeting of the Kari-Oca I, where Indigenous Peoples issued The Kari-Oca Declaration and the Indigenous Peoples Earth Charter. The Kari-Oca conference, and the  mobilization of Indigenous Peoples around the first UN Earth Summit, marked a big step forward for an international movement for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and the important role that Indigenous Peoples play in conservation and sustainable development.  We also reaffirm the Manaus Declaration on the convening of Kari-Oca 2 as the international gathering of Indigenous Peoples for Rio+20.

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Reclaim Our Lands and Our Lives!


The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) joins the Manobo Lumad people of the Caraga region in the Philippines in their campaign to reclaim their ancestral lands and their ways of life. The Lumad of Surigao del Sur and the whole of Mindanao island in Southern Philippines have been actively campaigning for justice for victims of extrajudicial killings perpetrated by government forces as well as an end to the militarization of their ancestral lands.

On September 1, 2015, Emerito Samarca, director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), and Datu Jovello Sinzo and Dionel Campos were summarily executed by paramilitary forces under the Magahat-Bagani group supported by the Philippine military. The paramilitary and military forces then remained encamped in the area of Barangay Diatago, Lianga in Surigao del Sur province. The Manobo people from the said area had no choice but to leave their ancestral lands and way of life rather than suffer more abuses from government forces. Since then more violations were committed by government forces, resulting in the forced evacuation of more Lumad from their ancestral lands. Over 2000 Lumad from five different towns of Surigao del Sur province alone have been forced to endure a year of hardship in evacuation centers in the provincial capitol due to the government’s relentless campaign to sell ancestral lands to large corporations interested only in exploiting the natural resources of indigenous peoples’ lands. Until today, not a single soldier or paramilitary personnel has been convicted for crimes committed against the Lumad.

Today, the Lumad continue their heroic struggle against militarization and indigenous rights violations with the support of indigenous rights advocates from the Philippines and the rest of the world. On September 2, 2015, the Manobo people from Lianga will return to their village in Barangay Diatago as a symbol of the Lumad campaign to reclaim their ancestral lands and their lives from the hands of the military. This return and reconstruction will start a wave of “reclamations” by different Lumad groups of their ancestral lands that they have been forced to leave due the presence of military and paramilitary forces and large corporations.

We recognize this “reclamation” as an act of defiance by the Lumad against continuing state repression of Indigenous Peoples. We are also cognizant of the fact that state and military forces and large corporations with vested economic interests are sure to look upon this “reclamation” as a challenge to their power. It is all too likely that they will devise a more savage way of ensuring that ancestral lands remain, now and forever, in the hands of the powerful few. We expect instensification of militarization and landgrabbing of ancestral lands.  We urge our Lumad sisters and brothers to be ever vigilant in defending our territories and ways of life as we continue to strengthen our selves and the movement to uphold the right to self determination of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines.

We are one with the Lumad people of Mindanao in the campaign to reclaim and defend their territories and ways of life. We are awed by the courage of the Lumad in the face of great hardships they have faced the past year. We will continue to support the Indigenous People’s fight against militarization and other indigenous and people’s rights abuses not only in the Philippines but the rest of the world as well.

Reclaim Our Lands and Our Lives! Defend Our Territories and Ways Of Life! Stop The Killings! End Militarization!

Ms. Beverly Longid
IPMSDL Global Coordinator