The Forest Peoples Programme is a human rights organisation that has been dedicated to working with indigenous and forest peoples’ organisations and movements for the advancement of human rights for decades. We are shocked and dismayed at the inclusion of key human rights defenders in the recent Philippines Government petition labelling a large number of individuals in the Philippines as ‘terrorists’.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, has dedicated herself to the cause of indigenous rights for over 40 years, and was involved in the drafting of the landmark UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007. Joan Carling, also named, has been a serving member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and now co-Chairs the Indigenous Peoples Major Group on the Sustainable Development Goals. Jose Molintas, a lawyer working in the Philippines, was one of the earliest members of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The inclusion of these individuals, and those similarly dedicated to the peaceful realisation of human rights, constitutes an attack on the struggle of indigenous peoples for equitable realisation of their rights, including their rights to lands, resources, cultures and collective futures. These individuals have contributed to the advancement of the international legal framework on indigenous peoples’ rights and to the global development of a strong and effective indigenous peoples’ movement. They have also significantly contributed to the wellbeing of all humankind by actively engaging in local, national and global processes on sustainable development, biodiversity and climate change.
Forest Peoples Programme has sought assurances from the Philippines Government that these actions will be reversed, but with no response. We stand together with our colleagues and friends as they work to defend indigenous peoples’ rights and to stand against State efforts to criminalise human rights activists in the Philippines.
The Philippine government’s actions constitute an assault on the international human rights protection of indigenous peoples, and on the human rights of everyone. As part of the growing international concern about this, we voice our profound opposition to these dangerous developments and our hope that this assault will be reversed as soon as possible.