INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY 2021 | Opinion

Land is life: Indigenous Peoples across the world are risking their lives and freedoms to protect their lands

Approximately 20 percent of the earth’s territory are Indigenous lands. These lands are home to about 476 million Indigenous Peoples worldwide, in over 90 countries. Indigenous lands and territories are at the core of Indigenous Peoples’ culture, spirituality, and identity. To them, land is life.

Across the world, Indigenous Peoples are risking their lives and freedoms to protect their lands and territories. As a result, they are relentlessly subjected to wide range of violence and attacks – from criminalization, harassment and militarization to land grabbing, arbitrary detentions, and killings.

Criminalization of Indigenous Peoples is increasing at an alarming rate. To clearly define the term, criminalization is the misuse of criminal laws that involves the manipulation of the punitive power of the State and non-state actors. This is done to control, punish or prevent the exercise of the right to defend human rights. It results in negative, and often times, irreparable damage on both indigenous individuals and peoples. Instances of criminalization include the filing of trumped-up charges of terrorism, murder, trespassing, robbery, illegal logging, and vilification of rights defenders.

As in the case of killings, criminalization is often preceded by threats and attacks aimed either at instilling fear or delegitimizing efforts to defend rights. Several cases of criminalization and killing of Indigenous Peoples indicate a link to the defense of their lands and resources against mining, agri-business, energy projects, and other extractive industries. Likewise, States utilize the military and paramilitary groups to “clear” areas of any resistance by Indigenous peoples and to facilitate unhampered operations of companies provided with contracts by the government.

Worse, there are even more arrests and detentions of Indigenous Peoples while the world grapples with the lingering impacts of COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2021 annual criminalization report of Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI) noted that amid the pandemic, state actors, in partnership with businesses, exacerbated killings and criminalization of Indigenous Peoples. It was also noted in the report that many states have implemented lockdowns and loosened their environmental and social safeguards as means of economic recovery. As a result, these states made it easier for some companies and syndicates to grab the lands and resource of Indigenous Peoples for agribusiness, mining or illegal activities while sending Indigenous Peoples to jail for their resistance.

Similarly, Frontline Defenders reported, at the end of 2020, that 69 percent of the 330 human rights defenders killed in 25 countries were working on land, Indigenous, and environment rights, while 26 percent worked on Indigenous Peoples’ rights. It added that often, these Indigenous rights and lands defenders were gunned down by State actors or hired assassins of big businesses. In killings and illegal arrests of Indigenous Peoples, state actors violate the rights to liberty and security, and their right against arbitrary arrest and detention which are stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The protection of these fundamental rights is integral to the protection of Indigenous Peoples’ rights to their land, territories and resources and to self-determination as provided in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

As we commemorate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (August 9), which bears the theme “Leaving no one behind: Indigenous peoples and the call for a new social contract” this year, it is imperative to hold States and businesses accountable for the human rights violations against world’s Indigenous Peoples and ensure the safety and security of Indigenous Peoples. As it has become more profoundly concerning that many crimes take place with impunity, the States need to address the impacts of discrimination and impunity particularly in relation to the rights of Indigenous Peoples to their lands, territories, and resources, and to self-determination.

Finally, Indigenous Peoples, advocates, and other sectors need to strengthen solidarity and cooperation to put an end to the impunity in the crimes against indigenous peoples, and the criminalization of and violence against Indigenous Peoples across the world.

About the Author: The Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI) is a legally registered, non-profit global Indigenous Peoples organization that works to protect Indigenous Peoples rights, and unite and amplify the call for justice to victims of criminalization and impunity. For more information, visit our website at https://www.iprights.org.

What’s happening in Davao del Norte?

Mindanao biggest dollar-earning agricultural industry is (cavendish) bananas. At an average of one employee for every 1-1/2 hectares, not counting the administrative staff, the industry accounts for the biggest number of labor force. Last year’s January to November export revenues contributed $1.345-billion to the country’s gross domestic product. These are significant contributions to the country as a whole but the events that happened recently is threatening the industry to extinction.

The cultivation of cavendish bananas in the Philippines was pioneered by the late Antonio Floirendo, Sr. circa 19t9. Taking advantage of the government offer to pioneers in Mindanao to develop family and corporate farms, Floirendo who opted to settle in Davao saw exciting potentials in agriculture. He leased 1,020 hectares in Davao del Norte. He saw this while he was setting up his business as dealer of Ford Motors, the first outside of Luzon. Before he ventured into cavendish Floirendo started off with abaca in Marapangi, Toril, Davao City and then expanded in Sto. Tomas, Davao del Norte. Abaca fibers was best seller in the world market then. But in the midst 1960’s abaca was hit by double whammy: dreaded mossaic disease wiped out abaca and synthetic nylon fiber, a byproduct of oil, emerged and it was cheaper and can withstand any weather condition. This prompted Floirendo to shift to cavendish bananas. When the Bureau of Corrections offered part of its land grant for development, Tagum Agricultural Development Corporation made a bid and the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee then chaired by the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino favored the offer of TADECO over Gomez Cellulose.

Floirendo’s TADECO proceeded to undertake a yeoman’s job of transforming the swampland of BUCOR to the world’s best producer of bananas in terms of best practices and in number of boxes harvested per hectare.

Banana cultivation however is not a walk in the park. Despite its contribution to the economy and labor force the government has not created a special agency that would look into the needs of the industry. The biggest challenge that the industry faces these days is the emergence of fusarium wilt which had wiped out the entire banana plantations in Panama and threatened other cavendish banana producers in Latin American countries. By latest count over 15,000 hectares of banana plantations which are mostly grown by small growers had been destroyed by the Panama disease which is caused by soil-borne fungi. Corporate farms like TADECO, Sumifru and Dole had so far managed to keep their plantations away from the menace of fusarium wilt by establishing quarantine stations in all ingress and egress of their plantations. The Department of Agriculture also had raised warning on the lethal disease by structly enforcing all available options to control the dreaded fungal menace.

But all is not well in Davao del Norte. In strange defiance and arrogance, the newly elected governor Edwin Jubahib himself led a phalanx of government personnel with a number of provincial engineers’ heavy equipment with a retinue of military contingent purportedly to dismantle the quarantine stations. This is the second attempt at forcibly removing the quarantine stations. When he was the Chief of Staff of then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Jubahib also led a contingent of DPWH and police contingent allegedly on orders of a congressman from Surigao del Sur. Why the manic move to focus on TADECO which has a joint venture agreement with BUCOR to set up and develop a banana plantation in the later’s land grant defies imagination.

Both attempts at dismantling the quarantine stations did not materialize despite the show of force. TADECO employees are out to deter the highhanded enforcement of an order which is patently illegal and plainly a display of idiocy. But it is not only TADECO and its workers who will suffer if in case those sanitary measures will be removed. There are several corporate and cooperative farms in Davao del Norte alone. If Governor Jubahib thought that fusarium wilt will only put to risk TADECO alone then maybe he must be off his rockers.

The Philippine banana industry has regained its position as the second biggest exporter of cavendish bananas in the world. Thanks to the joint efforts of the people in the industry. We have the biggest share of Japan consumer market and we enjoy a preferential trade in China. I would attribute this too to the inroads of Duterte’s brand of diplomacy. As I write this, the President is hobnobbing with Pres. Vladimir Putin of Russia and expect that new markets for Philippine bananas will be in the works.

The success of banana industry translates to the economic stability and development of the Davao region which has the distinction of registering the highest growth of economy in the entire country.

The national government, particularly the Department of Interior and Local government should look closely at the behavior of the officials of the provincial government of Davao del Norte. The military and police authorities too should investigate the presence of their personnel in TADECO instead of running after the New Peoples Army which are still harassing private companies and government road contractors. The decadence has become disturbing. Tagum City, which is also the seat of power of the provincial authority, has become the scam capital of the Philippines. Just last week a manager of one of about a dozen get-rich-quick Ponzi pyramiding schemes was shot dead. There were sevceral other killings attributed to the business scam which were reported to be carried out by investors who were hoodwinked to place their money in the shady transactions. The problem persists because the local government is perceived to be tolerating the grand estafa. In fact one of the firms is said to be operated by a ranking official of a politician. KAPA, the grandest of them all is said to have started in General Santis City but it flourished in Davao del Norte because of the obvious tolerance of local authorities.

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte must crack the whip on DILG, AFP and DILG to address the virus of insanity that is devouring Davao del Norte and mayblead to a veritable banana republic where people may eventually have to subsist only on saba bananas.

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LETTERS FROM DAVAO: Bato’s Waggly Tongue

By Jun Ledesma

Because of simple math that theoritically extrapolated numbers of rare days of good conduct by an inmate that serves seven life sentences, the nation went agog when rapist and multiple murderer Antonio Sanchez was said to be a candidate for deliverance.

It would have just been a conjecture except that neophyte Sen. Ronaldo “Bato” dela Rosa advanced an opinion that Sanchez “deserves” a second chance. For his knee-jerk reaction and an equally repulsive statement, the Senator was subject to public stoning that he gets from the social media and barbershop talks. That simple math applies only to a reformed convict but not for one who was sentenced to seven life imprisonment for heinous crime committed but remains to be a hard nut to crack.

Sanchez notoriety inside the reformatory is just too grave it is simply loathsome that he be given clemency. Add to that bestiality is what Director General Nicanor Faeldon of the Bureau of Prison revealed that the convict was stocking up on drugs. Such effrontery should in fact extend his confinement. Was Gen. Bato dela Rosa not aware of this during his term as watchdog of the penitenciary? Was his statement taken out of context when he said “nareform na yong tao”? That usually is the over-used line to cover up for one’s slip of waggly tongue. That should have a soft impact except that the convict is far from being reformed. Next time around look before you leap, and in this blunder think what emotional breakdown it will cause to the kin of the victims of Sanchez and what damage will it do to the President who endorsed you.

The booboo could have been a veritable canon fodder for the opposition that had been incessantly on the lookout for issues to discredit Pres. Rodrigo Duterte. What obviously reined them in was the fact that the law that grants life-termers pardon for good behavior was, afterall, signed by former Pres. Benigno Aquino III. Sanchez deserves death verdict not a seven life terms which under that law are served simultaneusly. It’s incredible but true! In law seven is equals one (7=1). It defies logic and algebra.

It will be wise for Senator Bato to pursue his pet legislation of reviving the death penalty. Steady the course because it was this stand that the public elected you Senator. And by the way my friend, get yourself a good PR man. You badly needed one.

Our take on Gretch Diez

The harrowing experience of Gretchen Diez in the hands of people and mall management who should know better is deplorable, to say the least.

We commiserate with her. We call for equality and respect among all, to borrow from Senator Tito Sotto, “homo sapiens”. (Pun intended)

As the story unravelled, there were claims that what the public thought what happened was not at all what actually happened. Then there was also this side story about a transgender lawmaker berating the janitress without hearing her side of the story during a confrontation.

A lot had been said by a lot of people.

Now the real issue here is the comfort room, to be specific, privacy in a public CR.

Others see nothing wrong in allowing the LGBTQ use the comfort room for ladies. After all, there are supposedly closed cubicle in each toilet bowls of a ladies CR.

But some ladies feel uncomfortable to the idea considering that most of the LGBTQ members still have that ever deadly and dangling tool between their legs. So basically, they still urinate standing rather than sitting.

And because of too much attention brought about by the “Diez incident” some people are already abusing the situation. Take this incident reported on a Facebook account for example:

No matter how legit the issue would be, there will be people who would exploit it one way or another.

Thus the best way would be to really separate and segregate.

Have separate comfort rooms for male, female, LGBTQ. After all, what’s a separate room amidst all the “Build Build Build” that’s happening all around us?

But other than the infrastructure, what is more important is to inculcate among the people the sense of respect.

There will always be contradicting opinions in the society, but if we all have that sense of respect in all of us, I think we can all live harmoniously.

LETTERS FROM DAVAO:STL and Lotto are legal fronts

By Jun Ledesma

THE gospel in last Sunday Mass was about the total destruction Sodom and Gomorrah on account of the detestable things they do before the eyes of God. The story of the annihilation of these degenerate towns appeared not only in the Bible but also in the Koran. When Abraham heard of this severe punishment, he pleaded to God to spare the towns if he can find 50 persons who are innocent. He bargained after finding it difficult to see 50 and bargained some more to which God agreed to spare the towns if there are even 10 innocent people. There was none and so God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah by fire and saved only the family of Lot. His two sons-in-law who refused to leave the places of sin were among those who were incinerated and even Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back in the burning inferno.

The Gospel provides an uncanny semblance to why and how Pres. Rodrigo Duterte ordered the sudden and immediate closure of PCSO franchise operators of Lotto and STL (Small Town Lottery). I surmise that he may have been forgiving about some malfeasance in the operations of lotto and STL but when later discovered that of the billions of pesos collected by the operators only a morsel was remitted to the government, he finally decided it was time to shut down the operations of lotto and STL. The people in Sodom and Gomorrah, not only indulged in bestial lustfulness they too never help the poor and the needy. The semblance reeks.

By the time lotto and the lottery was legalized and placed under the supervision of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, the conservative estimates were that it should have remitted to the government about P50-billion. By the time the Commission on Audit alerted the PCSO, the lotto and STL is accountable for P8.7-billion and yet not a single centavo was remitted to the government coffers.

In short, some people are having Roman holidays with the income from Lotto and STL while the government is helping them promote the games on all media outlets.
Duterte loathes gambling but tempered this because of the national proclivity of Filipinos to gamble. Cockfighting is a nationwide delight, “jueteng” a favorite pastime in Luzon, “masiao” a poor man’s sweepstakes in the Visayas while “Last Two” is an opiate in Mindanao. Billions are collected by the operators from these illegal gambling games ergo the government decided to supplant these with small town lottery on top of Lotto.

In a rare chance meeting I interviewed Gen. Alexander Balutan (ret.) who was then appointed Chairman of PCSO and asked him how he would convince the illegal game operators and gamblers to migrate to STL. His explanation was brief but I found it to be easily doable.

General Baltan said that all police officers including the barangay councilman knew who are behind the operations of the illegal games. They are also aware as to how much bets are being collected by every operator every month. The Philippine National Police plays the most crucial role in stamping out illegal gambling, he said. Enforcement is the key to the success of STL.

Balutan’s strategy was to impose a collection/sales quota to every STL operator equal to the estimated amount of bets before they were awarded the franchise. Short of the quota would mean suspension or cancellation of the franchise. Balutan moreover expressed apprehension that the STL operators might just use their franchise as a legal front and continue with their illegal gambling operations would still continue. He stressed that PCSO would rely heavily on PNP in stamping out illegal gambling. Obviously, it did not.

The good general knows exactly what to do but that lavish Christmas party did him. Sandra Cam turned out to be a pain in his neck until it was time for him to go. To my mind then his exit was the triumph of illegal operators. “Last Two” games in Davao region proliferate with strange impunity. Not a few radio stations openly promote the illegal game and anyone can place their bets for “Last Two” on STL and lotto outlets or with ambulant collectors of bets.

President Duterte’s order to close STL and Lotto was expected. Lotto operations should have been spared but since most lotto operators are mostly STL franchise holders too and are operating in the same outlets where bets for illegal games are also accepted then both had to be closed. Rightfully so while the members of the Board of PCSO condone the venality and while PNP is in deep slumber.