Building rights-oriented IP communities in Bukidnon

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR) continues to build human rights-oriented Lumad communities in the province of Bukidnon vis-à-vis increasing militarization of villages.

The Promoting and Protecting Indigenous Human Rights in the Philippines (PPIHRP) project of the RMP-NMR conducted a five-day “Training-Workshop on Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples’ (IP) Rights Monitoring, Documentation and Reporting” from 15 to 19 October 2017 at Barangay Butong, Quezon in Bukidnon.

Attended by 40 individuals who are IPs from various villages of Bukidnon, the training-workshop aimed at capacitating the participants to become Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) who will monitor, document and report cases of human rights violations (HRVs) in their communities. It was facilitated by Ms. Apolonia Atrigenio of KARAPATAN-Northern Mindanao—an alliance of individuals, groups and organizations working for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines—together with the PPIHRP project coordinator and area/training coordinators.

Among the topics discussed were basic human rights orientation, familiarization on the lexicon of cases of rights violations, and the rights of IPs as enshrined in the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Workshops on factsheets and affidavit-writing were held at the end part of the activity where participants’ output were critiqued and developed.

The HRDs, aside from becoming rights monitors from the grassroots, are also foreseen to become human rights ‘educators’ of their respective communities. The HRDs call themselves ‘Katungod Lumad Monitors (KLM)’.

The PPIHRP project is a joint initiative of RMP-NMR and international NGO Relief International. It is supported by the European Union (EU) through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights.

The formation of the KLMs is among the best practices of the about-to-conclude ‘Healing the Hurt (HTH)’ Project of RMP-NMR, also supported by the EU under the same funding facility.

Under the HTH Project, members of IP communities were developed to become HRDs from the ground to efficiently, timely and effectively report rights violations and facilitate demands for accountability. The concept of KLM-building is being replicated and expanded by the current PPIHRP project in various area of Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte.

“The task of building grassroots rights monitors has never ceased because attacks against indigenous communities are also non-stop despite condemnations from the international community,” said Maridel Fano, PPIHRP project coordinator.

Recently, after the touted ‘liberation’ of Marawi, the 4th ID of the Philippine Army redeployed a new combat battalion to southern Bukidnon to go after members of the rebel group New People’s Army.

“In the light of the announced redeployment of government troops, indigenous communities of Bukidnon have to prepare for possible massive rights violations,” said Fano.

“We, at the RMP-NMR and the PPIHRP project, also need to intensify our assistance to Lumad communities. The Lumad are gravely affected by ceaseless militarization, oftentimes targeted as rebels or rebel supporters for asserting their rights over their ancestral lands. We have to empower them by transforming their communities into human rights citadels—so that they may be able to pursue a self-determined development for their respective communities,” she concluded.###