“These incidents deserve attention from the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples.”
The baseless arrest in Cebu last week of the Salugpongan teachers and elders and the forced abduction of the Lumad children are gross violations of their human rights under international and Philippine law. In particular, the Duterte government violated their right to liberty and security, and the right against arbitrary arrest and detention, which are recognized rights of all people under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and recognized rights of children and indigenous people in particular under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Article 3 of the UDHR states: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.” Article 9 of the same declaration likewise provides: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.” Article 9(1) of the ICCPR made respecting this right into a treaty obligation: “Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.”
Applied more specifically to children, Article 37(b) of CRC provides that “States Parties shall ensure that… [n]o child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily…”
And for indigenous peoples, Article 7(1) of UNDRIP is also explicit: “Indigenous individuals have the rights to life, physical and mental integrity, liberty and security of person.”
The contrived shutdown of the Salugpongan schools is itself an offense against the right to education enshrined in the UDHR, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESC), and the CRC. It is a violation of the right of indigenous people under the UNDRIP to “establish and control their educational systems and institutions… in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning”. Further, it goes against the International Labour Organization’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (ILO 169), which provides in Article 27(1) that “Education programmes and services for the peoples concerned shall be developed and implemented in co-operation with them to address their special needs, and shall incorporate their histories, their knowledge and technologies, their value systems and their further social, economic and cultural aspirations.”
The persistent red-tagging of the Talaingod Manobo of Mindanao is a violation of the rights of indigenous people to be free from any kind of discrimination based on their indigenous identity, and to live in freedom, peace, and security – as recognized in the UNDRIP. As well, it is an indication of how the government falls short of its duty, under the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, to implement measures for the full realization of the social, economic, and cultural rights of indigenous peoples and to ensure that the rights of indigenous people are protected “with due account… taken of the nature of the problems which face them.”
Article 2(1) of ILO 169 provides that: “Governments shall have the responsibility for developing, with the participation of the peoples concerned, coordinated and systematic action to protect the rights of these peoples and to guarantee respect for their integrity.” While Article 2(2)(a): “Such action shall include measures for… ensuring that members of these peoples benefit on an equal footing from the rights and opportunities which national laws and regulations grant to other members of the population…”
Article 5(a) of the same Convention states: “In applying the provisions of this Convention… the social, cultural, religious and spiritual values and practices of these peoples shall be recognised and protected, and due account shall be taken of the nature of the problems which face them both as groups and as individuals…”
These incidents, including the latest events in Cebu where the Lumad children, have been illegally detained by the police, deserve attention from the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples, currently Mr. José Francisco Cali Tzay of Guatemala (appointed in 2020), whose mandate it is to examine and recommend the practices by which the obstacles to the full and effective protection of the rights of indigenous peoples can be overcome. In conformity with this mandate, the Special Rapporteur can gather information, make recommendations and proposals, and develop possibilities of dialogue and cooperation with governments in order to protect, and remedy violations of, the rights of indigenous peoples.
Dr. Koumbou Boly Barry, who is from Burkina Faso and appointed in 2016 as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, should also look at these gross violations. Her mandate is to gather information, make recommendations and reports on the ways to limit the obstacles to education, and cooperate with different state and international bodies with a view to the full realization of the right to education and effective access to education for all. The plight of the Lumad teachers and children are clearly within the ambit of this mandate.
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