Communiqué of the International Conference on Peoples’ Rights in the Philippines

In July 2016, about  500 delegates, observers and supporters representing human rights organisations, faith-based and social movements from many places around the world gathered for the International Conference for Peoples’ Rights (ICPRP) in Brokenshire Convention Centre, Davao City, Mindanao, Philippines. The event was a festival marked with various workshops, forums, mass actions and cultural performances.

The conference was convened by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (InPeace), KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights in the Philippines, and Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace (EcuVoice). Co-organisers included the International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS), IBON International and BAYAN (New Patriotic Alliance).

The ICPRP coincided with the 40th year anniversary of the Algiers Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples that recognised the indivisible link between individual and collective rights; the interrelations between economic, cultural, and civil and political rights; and the right of the oppressed peoples of the world to fight for their liberation.

Davao City has been chosen as the venue for the ICPRP because Mindanao serves as a laboratory for the US-designed counter-insurgency program of the AFP’s Oplan Bayanihan. The Lumad Indigenous Peoples are particularly targeted for rights violations by paramilitary and military forces.  The Conference was held in the context of increasing human rights abuses against Lumad and other communities in Mindanao since July 2013.

 

Solidarity Missions

Prior to the conference, from 16 to 20 July, around 200 international and local delegates participated in solidarity missions (ISMs) in 11 areas: Zinundungan Valley; Cagayan, Patungan, Maragondon, Cavite; Jalaur, Iloilo; Tacloban, Leyte and Sta. Rita and Basey, Samar; Talaingod, Davao del Norte; Lebak, Sultan Kudarat; Tandag and Lianga, Surigao del Sur; Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur; Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus communities in Maramag, Bukidnon; and Kidapawan, South Cotabato.

The identified ISM areas included communities struggling against land grabbing, development aggression, government neglect and disaster capitalism, environmental destruction, militarisation, political repression and harassment.

The solidarity missions aimed to give the delegates to the conference a concrete experience on the situation and violations of people’s rights in specific areas of our country and the socio-economic and political context of this situation. Reports of the ISMs and the recommendations drawn were presented at the conference proper in Davao.

For four days, delegates immersed with their local host community, participated in livelihood production, interviewed affected individuals, participated in mass actions, visited political prisoners and held dialogues with local government authorities and church leaders.

Delegates were impressed and inspired by Lumad schools continuing to serve children amidst threats from the paramilitary and soldiers.

“The delegates have seen how communities are resilient, how they turn their conditions into opportunities to fight. Our optimism is also raised with your solidarity,” said ICPRP spokesperson IFI Bishop Felixberto Calang.

 

International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) 2nd General Assembly

On the evening of July 21, the 2nd General Assembly of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) was formally opened. The ICHRP was launched at a major conference in Quezon City in July 2013. The 2nd General Assembly was held in Brokenshire Convention Centre in Davao City.

A rousing Mindanaoan music and dance performance from the cultural group Kathara set the mood for the opening of the assembly.

Founding ICHRP Chairperson Reverend Canon Barry Naylor, gave the keynote message via a pre-recorded video from Leicester, Unted Kingdom.

“We believe strongly in the power of international solidarity and the need for people from all over the world to stand united in the struggle for justice and in the affirmation of the dignity of each and every child, woman, and man on the face of the earth,” said Canon Naylor.

He expressed optimism under the new dispensation, but also urged for all to be ever vigilant and ready to challenge the powers that be if and when the basic human rights of any citizen or groups are violated.

Rev. Naylor was followed by IFI Bishop Calang. Bishop Calang urged the new administration of Rodrigo Duterte to heed the peoples’ demands for genuine social transformation and change by upholding human, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and their right to self-determination and liberation.

The second session of the General Assembly resumed the following morning. Peter Murphy, Secretary General of ICHRP gave welcome remarks and served as moderator.

Reverend Jeong Jin Woo facilitated the presentation and discussion of ICHRP reports from different regions: members from the Asia-Pacific (South Korea, Hong Kong, and Japan); Peter Murphy for Oceania; United States Team for US; Kelti Cameron  for Canada; and Ann Brusola for Europe. Dr. Angie Gonzales, Global Coordinator of ICHRP, capped off the segment with her Coordinator’s Report. Compared to the 59 which formed the ICHRP in 2013, there are now 71 member-organisations.

A short video on the Save our Schools campaign was shown during the break. The Save our schools campaign is an initiative of network of child rights advocates, organizations and various stakeholders working together to bring light and take action on the ongoing violation of children’s right to education, particularly those in the context of militarization and attacks on schools.

In the afternoon, ICHRP members conducted a review and assessment of the General Program of Action (2013-2016) to track progress on goals and targets set in the first general assembly.  This was followed by proposals to amend the coalition’s constitution and by-laws, presentation of new members, and approval of the General Program for 2016-2019. Elections of the Global Council was held and members for 2016-2019 are:

  1. Bern Jagunos (Canada)
  2. Michael Yoshii (US)
  3. Azadeh Shashahani (US)
  4. Ma Wan Ki (Hong Kong)
  5. Claude Mostowik (Australia)
  6. Shanthi Sivakumaran (UK)
  7. Jeong Jin Woo (S. Korea)
  8. Luciano Seller (Italy)
  9. Peter Murphy (Australia)
  10. Archbishop Joris Vercammen (the Netherlands)
  11. Douglas Booker (Canada)

Side-events were also held for non-ICHRP members. The Asia-Pacific People’s Research Network , in partnership with IBON International and the International League of Peoples’ Struggles, conducted a workshop on the mega-regional free trade agreements Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Community integration at the Community Technical College of Southeastern Mindanao was also organised for delegates wanting to know more about grassroots initiatives to train youth from low-income families and provide them complete and integrated education.

As the sun set, the General Assembly created placards and streamers and moved outside to form a torch parade to march to the United Church of Christ Haran compound nearby, where over 700 Lumad indigenous peoples have been sheltering for over a year. The Lumad were forced to evacuate their communities, particularly the Talaingod by military action against their schools and homes. In this way, ICHRP joined in the many “Human Chain” activities in Manila and elsewhere calling on President Duterte to take action for justice and peace.

Following dinner, a book launching was held for Prof. Jose Ma. Sison’s publication Building People’s Power. The book is a comprehensive and concrete guide on organising and mobilizing the broad masses of the people against US imperialism and local reaction in the Philippines and in many other countries.

A concert/benefit dinner for Lumad alternative learning schools was organised at a nearby grill restaurant.

 

International Conference for Peoples’ Rights in the Philippines (ICPRP)

The International Conference for Peoples’ Rights in the Philippines was an initiative that sought to build on the gains of the 2013 International Conference for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (ICHRPP) which raised the discourse on peoples’ rights and strengthened efforts for international solidarity for the Filipino and all struggling peoples of the world.

Kathara cultural group opened the event with a stirring indigenous Mindanao song and dance performance. Lumad leader Matanem Monico Cayog, Sr. Annie Oser, MSM, Bishop Jonathan Casimina, and Ustadz Ishak Azarie led the interfaith opening invocation.

Davao City Councilor Antoinette “Petite” Principe read the welcome remarks in behalf of Davao Mayor “Inday” Sara Duterte and the city resolution in support of the Conference.

Bishop Felixberto Calang, Chairperson for Initiative for Peace in Mindanao, delivered brief welcome remarks on behalf of the ICPRP convening organizations.

ILPS Chairperson Jose Ma. Sison sent his message of solidarity via a pre-recorded video.  He was followed by Rev. Malcolm Damon, Economic Justice Network Executive Director, who discussed Peoples’ Rights in the context of the crisis of moribund imperialism.

Owing to unforeseen circumstances, Azadeh Shahshahani of Project South could not personally attend the Conference. Her speech on the 40th Year of the Algiers Declaration was read by Gill Boehringer, Former Head of Law School, Macquarie University.  This was followed by the speech of Luis Jalandoni, Head of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines’ (NDFP) Negotiating Panel, on “the Peoples’ Struggles for Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines.”  It was delivered by Rev. Rex RB Reyes, Executive Committee member of the World Council of Churches.

Leaders and speakers of the conference met with the local media to help convey to the wider public the Conference’s positions on burning local and global issues.

The first afternoon panel was dedicated to in-depth discussions on the state of peoples’ rights around the world. The session was preceded by a video message from renowned Belgian Catholic theologian and Marxist sociologist Francois Houtart.

Antonio Tujan Jr. provided the general international situationer, while Demba Moussa Dembele, director of the African Forum for Alternatives; Prof. Camilo Perez-Bustillo, executive director Human Rights Centre at the University of Dayton; and Sarojeni Renggam of Pesticide Action Network – Asia Pacific discussed peoples’ rights in Africa, Latin America, and Asia Pacific respectively.

The second afternoon panel focused on the current threats and prospects for peoples’ rights in the Philippines. Hon. Neri Colmenares of Makabayan shed light on the topic of imperialism and the Filipino peoples’ right to development. Hon. Carlos Zarate, Bayan Muna partylist representative, shared insights on climate change and its impacts on peoples’ rights in the Philippines. Finally, Cristina Palabay, KARAPATAN secretary general, discussed imperialist aggression, militarisation, and their impacts on the collective rights of the Filipino people.

The first session of the ICPRP closed with international and regional delegates’ reports on the International Solidarity Missions held in 11 areas across Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. They proposed important recommendations and plans of action for their respective ISM-areas. The results of the ISM were presented in the plenary through creative and rousing presentations by the respective ISM teams.  These were all enthusiastically received by the audience.

The second day of the ICPRP began with simultaneous workshops of different participating organisations on relevant themes and topics, combining theoretical discussions and sharing practical experience in peoples’ struggles. They were:

  1. US, Militarisation and State Terrorism in the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific by BAYAN, IBON International and ILPS
  2. On Self-Determination and Liberation by International Indigenous Peoples’ Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP), KATRIBU National Alliance of Indigenous Peoples’ Organisations in the Philippines, KALUMARAN (Mindanao-wide Lumad Alliance), and Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA)
  3. Encouraging Interfaith Peoples’ Solidarity in Confronting War on Terror Policies and Islamophobia by Suara Bangsamoro
  4. The Free Our Sisters! Free Ourselves! Campaign and women’s collective rights and struggles by Gabriela and International Women’s Alliance (IWA)
  5. The Role of Rule of Law: The Mary Jane Veloso Case and the Rights and Freedoms of Migrants and Refugees by National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers and Migrante
  6. The Rocky Road to a Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines by EcuVoice and InPeace Mindanao
  7. Defending the Filipino Peasants’ Collective Rights by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Asian Peasant Coalition, and ILPS Peasant Commission
  8. Let Freedom Ring! A Workshop on Political Prisoners by Karapatan, SELDA and Hustisya
  9. Amid Attacks and forced displacements: People call for peace, struggle for justice, defend the right to education by KASALO: Kahugpongan sa Lumadnong Organisasyon – Caraga Regional Lumad Organisation, ALCADEV; Alternative Learning Centre for Agricultural and Livelihood Development; and TRIFPSS: Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur, Friends of the Lumad in Caraga Alliance
  10. Climate Change and Human Rights by Kalikasan and 350.org Pilipinas
  11. Violations on Collective Rights: Stories of Resistance by Barug Katungod Mindanao (Consortium of Human Rights Defender Organizations in Mindanao)

Participants to the workshops reported on the results of their discussion during the afternoon plenary session.

The ICPRP Declaration Fight for Peoples’ Rights! was read and reviewed for plenary discussion and amendments. It also incorporated the recommendations drawn from the 4-day International Solidarity Missions and workshops.

Part of the statement reads as follows:

We will continue to organise and mobilise to promote solidarity for the Filipino and the world’s peoples to advance their democratic rights and welfare.  We shall continue to support the struggles of communities and organizations in the Philippines by:

  • conducting more research on current problems and threats to peoples’ rights;
  • leveraging sectoral-based organising that focuses on terminating the VFA and EDCA; continuing to highlight gender-based violence that comes with US military occupation; and focusing on military recruitment in both US and the Philippines
  • contributing to relief efforts, health and education, psychosocial services, production inputs, paralegal support and human rights education;
  • raising public awareness about the Filipino peoples struggles in our own countries;
  • encouraging others to join solidarity missions and community exposure in the Philippines; and
  • connecting local struggles in the Philippines to international campaigns and struggles of other oppressed and exploited peoples in other countries.

We shall continue to fight for peoples’ rights here in the Philippines and beyond. As oppression and exploitation grows across borders, so too shall our resistance. Dare to struggle, dare to win!

The delegation closed the conference by trooping to the convention open grounds to participate in and witness a Lumad Indigenous Peoples’ prayer and ritual. Peter Murphy, the newly elected Chairperson of ICHRP gave the closing remarks, exhorting everyone to continue to support the struggles for peoples’ rights in the Philippines and the world through greater and broader solidarity actions.

A solidarity night of song and dance brought together all the participants together to share in the joy of struggle and prepare for greater challenges ahead.

The new international platform for a just and lasting peace in the Philippines called JustPeacePH was launched during the conference. Its goal is to reach out to individuals, organisations and institutions which have advocacies on peace and issue-based people’s concerns in various capacities outside of the country. In particular, JustPeacePH seeks support from individuals and organisations in multilateral organisations, people’s organisations, civil society organisations, academe, development institutions as well as governments across the globe.

 

Mass Actions

The ICPRP was also an opportunity for the international delegates to participate in militant mass actions in the Philippines.

Before the Conference proper, ICPRP delegates joined local people’s organizations in a demonstration in front of the Commission on Human Rights Region 11 Office last July 21 to demand the dropping of trumped-up charges against the “Haran 15”.  These are 15 leaders and activists who have been slapped with charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention for helping 700 Lumad evacuees seek refuge in the Haran Compound of the UCCP in Davao last August 2015.

The ISM team in Zamboanga also returned to Pagadian City IFI Church, where over 200 people had gathered to set off from Mindanao to Manila to take part in the People’s Rally for the new President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address. The shared concern was to ensure that peace talks begin between the government and the NDFP, that political prisoners are released, and that land grabbing by mining companies, logging companies and agri-business stop.

The presence of international observers and delegates did not deter fascist elements from carrying out new attacks against the Lumad. On July 15, Herman Alegre and his companion Danny Diarog were shot by unidentified persons on their way home from a meeting called by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in Barangay Tagakan. Alegre died while Danny Diarog survived the attack but is still in critical condition. On July 24, Some of the ICPRP delegates attended the tribute program for the slain Lumad leader and reiterated their support for the call for the end in the attacks against the Lumad who are defending their ancestral lands.

Another four ICPRP delegates joined the rescue of Ronnie Garcia who was holed up in a hospital trying to evade suspected security forces who had been harassing and tailing him for several weeks already because of his work with Salugpongan Lumad schools.

Finally, around 100 international delegates joined the 40-thousand strong mobilisation in Batasan Complex, Quezon City, and 15 delegates in Rizal Park in Davao City for the first State of the Nation’s Address of President Duterte. They were one with the Filipino masses in urging President Duterte to resume the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the NDFP, the release of all political prisoners, and to challenge the new government to take on progressive actions for a just and lasting solution to the roots of the armed conflict in the country. ###

International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines. The ICHRP is a global network of organizations based outside of the Philippines, committed to campaigning for human rights and Filipino people's rights.