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Katribu meets with UN SR on Freedom of Expression

Press Release
January 24, 2024

QUEZON CITY – On January 23, Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, alongside other civil society organizations, met with UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Irene Khan, to discuss the current situation of the Indigenous Peoples (IP) in the Philippines relative to her mandate.

Beverly Longid, the national convenor of Katribu, emphasized the violations of of the Indigenous Peoples’ freedom of expression should be taken in the context of the assertion of their right to lands and self-determination such as the manipulation of the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) due to the construction of extractive industries and energy projects within ancestral domains. “This deceptive practice undermines the genuine consent of affected Indigenous communities, encroaches upon their right to participate in decisions impacting them actively, distorts our collective will, and significantly weakens our capacity to oppose projects resulting in cultural and economic displacement and environmental degradation,” Longid said.

Longid added that, aside from FPIC violations in the construction of destructive projects on IP lands, the ongoing vilification of Indigenous Peoples through red-tagging and terrorist designations also undermines their right to FPIC. “Political vilification is often accompanied by militarization and bombings of communities, jeopardizing our physical safety, creating fear, and restricting our ability to voice concerns and participate in decision-making processes.”

Known cases of FPIC violations among dam projects built on Indigenous lands include the Kaliwa Dam along the Sierra Mountain Range, the Gened Dams in Apayao, and the Jalaur Dam in Iloilo. “In most cases, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples fabricates the FPIC documents of Indigenous Peoples affected. They use the tactic of deception and misrepresentation among the IP in order to push through the construction of these destructive projects,” Longid stated.

During the dialogue, Longid reiterated the roles of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 in the infringement of the Indigenous Peoples' expression and assertion of their rights to genuine development and self-determination. "The number of attacks targeting Indigenous Peoples surpasses the recognition of rights that the government should be allowing us to enjoy. We are not criminals; we are not terrorists. However, the government considers us as such even when we are only exercising our rights to live and develop our lands," Longid expressed.

The #DearIreneKhan letter prepared by Longid corroborated with Katribu’s recommendations to the Special Rapporteur, emphasizing the need to protect the freedom of expression of Indigenous Peoples through genuine Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), cessation of red-tagging and terrorist-labeling, repeal of the Anti-Terrorism Law, rescindment of terrorist designations, and suspension of militarization and bombings in communities.

Download: #DearIreneKhan letter