Indigenous peoples’ rights groups honored on November 6 “heroes and martyrs” who championed land rights and environmental protection in the Philippines.
Activists paraded six giant portraits of indigenous leaders and environmental defenders during a march marking the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice in the national capital.
“We are mainly indebted to our Indigenous heroes for keeping our mountains, rivers, and forests in our country alive,” said Kakay Tolentino of the group BAI Indigenous Women’s Network.
Activists carried during the protest march the images of Tamblot, a babaylan from Bohol who fought Spanish colonialism; Igorot leader Macli-ing Dulag, who led protests against the a dam project in the Cordilleras; Igorot leader Petra Macli-ing; Dumagat martyr Nicanor delos Santos, who stood against dam projects in the Sierra Madre; Emerito Samarca, director of an indigenous peoples school in Mindanao; and Nelson Mallari, an Aeta farmer and anti-mining advocate.
“I hope this will be the start of many more collaborations between artists and indigenous peoples groups and communities to amplify their plight,” said Lans Tolda, member of Guni-Guri Artist Collective.
Rei Paulin of the group Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayang ng Pilipinas said addressing climate and environmental issues “will take more than promises and lip service from our government.”
He said the Philippine government has been “acting as enabler of foreign and local projects that endangers mother nature.”
Paulin said the indigenous peoples should be part of dialogues, “not silenced and harassed.”
“We demand decisive actions now,” he said, adding that attacks on indigenous peoples and all destructive projects on ancestral lands must stop.
The group Sandugo reported that there were at least 92 extrajudicial killings, 160 frustrated extrajudicial killings, six enforced disappearances, 227 illegal arrests, detention and abduction, and 27 tortures of indigenous peoples from 2016 to early 2021.
On November 10, rights advocates and organizations in the country will observe the International Indigenous Peoples Heroes Day, an initiative to honor those who contributed in advancing culture, rights, and ancestral land and environmental protection.