The Commission on Human Rights has called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) to probe the police’s alleged violent dispersal of an indigenous peoples’ barricade in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya.
"The CHR is alarmed by this transgression and calls for immediate investigation of the PNP on the encounter. It is deplorable that such operations were carried out while there is an ongoing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon is being implemented," lawyer and Commission spokesperson Jacqueline Ann De Guia said in a statement.
She was referring to the incident wherein around a hundred police officers escorted three diesel tankers of OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI) into Barangay Didipio in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, injuring several indigenous peoples, mostly women, in the process.
“While people are trying to flatten the curve by complying with the enhanced community quarantine, such action by OGPI and the police increases the danger of losing the lives of the involved communities,” De Guia added.
She said that such intensified military and the police presence just heightens the fear of crackdown and attacks against indigenous peoples’ rights defenders amid the restrictions of movement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We strongly remind the government that in pursuit of national development, it should never resort to oppressive policies that jeopardize the human rights of the marginalized, vulnerable, and disadvantaged sectors such as our indigenous peoples,” she said.
“We underscore and reiterate that in this time of health crisis, the government must address the basic and medical needs of these communities—not persecute nor attack them. The whole nation is already suffering from various losses due to the disease. Let us not waste more lives as we succumb to the greedy corporate interest of the few,” De Guia added. — Llanesca T. Panti/BM, GMA News