[Statement] of CHR Spokesperson, Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia, on the violent dispersal of indigenous peoples’ barricade in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya

(06 April 2020,) the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) received a report that more than a hundred police officers escorted three diesel tankers of OceanaGold Philippines Inc (OGPI) and forcibly entered the premises of Brgy. Didipio in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya. The incident led to a violent police dispersal of the people’s barricade, injuring several indigenous peoples who were mostly women.

The CHR is alarmed by this transgression and calls for immediate investigation of the Philippine National Police 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.

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. Furthermore, the intensified presence of the military and the police nationwide heightens the fear of crackdown and attacks against indigenous peoples’ rights defenders given the restrictions of movement.

We strongly remind the government that in pursuit of national development, it should never resort to oppressive policies that jeopardise the human rights of the marginalised, vulnerable, and disadvantaged sectors such as our indigenous peoples. Similarly, 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.

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