Bishop Valentin Dimoc, chairman of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples. PHOTO BY ROY LAGARDE

Bishops Appeal for Respect for Dignity of Indigenous Filipinos

indigenous Peoples are 20 Percent of Nation’s Population

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Catholic bishops on October 5, 2020, appealed for respect of the dignity of indigenous peoples who continue to struggle for their rights, reported CBCP News.

The Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples urged the government “to heed the call of IPs in recognizing their rights, ancestral domains, and self-determination”.

“We call on the government to stop development aggressions and policies that adversely affect the lives of IPs in many parts of the country,” said Bishop Valentin Dimoc, ECIP chairman.

The Bontoc-Lagawe prelate made the appeal in his statement issued Oct. 6 for this year’s Indigenous Peoples Week.

He said that indigenous Filipinos, which comprise 10 to 20 percent of the country’s total population, continue to suffer due to business interests that “erode and disrupt their life, culture, and spirituality”.

“Government policies and indifference of responsibility bearers continue to fortify the unjust societal structures and have exacerbated existing inequities,” Dimoc said.

Social exclusion and discrimination and IPs have also become widespread, according to him, “to the point of posing a threat to social harmony and peace”.

He particularly lamented the continued operations of large-scale mining in IP areas even if communities already rejected and opposed them.

These mining operations, he said, resulted in not just damage to IP communities and culture, but also gross human rights violations and even deaths to those who oppose them.

“Responsibility bearers in government are blind and deaf to the call and cries of indigenous people who depend on their agricultural lands and forests for their sustenance,” Dimoc added.

The bishops also noted the long-standing armed conflict between government rebel groups that “had a profound effect” on the IP communities.

With the current government policy against insurgents, the bishop said that more IPs are becoming victims.

“IPs may find it attractive to say yes to the recruitment efforts of rebel groups simply because the government failed to defend and protect their indigenous people’s rights,” Dimoc said.

The prelate also called on the church to continue the “dialogue of life and faith” with the IPs and its programs and services for them.

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