De Lima seeks Senate probe on plight of indigenous people

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Cognizant of the deplorable plight of Indigenous Peoples (IP), Sen. Leila M. de Lima has called for an immediate Senate inquiry into the root causes and extent of the displacement of IP communities from their ancestral land.

De Lima, a staunch human rights advocate, filed Senate Resolution No. 195 which seeks to conduct a legislative inquiry to determine the magnitude and reasons behind the displacement of IP communities caught in between development aggression, notably in Mindanao.

“The Senate’s appropriate committees should look into the displacement of IP communities, as well as review the implementation of Republic Act No. 8137, also known as the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA),” she said.

De Lima explained that she wanted to find out why the mandatory representation of IPs in the local government units is not being strictly implemented according to the spirit and intent of the IPRA.

“Given the IPRA, and constitutional provisions protecting the IP, we must ask: are these rights properly attended to? Is the IPRA implemented adequately,” she added.

Based on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights’ 2015 Report, more than 407,397 IPs in Mindanao alone have been forced to vacate their lands due to militarization, mining operations, and other vested interests.

While she believes that any probe could end up focusing on identifying culprits responsible for the displacement, de Lima underscored that the end-result should be to provide legislative remedial measures to prevent the IPs’ further displacement.

“More than investigating who are responsible for this displacement, we have to look deeper into the root causes and other existing policies of the government, so that the IPs may go back to their ancestral lands and live normal lives,” she emphasized.

When she was justice secretary, it may be recalled that de Lima had issued a department order creating a special task force to investigate the alleged transgressions committed against IPs or Lumads of Davao del Norte, Bukidnon and Surigao del Sur.

The joint NBI-NPS Special Investigation Team of the Department of Justice filed charges against the perpetrators of the killings of three tribal leaders in Sitio Han-ayan, Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

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