By Jigger J. Jerusalem
A REPORT on the state of human rights and environment in Mindanao by an international watchdog would find its way to the United Nations weeks. In it, the group pointed out the Duterte administration’s failure to act on the perpetuation of human rights abuses and land encroachment in the countryside.
The report detailed some of the violations allegedly being committed by state forces and their paramilitary arms and giant agri-businesses in some parts of Mindanao.
Global Witness, the group that compiled this string of abuses, called out the government and transnational corporations operating on land claimed by the indigenes as their ancestral domain.
Ben Leather, Global Witness senior campaigner, said they would send the “Defending the Philippines” report to the UN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland this November.
“We’ve already given copy to [Commission on Human Rights] for their inquiries to climate change and human rights defenders. We’ll go to Geneva at the end of November to formally give it to the United Nations for the report that they have put together for the Philippines,” Leather said during a press conference held here on Thursday.
In the report, Global Witness pointed an accusing finger at large-scale agri-based firms like Del Monte Philippines Inc. and Dole Philippines for allegedly being complicit in the series of human rights violations and land-grabbing in communities where they operate in.
These corporations may be powerful and can influence local and national government policy makers to protect their business interests, but Leather said they may have a shot at putting a stop to these alleged violations being committed by people these firms have partnered with or by state forces.
“These corporations, they are sensitive to reputation, what they called ‘reputational risk’ and this isn’t good for anybody’s reputation. So we’ll be criticized, I’m sure, by the corporations, for shouting out before we sit down and talk with them,” he said.
Leather said that by shaming them first and then calling them for a dialogue after the fact is a strategy they have devised to make these transnational companies take notice and listen to what Global Witness and its partner nongovernment organizations have to say in regards to the issues affecting the people in the communities where their businesses are.
“I look forward to the day when the world is such that we can sit down and talk before we have to shout, but I think because reputation is on the line it’s important to shout,” he said.
Leather said the issues that they raised that involved major players in the mining and food processing industries have been happening for quite some time but haven’t been acted upon by the government or by those responsible.
“The point is, a lot of this isn’t new. We’re [reporting] what local people have been saying for a long time; we’ve added some additional evidence, we’ve structured it differently. We’ve managed to chase the money and expose some of the investors,” he added.
In their plan to meet with these corporations, Leather said Global Witness would not only hold them accountable for their actions but that they must take concrete steps to address these issues at hand.
“We have to shout about it, but we also want talk to them about it and follow up solution, not only how they can repair the damage done on individuals, and how they can change their policies and stop it from happening again,” he said.
Leather said, “We have to convince them that they will make money for longer and more sustainable if they do things properly and their reputation doesn’t take this kind of hit over and over again.”
“After sitting down with them we have to see some good will, we have to see some progress, we’re not going to sit down and just talk,” he added.