Palace slams UN officials for attempt to 'embarrass' PH over Lumads

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 30) — Malacañang on Friday hit two Filipino United Nations (UN) special rapporteurs who criticized the impact of martial law on Lumad communities.

Speaking to the media, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque chided the rapporteurs for publicly calling out the displacement of the Lumads due to militarization. He said they did so to embarrass the Philippines.

"As Filipinos, the special rapporteurs should have documented the cases of alleged targeting of Lumads and brought these cases to the proper authorities," Roque said.

He was referring to UN experts Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, and Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on internally displaced persons.

In a statement dated December 27, the two voiced alarm over the "massive and potentially irreversible impact" of the Mindanao's militarization on members of Lumad communities.

"Thousands of Lumads have already been forcibly displaced by the conflict and have seen their houses and livelihoods destroyed," the rapporteurs said.

They said some figures suggested as many as 2,500 Lumads have been displaced since October, in addition to reports that some farmers had been killed by members of the military.

They said the situation of the Lumads could deteriorate further if martial law continues.

Martial law in Mindanao was declared on May 23, following the attack of ISIS-inspired Maute group on Marawi City. President Rodrigo Duterte has sought an extension twice, with martial law extending until end of 2018 to quell "continuing rebellion" in the south.

They also urged the Philippines to comply with international laws protecting the rights of the indigenous communities.

Roque further said the two should have been more prudent in issuing such information. He said aside from being special rapporteurs, they are also Filipinas.

"Both special rapporteurs should be more circumspect on their statements given that they were elected into their post upon the behest of the former administration and that their observations made so publicly as they were, appear to be very partisan," he said.

Human rights groups have been fighting to protect the Lumads, who have been accused by the military of promoting communist propaganda.

According to the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts, the term Lumad was adopted by at least 15 ethnic groups in Mindanao, with about 2.1 million tribe members.

They are mostly residing in areas like Cotabato, Dipolog, Kidapawan, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Malaybalay, Surigao, Ozamis, Mati and Dipolog.