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CHR on the Dialogue on Oceanagold Operations and the HR Situation in Barangay Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya
Volume 23 Number 1
Thursday, 12 January 2012 10:43
THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE PHILIPPINES
on the Occasion of the Dialogue on Oceanagold Operations and the Human Rights Situation in Brgy. Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya
Provincial Capitol, Bayombong
Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines
05 November 2009
OPENING STATEMENT
delivered by
LEILA M. DE LIMA
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines
THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE PHILIPPINES
on the Occasion of the Dialogue on Oceanagold Operations and the Human Rights Situation in Brgy. Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya
Provincial Capitol, Bayombong
Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines
05 November 2009
OPENING STATEMENT
delivered by
LEILA M. DE LIMA
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines
Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat!
What we have before us today is a moment to examine not only all the issues before us that had given rise to an atmosphere of unrest and violence in Barangay Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya. We have on our table our practices in response to this atmosphere. We must sift through in particular the bad or ineffective practices that all stakeholders have employed with unnerving repetition – and that has paved the way for a protracted, unsettling human right situation. What calls us to action now, more than ever, is the realization that the violence that attends the dispute in Didipio is not only that it is appalling, but that it was balefully familiar – and worse, it was predictable. It was clear back in July 2008 that at the trajectory taken back then, human rights violations would be inflicted. More than a year later, ironically, some are still surprised that violations persist. This should not be the case.
For some of those represented here today, it is the actions taken that constitute the practices that produce this deplorable outcome. For others, it is the lack of action that constitutes the practice. Finally, there are others, too, who have simply employed less than effective practices. It is easy to designate who are the villains and victims, especially when appealing through the media. What is several times more difficult is determining responsibility, accountability and what or who’s practices, by overt acts or by omission have contributed to this deplorable human rights situation.
Everyone has a contribution for the betterment or worsening of the conditions in Barangay Didipio, whether you are on the side of the local government, police, OceanaGold, the residents of Didipio or from the NGOs. For this reason, I ask everyone present today to unhinge yourselves from your own perspectives, to listen with an open mind and accommodate the perspectives of the others – so that further in the future, you can pave the way for a peaceful settlement of the dispute that surrounds Barangay Didipio.
Furthermore, our purpose is to see with clarity an overview of all the issues. It will be easy to point the finger at other parties and assign blame to them. Nothing, however, produces more benefit than recognizing your own shortcomings, your own poor practices, and offering it to others for their scrutiny in order to rectify those things that must be changed. What we unequivocally need is a change of the current situation. What we must unequivocally undertake is a change of current practice in dealing with the dispute. We must relegate into atrophy those practices that fuel violence and human rights violations. Corollary to this, we must initiate new and good strategies followed by repetition through practice and develop the strength of effective interventions.
There are many matters that must be sifted through based on all the reports reaching the central office of the Commission on Human Rights. First of these must be the evictions and demolitions that had taken place. We must determine under what official governmental authorization, if any, had demolitions been sanctioned. Forced evictions, under the law may be made only under the auspices of the local government and in limited circumstances, through court orders. We must investigate the basis of these demolitions. Where we find no governmental authority, we will find those who authorized the demolitions and scrutinize what justification they may or may not have.
Related to this first issue is the need to identify the role of the Philippine National Police in these demolitions. What is very clear is that the PNP, in cases of demolition, is supposed to maintain peace and order, not instigate violence. Firearms are not allowed within the vicinity of demolition operations as this is a direct contravention of the law governing the same. In particular, I want to find out why allegedly the PNP works closely with the security personnel of OceanaGold but not with the local residents. I have been very supportive of the PNP under the term of General Razon and now, General Versoza. However, my support does not in anyway temper castigation when it is needed. I have hauled the PNP to public inquiries and I have not spared them where violations are apparent.
Second, we have to look into the extent of the FTAA and the rights granted to OceanaGold especially in relation to the occupation of the land covered in the same. I have no doubt that private persons cannot take the law into their own hands, and therefore, regrettably, I cannot look with favor at any incident of demolition or worse, arson conducted by individuals for the purpose of asserting any right over the land. The FTAA is not a grant of land; it is not a transfer of title. Even if it were so, which it clearly is not, no one – and absolutely no one – can employ such underhanded tactics to oust people from their homes.
Third, we have to investigate the acts of the security personnel of OceanaGold. Allegations of harassment, threats and outright violence are not beyond the long arm of the law and certainly not beyond my and our institution’s unquestioned doggedness. The instances of violence are documented. The installation of fences and checkpoints have to be justified.  We saw them at our on-site visit and ocular inspection yesterday.  All acts that constitute bad faith, from those that create inconvenience to those that are brazen atrocities will be unearthed.
Finally, we need to ask the relevant government agencies, such as DENR-MGB and NCIP and the local government to explain both what it had done to address the situation unfolding in their own backyard and what it has NOT done. I want to hear what has not been done, but should have been done. We must have better, more effective interventions than just standing in line with the human barricade to prevent demolitions.
There are many more issues that need not be discussed in this opening statement, but rest assured, we will go through everything that we can possibly address. It is for the benefit of the community and everyone involved that you speak up and say your piece – because the Commission is preparing an official issuance and official, decisive action well before this dispute explodes into a full-scale human rights catastrophe.
Make no mistake; the Commission on Human Rights is here to pursue all those who must be held accountable for the violations against human rights in Didipio. It must unavoidably come as a forewarning that grievous acts or omissions cannot be ignored. But over and above accountability, we must all remain transfixed on the end goal, which is to restore the community to its peaceful existence, foster an atmosphere of harmony between the residents and outsiders, and deliver progress to the people of Didipio through cooperation and collaboration, and upstanding regard for the rule of law and human rights.
There are a vast number of fine examples of corporate enterprise working closely with communities. Profitability of projects goes hand in hand with developing the communities where projects are located. On the premise that private enterprise has authority to develop natural resources in a given area, the benefits gained from these resources must unmistakably redound to everyone, especially the community. Corporate social responsibility, as the center of any natural resource development, is at its core, a human rights enterprise. Strengthening ties with the local community promotes the development in relation to both enterprise and community. This has been the basis for templates of environmental protection, community development, rural education, livelihood and host of other human rights-related endeavors.
Again, the end goal is to restore the community to its peaceful existence, foster an atmosphere of harmony between the residents and outsiders, and deliver progress to the people of Didipio. This can only be done if we shed the obviously detrimental practices that we have employed over the years since this dispute erupted. I cannot imagine anyone here, who is brave enough to stand and fight, who does not want a peaceful settlement of the situation. If you are with me on this, then let’s deliver peace through cooperation and collaboration, and upstanding regard for the rule of law and human rights.
Maraming salamat po!
For some of those represented here today, it is the actions taken that constitute the practices that produce this deplorable outcome. For others, it is the lack of action that constitutes the practice. Finally, there are others, too, who have simply employed less than effective practices. It is easy to designate who are the villains and victims, especially when appealing through the media. What is several times more difficult is determining responsibility, accountability and what or who’s practices, by overt acts or by omission have contributed to this deplorable human rights situation.
Everyone has a contribution for the betterment or worsening of the conditions in Barangay Didipio, whether you are on the side of the local government, police, OceanaGold, the residents of Didipio or from the NGOs. For this reason, I ask everyone present today to unhinge yourselves from your own perspectives, to listen with an open mind and accommodate the perspectives of the others – so that further in the future, you can pave the way for a peaceful settlement of the dispute that surrounds Barangay Didipio.
Furthermore, our purpose is to see with clarity an overview of all the issues. It will be easy to point the finger at other parties and assign blame to them. Nothing, however, produces more benefit than recognizing your own shortcomings, your own poor practices, and offering it to others for their scrutiny in order to rectify those things that must be changed. What we unequivocally need is a change of the current situation. What we must unequivocally undertake is a change of current practice in dealing with the dispute. We must relegate into atrophy those practices that fuel violence and human rights violations. Corollary to this, we must initiate new and good strategies followed by repetition through practice and develop the strength of effective interventions.
There are many matters that must be sifted through based on all the reports reaching the central office of the Commission on Human Rights. First of these must be the evictions and demolitions that had taken place. We must determine under what official governmental authorization, if any, had demolitions been sanctioned. Forced evictions, under the law may be made only under the auspices of the local government and in limited circumstances, through court orders. We must investigate the basis of these demolitions. Where we find no governmental authority, we will find those who authorized the demolitions and scrutinize what justification they may or may not have.
Related to this first issue is the need to identify the role of the Philippine National Police in these demolitions. What is very clear is that the PNP, in cases of demolition, is supposed to maintain peace and order, not instigate violence. Firearms are not allowed within the vicinity of demolition operations as this is a direct contravention of the law governing the same. In particular, I want to find out why allegedly the PNP works closely with the security personnel of OceanaGold but not with the local residents. I have been very supportive of the PNP under the term of General Razon and now, General Versoza. However, my support does not in anyway temper castigation when it is needed. I have hauled the PNP to public inquiries and I have not spared them where violations are apparent.
Second, we have to look into the extent of the FTAA and the rights granted to OceanaGold especially in relation to the occupation of the land covered in the same. I have no doubt that private persons cannot take the law into their own hands, and therefore, regrettably, I cannot look with favor at any incident of demolition or worse, arson conducted by individuals for the purpose of asserting any right over the land. The FTAA is not a grant of land; it is not a transfer of title. Even if it were so, which it clearly is not, no one – and absolutely no one – can employ such underhanded tactics to oust people from their homes.
Third, we have to investigate the acts of the security personnel of OceanaGold. Allegations of harassment, threats and outright violence are not beyond the long arm of the law and certainly not beyond my and our institution’s unquestioned doggedness. The instances of violence are documented. The installation of fences and checkpoints have to be justified.  We saw them at our on-site visit and ocular inspection yesterday.  All acts that constitute bad faith, from those that create inconvenience to those that are brazen atrocities will be unearthed.
Finally, we need to ask the relevant government agencies, such as DENR-MGB and NCIP and the local government to explain both what it had done to address the situation unfolding in their own backyard and what it has NOT done. I want to hear what has not been done, but should have been done. We must have better, more effective interventions than just standing in line with the human barricade to prevent demolitions.
There are many more issues that need not be discussed in this opening statement, but rest assured, we will go through everything that we can possibly address. It is for the benefit of the community and everyone involved that you speak up and say your piece – because the Commission is preparing an official issuance and official, decisive action well before this dispute explodes into a full-scale human rights catastrophe.
Make no mistake; the Commission on Human Rights is here to pursue all those who must be held accountable for the violations against human rights in Didipio. It must unavoidably come as a forewarning that grievous acts or omissions cannot be ignored. But over and above accountability, we must all remain transfixed on the end goal, which is to restore the community to its peaceful existence, foster an atmosphere of harmony between the residents and outsiders, and deliver progress to the people of Didipio through cooperation and collaboration, and upstanding regard for the rule of law and human rights.
There are a vast number of fine examples of corporate enterprise working closely with communities. Profitability of projects goes hand in hand with developing the communities where projects are located. On the premise that private enterprise has authority to develop natural resources in a given area, the benefits gained from these resources must unmistakably redound to everyone, especially the community. Corporate social responsibility, as the center of any natural resource development, is at its core, a human rights enterprise. Strengthening ties with the local community promotes the development in relation to both enterprise and community. This has been the basis for templates of environmental protection, community development, rural education, livelihood and host of other human rights-related endeavors.
Again, the end goal is to restore the community to its peaceful existence, foster an atmosphere of harmony between the residents and outsiders, and deliver progress to the people of Didipio. This can only be done if we shed the obviously detrimental practices that we have employed over the years since this dispute erupted. I cannot imagine anyone here, who is brave enough to stand and fight, who does not want a peaceful settlement of the situation. If you are with me on this, then let’s deliver peace through cooperation and collaboration, and upstanding regard for the rule of law and human rights.
Maraming salamat po!

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