Members of Katribu perform a traditional dance during a gathering in Manila (photo courtesy of Yang Minoza)
A political party acting for indigenous people in the Philippines has condemned the recent killing of a tribesman and accused government forces of routinely attacking tribal people. “As mountain dwellers, indigenous people hunt and gather food in forests. We have been mistaken for armed rebels often, and therefore been shot at several times in the past," said Beverly Longid, a member of the Bontok-Kankana-ey tribe and president of the Katribu
Party. "It is not right government forces keep committing mistakes in so-called anti-rebel pushes and at the expense of indigenous peoples." She cited an attack on Aggay
tribesmen which killed one man and injured his six companions in February. The Aggay is an indigenous tribe in the Cagayan Valley in the northernmost tip of Luzon Island. Longid said the seven men were on their way to a village to gather bamboo shoots and rattan on February 9 when they were shot at. Local residents believe government forces were behind the attack. "By merely suspecting that Aggays are members of the rebel New People's Army, government troops could equally be just aiming at innocent civilians," Longid said. She said her group has documented several deaths in attacks since President Benigno Aquino took office last year. Longid said the government’s anti-insurgency drive does not distinguish between civilians and rebels. She also believes deployment of soldiers on tribal land is linked to the presence of nearby mining operations. Katribu actively campaigns for an end to mining operations on tribal land.