Mindanao tribal leaders meet with Jose Luis Gascon, chairman of the Philippines' Commission on Human Rights, on Feb. 19 to report alleged abuses committed against tribal people. (Photo by Mark Saludes)
Tribal groups have petitioned the Philippines' Commission on Human Rights for an independent investigation into alleged abuses committed against indigenous people in Mindanao.
The tribal alliance Kalumaran claimed that the government's anti-insurgency program has been driving people out of their ancestral lands.
At a forum in Manila on Feb. 20, group spokesman, Kerlan Fanagel, said at least 42,600 people have fled their homes due to ongoing military operations in their communities.
Human rights group Kaparatan also reported that at least 34 tribal people have been killed since July 2016.
At least 100 tribal schools were also reported closed due to military operations in the region, according to the advocacy group Save Our Schools Network.
The network's spokesman, Rius Valle, claimed that the closures affected the education of at lest 4,000 young people.
The groups protested an offer made by President Rodrigo Duterte early this month to give a US$500-reward to any tribesman who kills a rebel.
Jerome Aladin Succor Aba of the group Sandugo said the president's offer encourages war crimes and crimes against innocent civilians.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo earlier described Duterte's offer as promoting a "culture of violence."
"It encourages bloodshed and ignores every one's right to due process and rule of law," said the bishop.
The human rights commission said it would be creating a mechanism that would allow indigenous peoples to directly report abuses to the central office in Manila.
Jose Luis Gascon, commission chairman, said his office would also offer protection and sanctuary to witnesses of alleged killings.