Community health worker and IP advocate Maria Natividad Marian Castro was arrested by the Philippine National Police in her brother’s residence in Metro Manila, Philippines today. According to reports, the arresting officers barged into the residence by destroying the front door and climbing up the walls.
Doctor Maria Natividad Marian Castro, simply referred to as Doc Naty, has set up community health centers in the southern regions of the Philippines. As a healthcare worker, she has served the poor communities in the countryside, including Indigenous Lumad, who have been victims of government negligence and violent militarization.
In 2016, Dr. Naty joined the Philippine Delegation to Geneva, to speak about the struggles of the Lumad people in the Philippines. Under the Duterte government, Dr. Naty faced red-tagging and attacks because of her advocacy for the Lumad, eventually leading up to her arrest. Many of IPMSDL’s members and IP leaders have been vilified and some remain in jail due to trumped up charges based on red-tagging.
In a 2020 resolution by the EU Parliament, regarding the human rights situation in the Philippines, the EU has called for the protection of IP rights in the Philippines. Citing a UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, it shows that the Philippines is among the countries with the highest incidence of criminilisation and attacks against indigenous rights defenders. In a newly released resolution in February 2022, the EU Parliament has reiterated its stand on the human rights situation in the Philippines, citing resolutions from previous years. As part of the resolution, the EU Parliament has called on the Philippine government to comply with its obligations under international law to protect Indigenous Peoples rights.
Around the globe, IP activists and their supporters are being persecuted for their advocacies and commitment to the IP struggle. These attacks must be condemned to the highest degree. Activists and advocates must assert that advancing the interests and struggles of Indigenous Peoples is not a crime, but a basic human right especially in the time of struggle for a more just world.
We call on the IP activists, advocates, and supporters around the world to call for the immediate release of Dr. Naty and to drop all the trumped-up charges against her.
Serving the Indigenous Peoples is not a crime!
Free Maria Natividad Marian Castro!
Hands off Indigenous Peoples rights defenders!
Beverly Longid, Global Coordinator