JOEY R.B. LOZANO
Joey R.B. Lozano uses his personal video camera to assert indigenous land rights, and to investigate corruption and environmental degradation in the Philippines. Joey is an independent human rights activist and he's also one of the country's leading investigative reporters. He freelances for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, covering Indigenous peoples' rights and the environment, considered the two most dangerous beats in the Philippines. Joey is a board member and partner of the New York-based human rights organization Witness. Witness was founded in 1991 by musician peter Gabriel and the Lawyer's Committee for Human Rights to put new technologies into the hands of local activists around the world.
Joey's investigations began in 1986, when he helped ABC's 20/20 to uncover the "Tasaday hoax", a highly successful fraud to pass off local tribespeople as a newly discovered Stone Age culture. He soon embarked on his own investigations and started digging into illegal logging, gold mining and land-grabbing. In turn, his exposes quickly earned him repeated assassination and abduction attempts, in a country that is one of the more dangerous places to practice journalism. Since 1986, over 40 Filipino journalists have been murdered in the line of duty, according the Committee to Protect Journalists. Joey's films, Road to Pineapple and The Rule of the Gun in Sugarland can be seen at witness.org.
Presently, Joey continues to work with the Nakamata as they embark on preparing documentation for their Ancestral Domain Claims. Joey and his wife Renee Lozano, also a community worker, live in South Cotobato, Mindanao Island with their five children.
Indigenous rights in the Philippines
The history of the Philippines is a history of colonization, resettlement and battles over who will rule the land.
First the Spanish, then the Americans, then the Japanese, and now multinational corporations have at one time or another dominated the Filipino landscape. Each wave of colonization has forced people off more land, creating a domino effect across the 7,000 islands. Resettlement in turn, has created even more pressure on successive islands as settlers move in, pushing even more people out.
Today, despite continued widespread poverty across the Philippines, Indigenous tribe members remain the most marginalized sector of Philippine society.
In a country of 76.5 million people, almost 20 per cent are Indigenous peoples. They belong to at least 32 different ethnolinguistic groups. More than half are on Mindanao, the largest southern island.
Over the last century, Indigenous peoples have lost their traditional lands, as the logging industry, ranchers and large plantations have forcibly taken over lands, piece by piece.
Much like in other parts of the world, the land was won parcel by parcel. Original verbal agreements were made and often respected between individual ranchers and Tribe leaders to "borrow" land from the Tribe. But the agreements were quickly forgotten when the rancher died. Over the years, the land was then resold without the Tribes' consent.
And then, under the Marcos regime, Indigenous people suffered along with farmers, as massive tracts of land were appropriated for the dictator and his cronies. When Marcos was finally thrown out by a people's revolt, and flown out on a U.S. helicopter, successive democratic governments introduced multiple land reforms intended to redistribute the land justly, but none of these reforms ever really worked.
On the ground level, corruption and misuse of power prevented the land from being rationed and made accessible to the people the reforms were intended to help.
Meanwhile, the land reforms were intended to help the peasants and the fact that many of the lands in question were Indigenous Ancestral domains was never addressed.
Mindanao is rich in natural resources - some of the world's last ancient rainforests, fertile soils, underground treasures of gold, an abundancy of fish — all now under the threat of overdevelopment.
In 1997, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act was signed into law. The law is explicit on the Indigenous peoples' right to ancestral lands. But this has not become operational to date. This fact is exacerbated by the present government's industrialization thrust and commitment to globalization. Tribal lands, thus, are being continually opened for extractive business.