Filipino army troopers patrol a street in the Philippines in the early morning, March 15, 2020.  © 2020 AP Photo/Aaron Favila

Soldiers in the Philippines allegedly detained and beat three Indigenous people in Zambales province, northwest of Manila, and forced one detainee to eat human feces. The incident occurred on August 21, after the Philippine military began counterinsurgency operations against the communist New People’s Army in an area populated by the Aeta indigenous group, according to Umahon, a nongovernmental organization that advocates for land rights.

In a Facebook post, Umahon alleged that soldiers from the army’s 7th Infantry Division beat three members of the tribal community in San Marcelino Town and forced one of the detainees to eat human waste. Two of the three men reportedly remain in custody. Umahon and Sandugo, another tribal rights group, also accused the military of bombing tribal communities during their operations. The governmental Commission on Human Rights says that it will look into/investigate the allegations.

The Philippine Army denied the accusations, saying that its operations, including bombings, were directed against the New People’s Army, not the Aeta community. It has threatened to take legal action against groups and individuals who shared Umahon’s social media post on the incident.

The Philippine security forces have a long history of committing abuses against Indigenous communities throughout the country. In recent years, military and paramilitary forces have bombed Indigenous areas, destroyed Indigenous schools and murdered educators, harassed tribal leaders who speak out against the government by accusing them of being communists, and killed tribal activists who oppose the operations of mining companies and other extractive industries.

The Commission on Human Rights and the Philippine National Commission on Indigenous Peoples should urgently investigate the range of issues surrounding the alleged incident in Zambales. They add to the long list of issues that the Philippines faces at the United Nations Human Rights Council, which will tackle the country’s catastrophic human rights situation at its 45th session this month.