Karapatan hits online threats, harassment vs rights activists in Cordillera

Human rights group Karapatan decried the online threats, harassment and vilification against officers, including their families, of people's rights organization Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), after the group called out the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in an incident when two military helicopters dropped leaflets red-tagging several groups conducting relief efforts for communities most affected by the pandemic.

“With the persistent attacks perpetrated on groups and individuals providing much-needed assistance to affected communities, the government through the AFP once again proves that it is apathetic to the needs of Filipinos amid the worsening impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Roneo Clamor, Karapatan Deputy Secretary-General.

The CPA, which has a long history of advocacy for the rights and welfare of indigenous peoples, and many Cordillera-based people’s organizations and institutions have been one of the targets of the Duterte regime in its counterinsurgency campaign, but following the alarm the CPA raised on the said incident on April 12, 2020 in Sagada, Mountain province, the online attacks against their officers and their families have intensified. 

Here are the details of the recent incidents of the threats, harassment and vilification perpetrated by the State forces through several Facebook accounts:

 

  • On April 28, 2020 - a photo of CPA Chairperson Windel Bolinget and his children was posted on Facebook bearing this text now translated from local language: “Windel Bolinget NPA Recruiter. Before you risk the children of the Cordillera. You first send these children of yours to lead the children of the people so that you show your support to the NPA.” A post showed photos of Bolinget, CPA Secretary-General Sarah Dekdeken, and other activists with the text “Alert! Activism is the gateway to terrorism, terrorism is protected by activism.”
  • On May 1, 2020 - a post with a photo of Bolinget and Dekdeken insinuated that the two are fighting over funds and positions in the organization
  • On May 6, 2020 - a post said the families of Bolinget and Dekdeken are now well-to-do while families of New People’s Army (NPA) recruits are not.
  • On May 7, 2020 - a post showed the photos of Bolinget, his youngest son and Dekdeken, saying that the two are dividing among themselves the donations to CPA and that Bolinget should make his son a member of the NPA.

 

Aside from the incidents mentioned above, Bolinget’s youngest child, a minor, was not spared from the wave of alarming attacks as his Facebook account was taken down after being reported. Meanwhile, the family of Santos Mero, CPA vice-chairperson for Internal Affairs, was subjected to threats when a Facebook user commented that they will maul and stab his nieces and nephews.

“We are outraged that through these State-driven online propaganda, lies against these human rights defenders and threats against them and their families’ lives, liberty and security are disseminated. At this time when the nation faces the great dangers brought by a fatal and fast-spreading virus, the government should rethink its priorities and exert all of its efforts in addressing the public health crisis, instead of wasting funds for campaigns that malign and endanger groups and individuals tirelessly working for the benefit of the poor who are left out in the programs of the Duterte regime,” Clamor said.

“We call on Filipinos to remain vigilant as the Duterte government continues its crackdown on those who foster social solidarity and express dissent. Let us remind the government that we will accept sand all forms of abuses and injustice, especially with the creeping full-blown dictatorship that is being revealed by the regime's fascist policies.” he ended.