Karapatan renews call vs terrorist designation of rights defenders, reasserts call to junk terror law

November 23, 2023

Human rights alliance Karapatan joined other progressive formations today in a protest action in front of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency in Quezon City to reassert calls to junk the Anti-Terrorism Act as they condemned the Anti-Terrorism Council’s (ATC) arbitrary designation of human rights defenders and political dissenters as “terrorists.”

“As we have repeatedly asserted, the ATC’s arbitrary designation powers under the Anti-Terrorism Act are unconstitutional — and using them to designate human rights defenders and dissenters as ‘terrorists’ is simply a desperate attempt to vilify their work and repress dissent,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

Karapatan renewed such calls as Cordillera-based indigenous rights defenders Windel Bolinget, Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Jennifer Awingan-Taggaoa, and Stephen Tauli filed before the Baguio City Regional Trial Court a petition seeking to nullify the ATC’s terrorist designation against them and to lift the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s freeze order on their assets.

Palabay expressed support for the four indigenous peoples’ leaders “who have long been targeted with trumped-up charges and various forms of harassment for their tireless work in defending indigenous communities from militarization, land-grabbing, and environmentally-destructive projects. They are not terrorists, and clearly, the ATC’s terrorist designation is a part of a long string of attacks against them.”

The Karapatan official also cited the ATC’s terrorist designation against Mindanao-based indigenous rights defender May Casilao and Dr. Natividad Castro, renowned community health worker and former member of Karapatan’s national council, as well as the use of the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act against faith-based institutions and development workers, and the filing of baseless criminal complaints under the Anti-Terrorism Act against activists in the Southern Tagalog region.

“These designations and charges are all based on nothing more than pure fabrications — and we are determined to challenge and expose the web of lies weaved by the military, the police, and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict,” she continued.

Citing the recent dismissal of the trumped-up terrorism charges against 19-year-old human rights worker and Tanggol Batangan spokesperson Hailey Pecayo, Palabay hoped that similar charges and designations using the Anti-Terrorism Act against many others will also be junked or dismissed.

“It is easy to see through perjured statements and fake evidence of these trumped-up charges and arbitrary designations, and we hope that other courts will follow suit in standing against judicial harassment. We cannot allow these continued flagrant violations of our citizen’s basic and constitutional rights. As such, our call to repeal the Anti-Terrorism Act rings more urgent than ever,” she ended. ###