Karapatan scores PH terror council’s baseless, arbitrary designation of Cordillera activists

Karapatan denounces the baseless and arbitrary designation by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) of six persons, including Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) chairperson Windel Bolinget and CPA leaders Jennifer Awingan, Sarah Abellon-Alikes and Stephen Tauli as “terrorist individuals,” in the ATC’s Resolution No. 41 approved on June 7, 2023 and published yesterday, July 10, 2023. This is but the latest in a string of harassment the four indigenous people’s leaders have suffered in the hands of State forces.

In February 2018, Bolinget was included in a “proscription list” of more than 600 individuals who are allegedly officers or members of the CPP-NPA. But his as well as the names of most persons that were first included were later removed. Then in August 2018, Bolinget was included in a trumped-up murder case in Davao del Norte. The case was dismissed for lack of probable cause in July 2021. Bolinget was again wrongly accused, along with Awingan, Tauli, Abellon-Alikes and three other Cordillera and Ilocos-based activists, in a trumped-up case of rebellion before an Abra court last January 2023. The charges were quashed on May 11, 2023.

In the case of Bolinget, designating him as a terrorist is likewise being done in malicious retaliation for his filing last June 23 of a civil suit against Maj. Ruth Dizon, then police chief of Kapalong, Davao del Norte, for falsely accusing him of murder. Also named in the suit is then Cordillera police chief R’win Pagkalinawan who issued a shoot-to-kill order against Bolinget after the Kapalong murder charges had been filed against him. Bolinget accused the defendants of acting “in conspiracy, confederation, and aiding one another to hurl false accusations.”

Tauli, on the other hand, was abducted outside the office of the CPA on August 20, 2022. During his captivity, he was interrogated about his work and about the identities of certain CPP-NPA personalities. His abductors transferred Tauli to another vehicle and took him to a house where he was coerced into signing a document stating his supposed position in the CPP-NPA. Members of the CPA found Tauli on the night of August 21, 2022.

Awingan was arrested on rebellion charges on January 30, 2022, and was released eight days after posting bail. Her daughter, Kara Taggaoa, who is a staff of the Kilusang Mayo Uno, was arrested in October 2022 together with a transport group leader on similarly false and arbitrary charges.

In February 2017, Abellon-Alikes was arrested on trumped up cases of arson and robbery. She was released on bail after two days in jail, and eventually the charges against her were dismissed.

With the State’s trumped-up accusations against these activists failing to prosper in courts, the ATC is now resorting to designation not only as a way of curtailing their movements and derailing their pro-people and human rights advocacies, but to set the victims up for arrest on other trumped-up charges or worse, for involuntary disappearance or extrajudicial killing.

The designation list is a virtual hit-list.

We condemn the ATC for unjustly, arbitrarily and maliciously designating political activists as terrorist individuals and endangering their lives, safety and security in the process. National Security Adviser and ATC vice chair Eduardo Ano himself has said that designation is a prelude to the filing of cases. We will hold the ATC and its co-conspirators in the intelligence agencies and the NTF-ELCAC accountable for any harm that may befall these designated individuals.

We deplore the increasing use of terror laws against activists and peasants to suppress political dissent and violate basic rights and civil liberties, as what numerous human rights advocates and groups have warned when the Anti-Terrorism Act was signed into law.

In Southern Tagalog alone, there have been 15 activists maliciously charged with the ATA including United Methodist Church pastor Rev. Glofie Baluntong, peace advocate Fe Serrano, human rights workers and paralegals United Church of Christ of the Philippines pastor Rev. Edwin Egar, Hailey Pecayo, Kenneth Rementilla, Jasmin Rubia, peasant organizer Carlo Reduta and six peasants in Mindoro Occidental and Quezon provinces, and Alaiza Lemita, sister of Bloody Sunday victim Chai Lemita-Evangelista.

We call on all human rights advocates and groups to renew the call for the repeal of the terror law. We should not allow the further use of this draconian law to stifle dissent and to violate people’s rights. We call on lawyers and human rights workers to stand our ground, and to defend and provide support for those who are victimized using this repressive law and by continuing State terror.