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CPA, CHRA warn Duterte: Dictators fall

February 12, 2018

“Stop criminalizing activism and legitimizing tyranny!”

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) held a press conference this morning to warn president Duterte of his imminent downfall for treading the path of dictators and demanded a stop to systematic attacks on human rights defenders, environmental activists and advocates of indigenous peoples’ rights.

CPA Secretary-General Bestang Dekdeken said that the Duterte government has been criminalizing activists in order to suppress critics and legitimate dissent from ordinary citizens who courageously defend human rights, indigenous peoples’ lands and the environment.

“The filing of trumped-up cases only serves to advance the interests of the true criminals -- foreign mining and energy companies, land-grabbers, human rights violators and corrupt politicians. They aim to disrupt the delivery of services to far-flung communities which have suffered decades of neglect from the government. Kami ang mga tinik sa lalamunan ng mga abusadong kompanya at mga tuta nilang pulitiko.

Dekdeken cited CPA’s consistent opposition to destructive mining operations and energy projects such as Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp, SN Aboitiz, Chevron among others. The CPA has also vehemently called for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995 which allows full foreign ownership of mining companies in the country and Duterte’s Executive Order 79 which suspended the ban on open pit mining. “The oligarchs, the new cronies of the self-confessed dictator, will stop at nothing to ensure the plunder and destruction of the natural resources of the Cordillera.”

Last Friday, February 9, respondents to the trumped-up charge of frustrated homicide went to the Municipal Trial Court in the Cities or MTCC in Candon City to post bail. They were accused with a trumped-up charge of frustrated homicide in connection to an encounter between elements of the 7th ID of the AFP and the New People’s Army in the municipality of Sigay, Ilocos Sur. Respondents were Sarah Abellon-Alikes of the CPA Advisory Council, Rachel Mariano of the Community Health Education, Services, and Training in the Cordillera Region (CHESTCORE), Joan Villanueva of Cordillera Women’s Education, Action, Research Center (CWEARC), Sherry Mae Soledad of Katinnulong dagiti Umili ti Amianan-Regional Development Center (KADUAMI-RDC NL) and Asia Gepte of Binnadang Amianan. They were accompanied by members of the CPA, its affiliate organizations and chapters, peasant activists and their supporters from the religious sector.

CHRA Vice-Chairperson Audrey Beltran said that the filing of cases against the women human rights defenders is reminiscent of the crackdown against activists during martial law. The formation of the AFP and PNP Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action led to the systematic repression of civil and political rights of ordinary citizens.

“Events these past weeks clearly exposed the fascism of the government that attacks people’s basic rights while desperately seeking legitimacy to its tyrannical rule. Duterte should be reminded that all the dictators in history fell and were forcibly removed by the people they oppressed,” said Beltran.

The CPA called on the people of Cordillera to continue to be vigilant especially with the people’s growing unrest over the TRAIN law that rapidly diminished the purchasing power of the poor and the middle class. Also, attempts to change the constitution through the maneuvering of the administration’s supermajority in congress will further isolate the Duterte government.

Dekdeken enjoined the Cordillera people to unite to fight tyranny and assert the fundamental freedoms that the Kaigorotan and the whole Filipino people had fought for in the past. She cites the formation of the Baguio chapter of the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) composed of human rights advocates, public servants, church people, educators, artists and writers, among others as a step forward to achieving a broader unity to defend peoples’ democratic rights. She also announced the participation of the CPA in the upcoming 1Billion Rising to highlight the plight of women human rights defenders who are being attacked in the region.

“We will not be cowed. The Kaigorotan is a brave people. We will continue to protest and fight the tyranny of Duterte,” said Dekdeken. #

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