Today, in commemoration of the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) pays its highest tribute to all women activists who valiantly fight for women’s human rights against all forms of discrimination, inequality, and economic and political oppression. We especially honor women human rights defenders who work tirelessly and selflessly to promote indigenous peoples’ collective rights to our lands, territories and resources against land grabbing and plunder by the state and private corporations.
This year, as state fascism and tyranny continues to heighten in the Philippines, indigenous peoples including women human rights defenders in the Cordillera region are under attack by the military, particularly the 5th and 7th Infantry Divisions of the Philippine Army. Since July, the 81st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) and the 71st Division Reconnaissance Company under the 7th ID have filed trumped up charges against different individuals including women human rights defenders Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Sherry Mae Soledad, Joanne Villanueva, Rachel Mariano and Asia Isabella Gepte. All five women belong to legal and legitimate organisations working for the promotion and respect of indigenous peoples’ rights, delivering various services to indigenous communities in the region, defending human rights, and resisting corporate and destructive mining and energy projects. Sarah Abellon-Alikes is a pioneer of the CPA.
The US-Duterte regime’s All Out War and counter-insurgency policy Oplan Kapayapaan further intensified the militarization of indigenous communities in the region, which only worsened human rights violations, and especially threatening the lives and security of women human rights defenders. Over the past few months, the 24th IBPA under the command of Lt. Col. Thomas Dominic Baluga has constantly maligned women activists Shirley Ann Angiwot, Theresa Forag and other members of KASTAN-CPA Abra Chapter and threatening them with lawsuits. The persistent harassment and intimidation of members of local peoples’ organizations especially in Abra, Ifugao and Kalinga provinces, and the indiscriminate strafing and illegal searches in residential houses continue to put at risk the lives of IP activists and women human rights defenders.
There is a growing peoples’ resistance on state fascism and tyranny, which was seen in the series of protest caravans during the past three months, including the protest caravan led by indigenous peoples and Moro people in September. In response, President Duterte plans on a crackdown against left-leaning organizations on the basis of their alleged conspiracy with communists, and arresting not only communist rebels but also “all legal fronts aiding the left”. Duterte also issued Proclamation 360 on November 23, which terminated the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. Peace has become obscured and human rights have lost meaning and force under the current regime.
CPA condemns the US-Duterte regimes’ heightened attacks against legitimate peoples’ organizations, including women human rights defenders. We strongly denounce the regime’s attempt on strengthening its fascist rule and tyranny through its so-called “revolutionary government” which in essence is a de facto martial law as it further intensifies state terror and fascist dictatorship. Under it, we expect even more impunity and the vilest attacks against human rights defenders. And alongside this is the regime’s iron fist in implementing neoliberal policies, which further paves way for state and corporate plunder of what remains in the country’s natural resources, including more mining and energy operations in the Cordillera.
This situation calls for all peace-loving individuals and the civil society to resolutely defend our human rights and democratic rights as enshrined in the Philippine Constitution of 1987 and various international conventions and agreements that the Philippine government is a signatory of. We call on our fellow Igorots and indigenous peoples to fiercely resist any violations to our collective rights to our ancestral lands and resources and human rights.
Sign on to our call for the Philippine government to drop the trumped-up charges against women human rights defenders in the Cordillera: https://www.change.org/p/president-rodrigo-roa-duterte-women-resist-tyranny-drop-all-trumped-up-charges-against-women-human-rights-defenders
The CPA also spoke on the situation of women human rights defenders in the Cordillera and the Cordillera indigenous peoples’ struggle against corporate mining and energy in the ongoing UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva. ***