The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) welcomes the recent removal of the names of CPA leaders and other indigenous human rights defenders and activists in the amended petition of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New Peoples Army as terrorist organizations.
“While this is good news, the threats to the safety and security of activists and human rights defenders remain. In its amended petition, the DOJ aims for the immediate terrorist proscription of the CPP and NPA by focusing on a few names. But once these are proscribed as terrorist organizations, any person that is merely suspected or accused as member of the CPP and NPA, such as those named in the original DOJ list, can be arbitrarily persecuted and declared terrorist. Thus, the amended DOJ petition remains dangerous for activists and human rights defenders and must be immediately dismissed,” said CPA Chairperson Windel Bolinget.
Bolinget’s name was included in the DOJ terrorist proscription together with former CPA chairpersons Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, Jose Molintas, Joan Carling, Beverly Longid, CPA Advisory Council member Joanna Patricia Cariño, Tongtongan ti Umili (CPA-Metro Baguio) and ACT 3rd nominee Jeanette Ribaya-Cawiding, and environmentalist Sherwin De Vera. The DOJ petition filed in March 2018 at the Manila Regional Trial Court faced several legal challenges which led to the earlier deletion of the names of Satur Ocampo, Rafael Baylosis, Corpuz and Molintas as respondents. The DOJ petition was strongly denounced by many local and international organizations, the United Nations and other government bodies and personalities.
“We thank all individuals, organizations, institutions and the Cordillera local government units that supported our campaign against the malicious terrorist tagging of indigenous human rights defenders and the DOJ petition. We are glad that our names have been removed. However, this is not the end since the amended DOJ petition will only continue to endanger the lives of human rights defenders. Hence, we continue to call for support in our demand for the petition to be jjunked to prevent even worse and massive human rights violations in the country,” said Bolinget.
CPA also demands for a stop to the filing of trumped-up criminal cases against members of people’s organizations and human rights defenders who are critical of the Duterte administration.
“Activists serve the marginalized indigenous communities of the region. Filing trumped-up criminal cases against us and putting us in prison will not diminish the fact that the government has been ignoring the plight of the indigenous peoples for the longest time. We must never forget that poverty and repression will only breed stronger resistance,” added Bolinget.
Rachel Mariano, an Ibaloi volunteer health worker and program coordinator for the Community Health Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (CHESTCORE) has been imprisoned in the Ilocos Sur provincial jail in Bantay since September for trumped-up cases of murder and frustrated murder filed by the 81st IBPA in relation to an encounter between the army and the NPA. Bolinget insists that Mariano should be freed as soon as possible and all trumped-up charges against indigenous human rights defenders be removed.
“All trumped-up charges against human rights defenders and activists in the region must be dropped. Our struggle against destructive mining and energy projects in the Cordillera is legitimate and just. The systematic attacks against human rights defenders amidst rising tyranny of the Duterte government and human rights abuses by state agents must be put to an end,” said Bolinget.
“Instead of attacking critics and dissenters, the government should seriously push for the resumption of the peace talks to truly address the root causes of the armed conflict and social injustices in the country,” challenged Bolinget.###