• Baguio City, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines


December 10, 2023

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Across the world, people are conducting coordinated actions that aim to forward human rights issues, more pressing than ever, in light of the global experience of militarization, bombings, and wars. Palestine takes the center-stage with the on-going genocide powered by the U.S. war machine, while other countries of the Global South continue to expose the crimes committed by the Global North. On the other hand, the annual Conference of the Parties (COP) is currently on-going in Dubai, UAE where intergovernmental negotiations about the climate crisis are happening.

Zeroing on Indigenous Peoples, we believe that our experience of indigenous peoples and human rights violations across UDHR’s 75 years and the COP reveal how much work still needs to be done. We bear the direct consequences of the climate crisis coupled with militarization, from bombings to indiscriminate shootings, and yet our voices remain muffled. We still need to assert our space in the climate and human rights discourse and even in doing so, we still become victims.


The year 2023 jolted us to a start. In January, we received a warrant of Arrest for 5 CPA leaders on a trumped-up case of rebellion. Jen Awingan was arrested, and later, released on bail. By March, bombings in Barangay Gawa-an, Balbalan, Kalinga happened. By April, Cordillera personalities Dexter Capuyan and Bazoo De Jesus were abducted. By July, our bank accounts were frozen and 4 of our leaders were designated as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. In November, a farmer was killed in Abra, and all throughout the year, our members and communities who oppose the onslaught of destructive mining and energy projects experienced community-wide and individual threats, harassment, and intimidations.

In other words, the year has been nothing but peaceful. All of these happened under the Marcos Jr. government, and we have enough reason to say that the democratic space continues to shrink under his leadership. All our fears and warning about his administration are proven true so far, but just like what happened under his father’s reign, the people are gathering the strength and courage to fight back for their land and life.


CPA is a prominent and staunch defender of indigenous peoples’ rights. We are land and environmental defenders. We come from the professional and grassroots indigenous peoples’ communities. We remain uncompromising when it comes to our peoples’ rights and welfare. In our almost 40 years of existence as the organized expression of the Cordillera mass movement, we have gained credibility in representing the issues and demands of our communities. With this experience and stature, we built and continue build a solidarity that serves as one of our foundations in moving forward.

Amid all the attacks, a community of esteemed lawyers mobilized themselves to help us in our legal battles. We launched countercharges against those who did us wrong, particularly in the trumped-up murder case of our Chairperson Windel Bolinget. We lobbied for the junking of the persona-non-grata declarations against CPA. We had many dialogues, from local to national agencies and leaders. We advocated for the passing of a resolution declaring Baguio City as a Human Rights City. We tirelessly engaged with the mechanisms provided under the Philippine Constitution. Most importantly, we have our kailian who stand with CPA and are unfazed by the fear-mongering and psychological warfare conducted by state security forces and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

To combat the state-perpetrated disinformation and disintegration of indigenous values of caring and sharing in the form of human rights violations, we engaged in promoting traditional culture and the arts that are revitalized with a progressive politics. Just recently, our cultural alliance, known as Dap-ayan ti Kultura iti Kordilyera (DKK), successfully staged a play called “Macli-ing”, written by Malou Jacob and directed by Karlo Altomonte. The play was based on the story of Cordillera hero and martyr of the Anti-Chico Dams Struggle, Macli-ing Dulag. DKK also launched a music album of songs that are once again born out of our current struggles, much like the many albums they have released through the years.


Now that 2023 is ending with the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of UDHR and COP28, we register our calls from the local to the international. We see the need to take-up space, and despite the many attempts to vilify and silence us, we fight on for our people and we fight on to live out the legacy of our ancestors.

Much of the attacks against us emerged from the government’s so-called counterinsurgency and national security plans patterned after the U.S., and it has resulted in the blurred distinction between civilians and armed rebels. Those who dissent are labelled as communists, and those who take arms because of the socio-economic conditions in the country are treated as terrorists. Communism, even by mere and coincidental association in worldview and philosophy, is thus defined as terrorism. This has brought dangers to the civil society, and to individuals who attempt to speak-up against the government. Indigenous Peoples who resist development aggression are also more vulnerable to be treated as communists and then terrorists.

However, we welcome the joint statement of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to engage in peace negotiations once again. Both parties recognize the “serious socio-economic and environmental issues, and the foreign security threats facing the country.” This gives us hope since we, indigenous peoples, are one of the marginalized sectors who experience the identified issues daily. Our presence and demands need to be recognize by our local governments because our value in the global struggle for climate justice, as peoples who nurtured the environment since time immemorial, is of utmost importance. We are knowledge holders. We are land and environment defenders. We are stewards and keepers of the earth.

We are activists, not terrorists, for peace, human rights, and climate justice. ###