It’s important we protest to junk the ‘terror bill’ that will justify the human rights (HR) violations we are already experiencing.
“The Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2020 will only legalize State terrorism, legalize HR violations, provide a legal cover for rights violation perpetrated by State security agents, and remove remaining, if any, safeguards for HR defenders,” said Longid.
The online forum aims to draw local and international solidarity by laying down the situation, especially the series of harassment experienced by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Indigenous Peoples (IP) rights defenders and activists even before and during the pandemic.
According to Longid, the new ‘terror bill’, an amendment to the existing Human Security Act of 2007, endangers everyone, especially the activists, with its vague definition of terrorism, overt power of State forces, and harsh punishments to those merely suspected of committing terrorist acts. She also shared how Cordillera leaders and CPA members have been labeled ‘enemies of the State’ and members of rebel armed groups year after year, through the military book “Trinity of War” (2004), PowerPoint presentation “Knowing the Enemy” (2005) and military Order of Battle list.
For Windel B. Bolinget, Chairman of CPA, there is a direct link “between military deployment and mining and dam projects plundering our resources” and the HR violations reported. For so long, Cordillera has been treated as “a resource base for investments and people has been politically persecuted for defending their land,” he added.
Even during the pandemic, CPA efforts to deliver humanitarian relief have also been maligned by State forces. Cordillera Youth leader Christian Ruz cited “20 terrorist-tagging in schools, threatening students not to join progressive youth groups” and intensified “online attacks” amid the pandemic.
Following the recent “Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Philippines” that details widespread human rights violations and persistent impunity, Jill Cariño of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), Philippine Task Force for Indigenous People’s Rights (TFIP) expressed vindication as the report “officially recognizes that HR and IP rights have widely been violated with impunity by the State.”
Brandon Lee, a volunteer for the Ifugao Peasant Movement currently recovering after surviving an attempted extra-judicial killing by suspected military agents in August 2019, expressed concern on the new terror bill that might just repeat what happened to him.
Ending the discussion, global group Land is Life’s Executive Director Casey Box, International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) Chair Peter Murphy, and Asia Pacific CHRP representative Ma Wan Ki commits continuing lobbying, solidarity and international actions to forward the reports on the situation of the Cordillera peoples.
The online forum, attended by around 200 online participants from US, Australia, Hong Kong and India among others, is co-organized by the IPMSDL, CPA, Land is Life, ICHRP and Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM). #DefendCordillera
Paul Belisario, IPMSDL communications staff
You can watch the whole online forum here: https://www.facebook.com/IPMSDL/videos/2601294550109023/
For Spanish and French translations of the PR, click here: