LANDMARK PETITION CHALLENGING ATC TERRORIST DESIGNATION AGAINST CORDI ACTIVISTS FILED IN BAGUIO COURT
November 23, 2023
BAGUIO CITY - Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) leaders Windel Bolinget, Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Jennifer Awingan-Taggaoa, and Stephen Tauli filed a petition in court challenging their designation as “terrorists” by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) at the Baguio Regional Trial Court this November 23, 2023.
It is the first legal action filed in court that seeks to overturn a terrorist designation emphasizing concerns on the infringement of constitutional rights. The brazen and arbitrary terrorist designation of the 4 CPA leaders was published last July 10, 2023, through ATC Resolution 41, signed June 7, 2023.
CPA Chairperson and petitioner Windel Bolinget described the designation as “an assault to their basic rights” as it has effectively frozen their bank accounts and other assets including the CPA itself, “deprived them of fully practicing their work and advocacy and ultimately subjected them to further harassment, humiliation, and threats”.
This legal initiative renews the calls for the junking of the Anti-Terror Law (ATL) following the 37 petitions filed in 2020 before the Supreme Court by various groups and individuals of which Bolinget himself is also one of the petitioners against the ATL.
“We knew from the start that this law would only be weaponized in silencing dissent. They try to make us falter; we, indigenous peoples and human rights defenders. But we will never deter. This legal action is a testament to our unwavering resolve and unity in standing up for our civil liberties. CPA is a legal and legitimate organization. I am a proud Igorot activist, not a terrorist,” said Bolinget.
Before the terrorist designation, Bolinget, Abellon-Alikes, Awingan-Taggaoa, and Tauli had been subjected to relentless harassment and threats by the state security forces–varying from the filing of trumped-up charges, illegal arrest and detention, and abduction. This is alongside other harassment and false charges filed against other CPA members and leaders throughout the region despite CPA’s long track record in the defense of indigenous peoples’ rights, recognized both locally and internationally.
“The recent trumped-up rebellion charges (#NorthernLuzon7) against them have already been quashed. Yesterday, the Sta. Rosa City Prosecutor dismissed 5 trumped-up ‘terror’ complaints against Southern Tagalog activist Hailey Pecayo. Lies and baseless accusations can really never stand in court. We call on our kakailian and fellow Filipino people to hold the banner high, live up to our people’s legacy of safeguarding our constitutionally-guaranteed rights amid State terror.” said Casselle Ton, spokesperson of Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA).
The petition comes after the denial of the Anti-Terror Council of the verified letters of requests by the petitioners asking ATC to delist them from the Council’s designated “terrorists” list last July 2023.
The petition was crafted by a team of esteemed lawyers and groups including the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL), Atty. Tony La Vina, Atty. Carlos Zarate, Baguio lawyers Atty. Ayangwa Claver, Atty. Marben Panlasigui among others, with Baguio lawyer Atty. Jose Molintas as lead counsel.