• Baguio City, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines

Activists Not Terrorists! Defend CPA!
Statement on the Anti-terrorism Council (ATC) designation of 4 CPA leaders as “terrorists”

July 12, 2023

In 2017, a year into the Duterte administration, Sarah Abellon-Alikes was charged with a trumped-up case of arson and robbery.

In 2018, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a petition to the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) 19 to proscribe the CPP-NPA as terrorists which listed more than 600 names, including the names of CPA Chair Windel Bolinget and other past and present leaders of the organization. Their names were delisted.

In 2020, while the country was beset with crisis compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Anti-Terrorism Bill was passed into law. The public was in outrage. Surely, the law will be used against dissenters more so that the state had taken advantage of the pandemic to peddle its redtagging and terrorist-tagging narratives. CPA was its primary target in the Cordillera region.

In 2021, Bolinget along with other activists was charged with a trumped-up case of murder that allegedly happened in 2018 at Tagum, Davao del Norte. The Cordillera police chief at that time, R’win Pagkalinawan, issued a shoot-to-kill order against him, thereby forcing him to submit and seek custody. The case was eventually dismissed.

In 2022, under the new Marcos Jr. administration, CPA Regional Council Member Steve Tauli was abducted by suspected elements of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). He was released the day following his abduction. Before the year ended, CPA Secretary-General Bestang Dekdeken was convicted guilty of the trumped-up cyberlibel charge lodged by Pagkalinawan.

In the early months of 2023, 5 CPA Leaders, Alikes, Bolinget, Steve Tauli, Lulu Gimenez, and Jen Awingan, were included in the 7 Northern Luzon activists with a trumped-up case of rebellion. A warrant of arrest was issued against them, only to be quashed later for lack of evidence and basis.

Now, on July 10, 2023, the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) publicized that 4 CPA leaders were designated as terrorists through ATC Resolution 41 signed last June 7. We read the same names: Windel Bolinget, Steve Tauli, Jen Awingan, Sarah Abellon-Alikes. Our warnings in 2020 about the Anti-Terror Law are proven correct- that this will be weaponized to target activists and further attack our democracy. In fact, the ATA has also been used against 15 activists in Southern Tagalog.

The terrorist designation implies threat of warrantless arrest, detention of up to 24 days, and the freezing of financial assets and properties of the individuals. As of now, CPA’s bank accounts have been frozen pursuant to the designation of Bolinget as a “terrorist.”

So why the relentless attack against CPA and its leaders? Why target indigenous peoples’ activists and organizations who have stellar work in promoting the rights and welfare of their people? Why retaliate against sons and daughters of the Cordillera who chose a life of service to the people?

The Cordillera, riddled with 276 mining claims and 105 energy projects, is an investment hotspot for the state and its private partners. To facilitate entry of these projects, the state deploys its investment defense forces, often the military, resulting in communities militarized, bombed, strafed, and other gruesome incidents of human rights violations. The Cordillera is of course no stranger to this situation, which had led to a peoples’ movement, to the birth of many activists, and so to the continuing existence and relevance of CPA. CPA has always been at the forefront of the Cordillera mass movement, and it is precisely this movement that led to the formation of the CPA almost four decades ago. This movement is terrorism in the eyes of the state, but we now beg the question, who is the real terrorist? Who exploits our natural resources at the expense of our indigenous communities? Who has time and time again sown trauma and terror? It is not CPA, but the state and its mercenaries.

Since last year, we have been pushing back against this wave of attacks. We recently filed an appeal to the Supreme Court over our denied petition for the Writ of Amparo. Bolinget meanwhile filed a complaint against those who were behind his trumped-up Tagum murder case. We continued with the work clearly stipulated in our name: Cordillera Peoples Alliance for the defense of ancestral domain and for self-determination.

This recent blow of terrorist designation shows how the state is desperate to silence us and the people we stand with. We appeal to the public to join us in condemning this and in calling for the Anti-Terrorism Act, more fitting to call as Terror Law, to be repealed.

The attacks against CPA and its leaders can happen to anyone who dissents. We are Windel. We are Sarah. We are Steve. We are Jen. We are activists, not terrorists.

For Reference:
Bestang Dekdeken
CPA Secretary-General