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Stop the attacks against the Cordillera peoples’ movement, environmental activists, and human rights defenders!

April 24, 2020

We vehemently condemn the intensifying communist and terrorist-tagging of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), its Regional Chairperson, Mr. Windel Bolinget, and members of the organization. Over the past weeks, individual and group Facebook accounts of Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Duterte fanatics have been spreading lies about our organization and threats against Mr. Bolinget.

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance for the Defense of the Ancestral Domain and for Self Determination (CPA), was established in 1984, borne out of the people’s struggles against the Chico River Dams, the Cellophil Resources Corporation and other local struggles to defend indigenous peoples’ rights during the Marcos Dictatorship. The full name of the organization speaks for itself. We are a peoples’ movement defending our ancestral domain from plunder by private corporations and destructive government projects, in the assertion and exercise of our right to self-determination. Our history proves how we have promoted the rights and welfare of Cordillera indigenous peoples and marginalized sectors at local, provincial, regional, national and international levels. Our network has provided socio-economic assistance during disasters and emergencies. Even at this time of COVID-19 crisis, we are distributing food relief and protective equipment to people in need, through our own limited means. Our leaders and members are environmental activists and human rights defenders.

Recent statements of Sadanga Mayor Gabino Ganggangan, Charlie Wildcats of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the so-called Youth Leadership Summit – Mountain Province of the Philippine National Police, and other groups and individuals malign and vilify our organization. Their purpose is to silence us from exposing the problems with State laws, policies and programs that violate the rights and interests of indigenous peoples and marginalized sectors. To be critical is our duty as Filipino citizens in order to ensure that the government does not oppress the poor or leave behind the marginalized sections of society. But these irresponsible statements are putting our lives in danger.

The malicious tagging of CPA as communist front and terrorist organization by the government has been happening since the birth of CPA. We have experienced many cases where red-tagging has resulted in extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, threats, harassment, intimidation and other forms of human rights violations. We have been targets of attack by the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA), which has long been discredited. And Mayor Ganggangan is a leader of one of the CPLA factions. We will never forget the crimes of the CPLA and its notorious track record of human rights violations and terrorism in the region. We will never forget the CPLA’s murder of Cordillera Peoples Alliance officers Ama Daniel Ngayaan and Romy Gardo in 1987; Robert Estimada and Ferdinand Bragas in 1988; Ayangwa Claver, son of Atty. William “Billy” Claver who was the founding Chairperson of the CPA, in 1990; and many other victims in the interior villages of the region.

The attacks against the CPA are clearly part of the implementation of the Duterte regime’s Executive Order 70 that is institutionalizing the Whole Of Nation approach and creating the national task force to end local communist armed conflict. Executive Order 70 is a dangerous policy that targets legitimate people’s organizations and activists. Government agencies and local government officials are being used in implementing this policy.

Instead of resorting to red-tagging and attacks, the government, the AFP and PNP should turn their efforts to helping the people who are in dire need of food, economic aid and health support at this time of health and socio-economic crisis brought about by COVID-19.

We are not misrepresenting the Cordillera people. We are a people’s movement made up of thousands of individuals in the region. We speak as umili because we are umili. We use our indigenous attires with pride in our struggles and identity as a Cordillera indigenous people’s movement.

We are not the enemy of the people. As the late Atty. William “Billy” Funaay Claver, founding Chairperson of CPA said in 1985, “Your enemies are not the Filipinos who are fighting to change this corrupt system. Your enemies are not those who are fighting for freedom and democracy. The real enemies of the people are those who are exploiting all of us, those who are suppressing our rights, those who have sent you and are using you against us.”

We denounce red-tagging because of its dangerous implications: putting in danger the lives and security of the CPA, its leaders and members, and sowing disunity among the Cordillera people.

We call on our kakailyan and all peace-loving people to resist, stop the killings and end impunity.

For reference:
Bestang Sarah K. Dekdeken
Secretary General

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