• Baguio City, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines

TAKDER condemns weaponization of Anti-Terror Law against activists
Minorities must resist criminalization of dissent

July 11, 2023

TAKDER decries the Anti-Terror Council’s designation of Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Jennifer Awingan-Taggaoa, Windel Bolinget and Stephen Tauli as terrorists when their work as defenders of the North speaks volumes on their commitment to advocate for indigenous peoples’ rights and welfare.

Though unsurprising, the ATC’s decision to go after legitimate defenders of the national minorities is still beyond enraging and alarming. For TAKDER and the umili of the Cordillera, ATC calling them terrorists is far from the truth. In fact, the most recent moves and counter-moves between mass leaders and organizers of the North and the state’s agents of repression exposes just how determined the latter is on persecuting them for their political work. Early this year, Philippine Army soldiers filed trumped-up charges against legal activists only to be dismissed by a regional trial court. Last year, despite escalating Red-tagging and vilification, the Court of Appeals denied the Cordillera Peoples Alliance’s petition for writ of amparo.

Yet, the fascist regime has an even more menacing tool of repression at its disposal. As expected, the Anti-Terror Law is now being weaponized against individuals critical of the government or simply anyone who advocates for genuine change within the system. Apparently, even when a court has already cleared the names of said individuals, the ATC can still call them terrorist and thus expose them to further danger.

Which is similar to what happened to activist Zara Alvarez just three years ago. It can be recalled that she was murdered by state agents while also waiting for the Supreme Court decision on her petition for the same writ. Like the four terror-tagged activists, Alvarez was a victim of unjust incarceration/detention but chose to continue working with the masses despite intimidation and surveillance by the enforcers of a fascism.

The people will be watching the Supreme Court, the proponents of ATL and the rest of the administration as they decide if there would be another activist to follow the path they made for Alvarez. Fascist agents might have the law to cloak political persecution as anti-terrorist campaign but the national democratic movement has seen enough of this plot to identify criminalization of dissent when they see it. They must know that this is a time when indigenous activists from Northern Luzon and progressives elsewhere are exploring every legal option to defend the lawfulness of their advocacies, actions and associations.

TAKDER, Cordillera’s youth movement for democracy and prosperity, stands by the four victims of vilification and other activists burdened with political repression. The masses, both the indigenous and the mainstream, must continue to push back with their leaders and organizers. Together, they shall use every legal and extralegal measure against any design to silence the legitimate assertion of rights and the necessary defense of land, lives and livelihood of all peoples. ###