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Free Betty Belen! Stop the attacks against human rights defenders!

October 25, 2020

“Nakausap ko si Manang Betty. Agsangsangit. 4am, addan dagiti nagsearch idiay balay da. Pinalabas sila …. Isuda lang kano agrikrikus idiay balay da. Ang concern nya ngayon dagiti modules ti appo na…” Text message from CPA-Kalinga

(I spoke with Manang Betty. She was crying. At 4am, they (the police and military) came to search their home. They were told to go out… They (police and military) were the only ones going around the house. Her concern now is what will happen to the school modules of her grandchildren)

As the Miss Universe Philippines is loudly celebrated today, especially in the Cordillera where its events are being held, indigenous woman human rights defender Beatrice “Betty” Belen was arbitrarily arrested in her home in Uma, Lubuagan, Kalinga!/p>

At 4:00 this morning, a composite team from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Philippine National Police and the 503rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army bearing Search Warrants started to search the houses of Betty and ten other households in Western Uma and Lower Uma. Betty with her husband and two grandchildren were led outside the house when the search was conducted. After the search, Betty was arrested after the search team allegedly seized three firearms. She was brought to the Kalinga Police Provincial Office.

Betty is a member of the Advisory Council of Innabuyog-Gabriela and is long known for her courage in fighting for indigenous peoples’ rights and human rights. Innabuyog-Gabriela, the regional women’s alliance that is affiliated with the CPA, has been championing indigenous women rights and the protection of our environment. As a woman leader, Betty has long been inculcating in our minds that we should protect the land for the future of our children because if not, the ancestral land will vanish and so will its people.

In 2018, Betty was awarded the Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan (Environmental Hero Award) for her sustained defense of their ancestral land from destruction by private companies. For decades, she has shown strong leadership in her community against destructive projects. In 2012, she led a barricade against the Chevron Energy company's geothermal power project in Kalinga province in 2012. Harassment and vilification against Betty continued after her strong opposition of the geothermal project as well as the human rights violations of the military in their ili (village). It intensified during the Duterte regime.

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest of Betty, which is yet another act of tyranny against indigenous activists. This recent attack is part of the ongoing systematic attacks against the Cordillera Peoples Alliance with a goal of silencing legitimate political dissent and resistance against destructive projects and human rights violations. It is part of the implementation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist and Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) under Duterte’s Executive Order 70 or Whole of Nation Approach to End Insurgency, which intensifies the vilification, red-tagging, terrorist-tagging and filing of trumped-up cases against legitimate people’s organizations and human rights defenders. Executive Order 70 has become the State Terror policy of the Duterte government under a de facto martial law. Very recently, NTF-ELCAC Spokesperson Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr. red-tagged Gabriela Women’s Partylist and women advocates.

We call on peace loving people and women human rights defenders and advocates to condemn the military and police violence and terrorism that reigns in the country, with impunity.

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