Before Christmas Day 2020, stalking was observed on my house by a team of men in civilian clothes, days and nights. I was alarmed. I took it very seriously as a signal for extrajudicial killing against me. A week later, I was informed that massive surveillance was being done in my hometown in Sagada, Mountain Province, with increased military and police presence. My relatives, in-laws, colleagues are being asked of my whereabouts. An ewarrant bearing my name was shown to relatives. Few days ago, I read that I and 10 other persons are being accused of murdering Garito Tiklonay Malibato on March 21, 2018 in Sitio Upper Tagasan, Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte. I further read in news report that Malibato is a Lumad claimed by his village mates to have been killed by members of the paramilitary group ALAMARA.
I have never been to Davao del Norte and have not been to any place in Mindanao in 2018. I am not a murderer as alleged by this fabricated case. I am not a resident of Kapalong, Davao del Norte as falsely claimed in this trumped-up case.
I am not a member of the New People’s Army nor am I a terrorist. I am an unarmed civilian and I believe that continuing the activist tradition of indigenous peoples for human dignity, social justice, land and environment is crucial in our society. I was a student activist before I worked full time with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) from 1997 up to the present. As a student activist, I joined protests against high tuition fee increases and fought for students’ rights and welfare. As a staff of the CPA Education Commission since 1997 until I was elected as its Secretary General in 2001 and served as CPA’s Chairperson from 2009 up to the present, I have been part of implementing CPA programs and activities for people’s rights and welfare, human rights and indigenous peoples’ rights. I have joined local struggles against destructive mining and dam projects, militarization and human rights violations. I have actively participated in providing much-needed relief and other emergency needs during natural and man-made disasters, including the ongoing COVID Response initiative of the CPA and its network. These are not criminal acts. These do not make one a terrorist or a murderer.
Birthed in 1984 by 27 organizations fighting against destructive projects like the Chico dam project and against the Marcos dictatorship, the CPA works for the promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples and various sectors to ancestral land, self-determination, socio-economic services, human rights and wellbeing. It is currently composed of 307 sectoral and indigenous people’s organizations in the Cordillera.
This trumped-up murder case against me is a variant style of the State's deadly attacks. Filing fabricated charges and imprisonment in far places is another form of forced "exile" by imprisoning activists in places far from their residence, where visitation of family members and friends can hardly be done.
This case against me is part of the systematic attack of the Duterte government with its authoritarian governance against civil liberties and democracy. It is part of the implementation of Duterte’s End Local Communist Armed Conflict or ELCAC (Executive Order 70), Anti-Terrorism Act and counter-insurgency policies which attack civilians, activists and critics of the regime. Indigenous activists are among those being politically vilified, red-tagged, threatened, criminalized and worse, enforcedly disappeared or killed. I have been a clear target of the regime when my name and photo was included in the ELCAC list of so-called Communist Terrorist Groups, with a massive and systematic cheap smear and disinformation campaign of the military and police against me especially during COVID and is in fact continuing.
These acts show even more for the need of the people to be more aware, more organized, more vocal and critical because we need to safeguard the people’s welfare, livelihood and rights. We are now in the worst human rights crisis under the notorious and bloodthirsty Duterte regime since Martial Law with human rights defenders, activists and government critics, our families and communities being subjected to brutal political persecution at this very difficult time of pandemic and socio-economic crises. As has been repeatedly said, the Duterte government should focus its resources, time and effort against COVID and on the economic sufferings of the people instead of arresting, jailing and killing activists.
If there was a lesson that we keep repeating from those that lived through Martial law, it is in our collective action as a people that we can ensure truth, and that with our persistence, justice will defeat evil and tyranny.
In due time, I will engage the services of lawyers and challenge my case. I will not be silenced by a fabricated charge. The Cordillera People's Alliance will not be silenced by Duterte's terrorism.