July 13, 2023
“The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) condemns the July 10, 2023, designation of four Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) leaders, Windel Bolinget, Jennifer Awingan, Sarah Abellon-Alikes, and Steve Tauli as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC),” said Peter Murphy, ICHRP Chairperson, today.
In its press statement, the ATC spelt out the practical legal effect of this designation – it enables the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to perform its mandate based on the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012 to investigate and freeze the financial assets and properties of designated individuals, group of persons, organization or association. “We now have reports that the CPA bank accounts are frozen, a malicious attack on a legal organization,” said Murphy.
The ATC is composed of senior military and police officers.
“As well, the designation is also a high profile red-tagging of these four individuals, greatly increasing the threats to them and their families and the possibility of their extrajudicial killing,” he said.
“We vehemently condemn the relentless attacks against these four, the CPA and many other indigenous peoples’ organizations. Clearly, the Anti-Terrorism Act is being used as an instrument to stifle dissent and target civilian political activists, a breach of the basic human rights of these people as set out in the Philippine Constitution, the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, and the International Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said Murphy.
Earlier this year, these four CPA leaders were part of the Northern Luzon 7 who were charged with a trumped-up case of rebellion, which was subsequently dismissed. Because of sustained state harassment, the CPA had appealed to the Supreme Court for the Writ of Amparo last year. CPA Chair Windel Bolinget also filed a counter charge against those who were behind another failed trumped-up charge of murder filed against him in far-off Tagum City in Mindanao, for which he had been subjected to a “shoot-ot-kill” order by the Cordillera Police Chief, and detained, before finally being vindicated.
Jennifer Awingan is a CPA staff worker. Steve Tauli is a CPA Regional Council member and torture survivor. Windel Bolinget is the CPA Chairperson, Sarah Abellon-Alikes is a development worker.
The CPA has long been an effective community-based organisation for indigenous communities to resist massive development aggression projects on their ancestral lands. This is the underlying reason for the killings, persecution and harassment of their leaders over many years.
At the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines on November 14, 2022, Justice Secretary Jesus Remulla claimed that human rights in the Philippines were fully protected by an independent judiciary and well-trained police. The true picture is exposed in this latest non-judicial assault by the ATC on the CPA leaders, with reckless charges that these unarmed civilian activists – who use all available democratic processes to assert the rights of their communities – are terrorists. Windel Bolinget actively participated in the UPR representing the Indigenous Peoples.
ICHRP urges the international community to join our call for the immediate cancellation of the terrorist designation by a government executive body of these four Indigenous Peoples’ community leaders, and for the unfreezing of the CPA bank accounts. We also call for the abolition of the ATC and the repeal of the repressive Anti-Terrorism Act.
ICHRP urges the international community to support the current investigation of the Duterte administration by the International Criminal Court, and to take more action to politically, militarily and economically isolate the Marcos Jr administration until basic human rights are genuinely upheld in the country.
For further comment: Peter Murphy +61 418 312 301 [email protected]