On the ‘terrorist’ designation of Cordilleran activists

July 15, 2023

Environmental defenders and indigenous rights activists are NOT terrorists!

The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (KPNE) and the Environmental Defenders Congress (ENVIDEFCON) strongly condemn the recent terrorist designation imposed by the Anti-terrorism Council (ATC) on Cordilleran activists Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Windel Bolinget, Jen Awingan and Stephen Tauli. It is deeply alarming to see officers of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) — a member organization of the KPNE network — baselessly and falsely labeled as ‘terrorists.’

As groups dedicated to environmental protection and defense, we stand in solidarity with the CPA and denounce this unjust and oppressive designation.

We denounce Resolution No. 41 (2023), dated July 10, 2023, as a document that promotes further attacks against these four indigenous activists, in a bid to stop them from doing their vital environmental defense work.

For nearly four decades, the CPA has defended the communities and environment of the Cordillera region, fighting against destructive mining and logging, and advocating for ancestral land rights. Through community mobilization, awareness campaigns and legal action, the CPA continues to challenge harmful projects and promote sustainable practices like organic farming.

The resources of the Cordilleras, renowned for forests, hydropower resources and vast reserves of gold and copper, have long been coveted by exploiters and profiteers. To date, there are hundreds of big mining applications over its ancestral lands, but none have been approved. This is a testament to the fierce resistance of the Igorot people, facilitated by the CPA, over the past decades.

This work has been recognized, even internationally: CPA officers have received prestigious accolades, including the Women’s World Summit Foundation recognition for CPA pioneer Mother Petra Macliing in 2009, and the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights bestowed upon former CPA Chairperson Joana Patricia Cariño in 2019. The group itself has been honored with the International Eco Water Award from the South Korean government in 2014 and the 2009 Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan Award from the Thinktank Center for Environmental Concerns.

Despite their commendable efforts, the CPA has faced a steady stream of unjust attacks and false charges from the state.

The August 2022 abduction of Stephen Tauli, a Regional Council Member of CPA, is only one of the many attacks against these Cordillera activists that serves as a grim reminder of the risks they face daily. This new ‘terrorist’ designation through Resolution No. 41 (2023), which lacks any basis or evidence, will only subject these committed activists to further harassment, intimidation, and arrests, hindering their crucial work.

Furthermore, this resolution highlights the defectiveness of the Anti-Terror Law itself, which unfairly targets activists instead of addressing genuine acts of terrorism. The law’s overbroad definition of terrorism allows law enforcers to label environmental defenders as ‘terrorists,’ undermining their vital role in protecting the environment. It creates a chilling effect, stifling dissenting voices and hindering their efforts to safeguard natural resources and communities.

In light of the concerning human rights situation in the country, it is evident that this designation is part of a larger issue — state “terrorism.”

We call upon all persons of goodwill to unite in condemning this terrorist designation of the CPA officers.

We demand the immediate retraction of the ATC resolution.

An attack against environmental defenders is an attack against our national patrimony — an attack against our nation’s future!

Environmental defenders and indigenous rights activists deserve unwavering support, protection, and recognition for their invaluable contributions to safeguarding our planet’s ecological heritage.

Retract ATC Resolution No. 41 (2023)!

Junk the Anti-Terror Law!

Activists are not Terrorists!

Resist State Terrorism!

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