Philippine anti-terrorism law

Baguio city council hits terrorist designation on 4 Cordillera activists

Sherwin de Vera

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Baguio city council hits terrorist designation on 4 Cordillera activists

DEFIANCE. Activists, (L-R) Steve Tauli, Sarah Alikes, Niño Oconer, Windel Bolinget, Lulu Gimenez, and Florence Kang show after posting bail on February 20, 2023. The court quashed the rebellion charges in May.

Cordillera People's Alliance

The council's resolution calls state forces' tendency to file baseless complaints against human rights defenders 'a strategy of harassment'

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – The city council of the Cordillera Administrative Region’s major local government unit urged the Anti-Terrorism Council on Monday, October 2 to drop its terrorist designation on four local indigenous rights defenders who had previously won acquittals against cases filed by the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The council passed without opposition a resolution that said the Anti-Terrorism Council’s deprived Sarah Abellon Alikes, Jennifer R. Awingan, Windel Balag-ey Bolinget, and Stephen Ambucay Tauli the opportunity to refute the claims behind the designation.

The resolution described the four as “well-known human rights defenders” in the Cordillera Region and the city, and active leaders of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA)

Councilor Jose Molintas, a human rights lawyer, authored the resolution. He told Rappler on Tuesday, October 3 that the council will forward the resolution to Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong.

Bolinget was among the activists that the Department of Justice included in its 2018 petition seeking the designation of more than 600 rights defenders as “terrorists” under the Human Security Act.

Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 19 presiding judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar junked the proscription case in September 2022.

‘Baseless complaints’

The council acknowledged that the designation of “terrorists” plays a critical role in the fight against terrorism.

“But if it is based merely on alleged verified and validated information, sworn statements, and other pieces of evidence gathered by different Philippine law enforcement agencies which are biased and doubtful, the ATC will be easily misled in being part of violating the rights of legitimate human rights workers and defenders,” the resolution stressed.

The council also highlighted state forces’ tendency to file baseless complaints against human rights defenders, which ultimately get dismissed for lack of probable cause. It called this “a strategy of harassment against human rights defenders.”

The Anti-Terrorism Council passed in June 2023 Resolution Number 41, 2023, the new designation against the Cordilleran activists.

This was only a month after a court threw out a rebellion case filed against Bolinget and several other activists for lack of evidence. 

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Human rights defenders had opposed Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which allows designation by the council through an arbitrary process. However, the Supreme Court upheld most of its provisions.

Fighting for indigenous rights

A kankanaey from Sagada and Bontoc, Mountain Province, Bolinget chairs the CPA and was a former Convenor of KATRIBU Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamayan ng Pilipinas. He also sits in the Global Steering Committee of Land is Life network of indigenous peoples and advocates and has long been representing the CPA in United Nations conferences like the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples Issues, Business and Human Rights Forum, Universal Periodic Review, and the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

Tauli, a kankanaey from Besao, Mountain Province, is a member of the CPA regional council and the brother of UN Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

Awingan-Taggaoa, of Limos Tribe in Kalinga province, serves as CPA’s research office. Abellon-Alikes, a kankanaey from Lamut, Ifugao, is one of the group’s pioneers.

The council resolution pointed out that all four could be easily served with summons at the CPA’s central office in Bengao Road, Bakakeng Central.

The resolution said the terror designation would deny the activists’ rights to due process and pose grave threats to their lives and that of their friends and families.

The CPA Baguio in a statement lauded what it called the council’s “sobriety and wisdom” and slammed the government’s efforts “to demonize and criminalize activism and the exercise of democracy by civil society.” –

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