Baguio City

Baguio court suspends hearing on terrorist designation challenge

Sherwin de Vera

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Baguio court suspends hearing on terrorist designation challenge

SOLIDARITY. Baguio activists rally in front of the Baguio City Justice Hall in support of the call for the delisting of four Cordillera Peoples Alliance leaders designated as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council.

Sherwin de Vera

Leaders of Cordillera Peoples Alliance leaders await a resolution on its legal challenge against the government's move designating them as terrorists

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Leaders of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) might wait for more days for the resolution of their legal challenge against the government’s move calling them terrorists.

Judge Cecilia Dulay-Archog of the Baguio Regional Trial Court Branch 7 suspended the hearing of the first legal challenge on the Anti-Terrorism Council’s (ATC) authority to designate individuals as terrorists. 

“The Court suspends the proceedings in this case pending the Court’s query with the Supreme Court on whether it should continue hearing this case or to transfer this case to the Court of Appeals,” the judge said in a January 6 order. 

Another alternative is to transfer the proceedings to Branch 73 in Urdaneta City, Pangasinan, the designated Anti-Terrorism Court in the First Judicial Region. 

The court sought the High Court’s guidance following the release of the Rules on the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and Related Laws, which took effect on January 15. 

Rule 2 Section 1 states that the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over petitions for delisting groups and individuals. The same court also has the authority on freeze orders related to terrorist designations. 

Windel Bolinget, Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Stephen Tauli, and Jennifer Awingan-Taggaoa, whom the ATC declared “terrorists” in a June 2023 resolution, filed the petition in November 2023. 

They asked the court to issue a writ of certiorari, prohibition, and preliminary injunction against the ATC and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC). The petition also seeks to nullify the designation and freeze orders on their assets. 

In an interview on January 26, Bolinget said they view the court’s action as a positive development. However, they are concerned about the prolonged trial “because of the urgency of the prayer for preliminary injunction.” 

“The problem there is that our prayer for a preliminary injunction is very urgent because we continue to be victimized due to the designation – the CPA asset freeze and the threat to our liberty and security,” the CPA chairperson in mixed Filipino and English. 

The second hearing on the petition coincided with the Baguio leg of United Nations Special Rapporteur (UNSR) Irene Khan’s official visit. 

The UN expert on the freedom of expression and opinion met with city officials and civil society organizations from North and Central Luzon. 

Abellon, who spoke during the meeting with Khan, said cases filed against CPA leaders and members and the ATC’s terrorist designation are “systematic actions of political persecution” for their environmental advocacy and human rights work. 

“All these acts of judicial harassment and designation only intend to criminalize my work as an indigenous activist and violate my fundamental rights to freedom of association, speech, and expression,” she stated. 

Alikes also urged Khan to monitor the petition they filed to remove their name from the government’s terrorist list. 

Khan was one of the six UNSRs who wrote to the Philippine government in October 2023 to express concern about reported human rights violations in implementing the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012. 

They requested a response from President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. within 60 days. They cautioned the administration that the letter would be published on their communications reporting website if the government failed to reply. The letter was made public this January. 

Among the cases raised were the rebellion charges against six Northern Luzon activists, including the Alikes, Bolinget, Taggaoa, and Tauli. The UNSRs also raised the designation of the four individuals as terrorists despite the dismissal of the case. – Rappler.com

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  1. ET

    More likely, the ATC and AMLC are used as part of “systematic actions of political persecution” against their environmental advocacy and human rights work. This is true if commercial interests and military positions are threatened by such environmental advocacy and human rights work.

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