Indigenous Peoples are under attack. Again.

Using the Anti-Terror Law, the all-powerful Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) recently designated four indigenous women and men from Cordillera as terrorists. 1Sambubungan, a broad formation of Indigenous Peoples Organizations, Indigenous People leaders, and Indigenous Peoples Rights Advocates, condemns this irresponsible and malicious act of the ATC against Sarah Alikes, Jennifer Awingan, Windel Bolinget, and Stephen Tauli, as this puts their lives and their families at grave danger. 

On July 10, 2023, the ATC issued very vague statements as to the cause of its designation, citing violations of certain provisions of the Anti-Terror Law which have been widely opposed as vague, overbroad, and dangerous – Sec. 4 for committing terrorism; and Sec. 6 for planning, training, preparing and facilitating the commission of terrorism. 

IP and IP rights advocates have been part of the 37 petitions filed with the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the Anti-Terror Law. We believed then that this law would be used against individuals, organizations, and communities who are actively defending their lands from plunderers of our natural resources and opposing the government’s destructive and corporate-led development framework. We have not been mistaken. The first to receive the brutal whip of this law in 2020 are two Aetas, Japer Gurung and Junior Ramos, who were arrested while fleeing with their families and neighbors from their community in San Marcelino, Zambales, from the military operations. They were charged as terrorists with violation of Sec. 4 of the ATL. After almost a year of detention, reportedly suffering acts of torture, the Olongapo Regional Trial Court dismissed the case, ruling it was a case of mistaken identities. While we laud the Court decision which freed Gurung and Ramos, we are angered that no one was held accountable for the wrongful arrests, and as per the Court decision, unlawful warrantless arrest. 

And now, once again, this law, with its contentious provisions, is used against Indigenous Peoples, leaders of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, who are known in their communities, and even at the national and international level, to be active in the assertion of indigenous Peoples’ rights. The bank accounts of Cordillera Peoples Alliance have been frozen as of July 11, 2023, which would further deprive Cordilleran communities of the much-needed support for social services, including immediate relief during emergencies and disasters. 

Global Witness, in its 2022 report, states that a disproportionate number of attacks against indigenous peoples continued, with over 40% of all fatal attacks targeting IPs, despite them making up 5% of the world’s population. These cases of attacks were documented predominantly in 5 countries, including the Philippines. 

Today, under this new government, we see no let-up in these attacks. Despite its sweet talk to international communities about its commitment to human rights, we know that these are empty talks. With the Anti-Terror Law, the assertion of human rights, defense of ancestral domain, and the protection of natural resources and environment will continue to be considered as acts of terrorism. 

The Anti-Terror Law has caused a chilling effect on freedom of expression, a serious concern petitioners warned about during deliberations on the law before the Supreme Court. The designation of indigenous people’s rights advocates has put fear, if not hesitation, among activists, and ordinary citizens, who want to express views that are critical of the government and its programs. 

In consideration of the actual harm and danger that the law has already caused, 1Sambubungan calls for the scrapping of Rep. Act 11479, or the Anti-Terror Law. Junk ATL! 

We further call for the revocation of ATC Resolution 41 designating the 5 Cordillerans as terrorists. 

Respect our right to defend our rights. 1SAMBUBUNGAN / July 13, 2023 

Contact Person: Prince Turtogo – +639550643565