BAYAN slams terrorist designation of Cordillera activists

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) condemned the latest designation of six persons, including four Cordillera activists, as terrorists, saying its worst fears about the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is now happening in full swing.

Reacting to the Philippine government’s Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) Resolution No. 41 of June 7 designating activists Windel Bolinget, Jen Awingan, Sarah Abellon-Alikes, and Steve Tauli, as well as two other individuals as terrorists, BAYAN said ATC’s move is abuse of power.

The group added the designation is based on mere allegations and unknown pieces of information and issued without the benefit of any hearing or mechanism for due process.

“[It] validates our earlier warning that the law can and will be abused to target activists, government critics, members of progressive movements and organizations, and practically anyone considered a threat by the national security cluster,” BAYAN chairperson Teddy Casiño said in a statement.

The four Cordillera activists are long-time leaders of the regional organization Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) who previously faced rebellion charges by government agencies and have also reported various forms of attacks.

CPA chairperson Bolinget, regional council member Tauli and researcher Awingan were among seven persons charged with rebellion but was quashed by Branch 2 Bangued (Abra) Regional Trial Court (RTC) last May 11.

Tauli was also mauled and abducted by suspected members of the military on August 2022 in Tabuk City, Kalinga province, but was surfaced a day later after his abductors failed to turn him into a government spy.

READ: Cordillera activist mauled and abducted

The four activists were also part of a group that appealed before the Supreme Court for the issuance of a writ of amparo to protect them from what they claim are “continuing threats to their lives, liberty and security” by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National  Police and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

A human rights activist holds a placard against the terrorist designation of Cordillera Peoples Alliance chairperson Windel Bolinget at an indignation rally on Tuesday, July 11, in front of the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City. (Bulatlat photo)

‘Weaponization of the law’

In its resolution, the ATC claimed its designation of the six persons were based on so-called verified and validated information, sworn statements, and other pieces of evidence gathered by different Philippine law enforcement agencies.

It said it found probable cause, warranting the designation of the six persons for violations of the ATA, particularly for committing terrorism; planning, training, preparing, and facilitating the

commission of terrorism; recruitment to and membership in a terrorist organization; and providing material support to terrorist organizations.

In its Resolution No. 12 dated December 9, 2020, the ATC designated the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorist organizations, a decision rejected by a Manila RTC Branch 19 ruling in September 2022 that ruled the groups were not organized for the purpose of terrorism.

BAYAN said ATC’s continuing designation as terrorists of activists is clear “weaponization” of the law against members of organizations known to be critical of the government.

The group cited the use of the ATA against human rights defenders Ken Rementilla, Jasmin Rubia and Hailey Pecayo merely for taking the cudgels for 9-year old Kyllene Casao who was killed on July 9, 2022 by suspected members of the Philippine Army’s 59th Infantry Battalion in Taysan, Batangas.

“Their designation as terrorists by the ATC is the latest effort to intimidate, harass and threaten them into silence and inactivity. It allows the government to freeze their accounts and properties, including personal funds and those for their families. It sets them up for public humiliation, discrimination and physical attack,” BAYAN said.

BAYAN also cited the government’s order to block 26 websites of progressive organizations and critical media by the National Telecommunications Commission upon orders of the ATC.

“This latest act of the ATC is tantamount to trial by publicity using guilt by association. We call on our people to oppose this blatant violation of the right to due process and freedom of association enshrined in the Bill of Rights,” BAYAN’s Casiño said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)