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Bolinget seeks NBI protection vs PNP shoot-to-kill order

Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) chairperson Windel Bolinget has sought the protection of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against a shoot-to-kill order against him by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the region, his group announced.

“Bolinget has voluntarily submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) earlier today, Jan. 21, for security while proving his innocence from the fabricated case he is charged with,” the CPA said Thursday.

A shoot-to-kill order had been issued against the prominent Igorot activist by PNP Cordillera commander R’win Pagkalinawan last Wednesday.

“Shoot to kill if nanlaban (he fights back),” Pagkalinawan said in a text message to reporters.

The PNP in Kalinga also announced a PhP100,000 bounty for information on the activist’s whereabouts.

The CPA said Bolinget’s decision to submit himself to the NBI was made as it was clear the police and Pagkalinawan “didn’t have any intention to observe due process.”

The CPA said Bolinget is not admitting guilt for the “fabricated charge” but to have full access to all legal services in challenging the charge while under NBI’s protective custody.

“We challenge the state security forces to show the same integrity and adhere to the rule of law,” the CPA said.

Bolinget and 10 others had been charged with murder by the Office of the Provincial prosecutor of Davao del Norte, at the southern part of the country, for their alleged involvement in the killing of Garito Malibato, a member of a local indigenous peoples’ organization called Karadyawan, in March 2018.

The CPA and human rights group Front Line Defenders earlier said the murder charge appears to be fabricated as Bolinget has never been to Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte where Malibato was murdered.

The group added that local indigenous organizations pointed to the paramilitary group Alamara as the real perpetrators of the murder.

“Further, a relative of the victim also expressed that Malibato had received several death threats from the same paramilitary group before he was killed,” FLD said.

Other groups also denounced Pagkalinawan’s order against Bolinget.

“Again the militarists are operating with trigger happy fingers with this kind of order.  They are now trying to condition the minds of the people that Windel will most likely resist arrest or ‘manlaban.’ Thus, such an order is justified,” the Bayan Muna Party said in a statement.

The National Council of Churches of the Philippines for its part called for the withdrawal of the charges against Bolinget as well as an end to the harassment and red tagging of indigenous activists.

“This most recent manufactured case against Mr Bolinget is part of a long history of harassment and intimidation including red-tagging, that is being conducted by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and PNP against Mr Bolinget and other indigenous activists and human rights defenders,” NCCP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups condemn harassment, surveillance vs Cordilleran activist

Human rights organizations branded as harassment and political persecution the ongoing intense police surveillance against a prominent Cordilleran activist.

Front Line Defenders (FLD) and the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) said the family and friends of activist Windel Bolinget have been constantly harassed for information on his whereabouts since he had been informed of a warrant of arrest against him last December.

Bolinget and 10 others had been charged with murder by the Office of the Provincial prosecutor of Davao del Norte, at the southern part of the country, for their alleged involvement in the killing of Garito Malibato, a member of a local indigenous peoples’ organization called Karadyawan, in March 2018.

FLD said the murder charge appears to be fabricated as Bolinget has never been to Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte where Malibato was murdered.

The group added that local indigenous organizations pointed to the paramilitary group Alamara as the real perpetrators of the murder.

“Further, a relative of the victim also expressed that Malibato had received several death threats from the same paramilitary group before he was killed,” FLD said.

The group reported that since December, there has been intense physical surveillance on Bolinget at his house and at the CPA office in Baguio City.

“Windel Bolinget’s family and colleagues fear that, if the defender is arrested, he may be subjected to the tokhang-style execution (extrajudicial killing under the pretext of ‘resisting arrest’), which is a common occurrence in the country,” FLD said.

Victim of vilification

It is not the first time that Bolinget had been under threat by State forces, the group revealed, noting that the activist was included in a military hit list, along with other CPA leaders in 2006.

In February 2018, the Department of Justice’s terrorist proscription list also included him but was eventually dropped from the record due to lack of proof.

Bolinget is also a victim of an intense social media vilification campaign since last year branding him as well as his family and colleagues as terrorists.

Last December 10, International Human Rights Day, flyers with Bolinget’s photo alleging he is a recruiter of the New People’s Army were scattered in Baguio City and La Trinidad, Benguet province.

‘Will not be silenced’

In a statement last Thursday, January 14, Bolinget denied the allegations.

“I am not a member of the New Peoples’ Army nor am I a terrorist. I am an unarmed civilian and I believe that continuing the activist tradition of indigenous peoples for human dignity, social justice, land and environment is crucial in our society,” Bolinget said.

“In due time, I will engage the services of lawyers and challenge my case. I will not be silenced by a fabricated charge,” he added.

Earlier, the CPA launched an online appeal to have charges against its leader dropped, saying Bolinget did not commit any murder or physical harm against any individual.

“The trumped-up case is obviously meant to silence him and the CPA from asserting indigenous peoples’ rights and human rights against development aggression (destructive mining and dam projects) and rights violations. It is the latest of a series of attacks against Bolinget,” the group said.

The CPA said the charge against its leader is part of systematic attacks of the Rodrigo Duterte government against political dissenters and human rights activists through the implementation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

A member of the Kankanaey and Bontok indigenous peoples in Mountain Province, Bolinget is a veteran environment defender and human rights activist who had been part of the CPA for 23 years as Education Commission Officer, Secretary General and now Chairperson.

He has long been known as an indigenous activist strongly committed to his work, the CPA said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Journalist seriously wounded in gun attack

(Updated: 10:00 pm, August 6)

A journalist and human rights defender is seriously wounded after being shot by unidentified gunmen in front of his house in Lagawe, Ifugao at six o’clock tonight, Tuesday, August 6.

Brandon Lee, Ifugao correspondent of Baguio City-based media outfit Northern Dispatch and paralegal volunteer of both the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM), was immediately taken to a local hospital for treatment.

He was later transferred to a bigger hospital in the neighboring province of Nueva Vizcaya, a source informed Kodao.

In a statement, the CHRA said the 54th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army frequented Lee’s residence as well as the offices of both the IPM and the Justice and Peace Advocates of Ifugao, of which he is also a member, for weeks prior to tonight’s shooting.

The soldiers gathered data by interrogating and intimidating the organizations’ members and staff, the CHRA reported.

The Philippine Army team was headed by a certain 1Lt Karol Jay R. Mendoza while its Civil-Military Operations head is a certain Lt.Col. Narciso B. Nabulneg, Jr. who both invoked President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 in their interrogations, the group added.

Duterte’s EO 70 issued last December created a task force to combat insurgency that human rights organizations blame for the killing of activists across the country.

In the task force’s launch in Camp Bado Dangwa in La Trinidad, Benguet last May 24, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police jointly identified Ifugao Province as a “priority target in the anti-insurgency campaign.”

Brandon Lee (Photo from his Facebook account)

In 2015, Lee was among the IPM members and staff accused of being New People’s Army members.

Lee’s media outfit, Northern Dispatch, had also been a victim of red-tagging by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

Lee first became Northern Dispatch’s correspondent in 2010.

Other sources told Kodao that Lee’s IPM colleagues are currently under surveillance from unidentified men, preventing them from visiting Lee at the hospital. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Benguet groups condemn harassment of youth leader

BAGUIO CITY— Activist organizations condemn the surveillance and harassment of a Cordillera youth leader by two men suspected to be state security agents.

Benguet indigenous youth leader Rima Mangili-Libongen had been subjected to surveillance, harassment and vilification by suspected state security agents since May this year, the Kabenguetan Agkaykaysa nga Ilaban ken Aywanan ti Biag, Daga, ken Kinabaknang, or Benguet Unite to Defend and Nurture Life, Land, and Resources (Kaiabang) and the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA)-Benguet Chapter said.

Kaiabang said the two suspects could only aim to intimidate Mangili-Libongen into stopping her leadership and organizing work, which colleagues fear may go beyond stalking and harassment.

Mangili-Libongen is a member of the famed music group Salidummay and Secretary General of Bileg ken Urnos dagiti Agtutubo nga Ybenguet (Buday, Strength and Unity of the Benguet Youth).

A 35-year old mother of three and residing in Ucab, Itogon, Benguet, Mangili-Libongen had been organizing youth and children for the theater arts and the Cordillera people’s movement since her college days at the Benguet State University in the early 2000s.

Mangili-Libongen has been tailed in Itogon where she lives and in this city, with one of the suspects monitoring the proceedings of the youth assembly she facilitated at the Itogon town training center in Bua, Tuding last May 30, the group said.

The harassment reportedly continued until the early morning of June 3 while Mangili-Libongen was at Shopper’s Lane in Baguio City with one of the suspects grabbing her forearm.

The man only released Mangili-Libongen’s arm when shopkeepers and passersby took notice.

The two men immediately left, Kaiabang said.

After the incident, Rima received a text from an unknown number saying, “Marami ka palang pinupuntahang lugar” (So you go to many places).

Alarmed that she may be harassed again, Mangili-Libongen changed her phone number but received another text message on June 8 that said “Tukoy ka na.” (You’ve been pinpointed.)

Impunity under Duterte

The CPA for its part said it could only be state agents who are behind the incidents.

“Comfortable in the impunity afforded them by the present dispensation, the military and police are capable of anything these days – as they were at the time of Marcos’s Martial Law and Macapagal-Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya,” the CPA said.

In April, rights group Karapatan submitted to the United National Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights a list of 47 cases of political extrajudicial killings under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

“These killings are all in the context of the counter-insurgency programs implemented from one regime to another that supposedly seek to end the armed rebellion of revolutionary movements in the Philippines,” Karapatan in its letter said.

“The victims of killings are peasants, indigenous peoples and workers. Many faced harassment and villification by the military because of their advocacy and actions to defend people’s rights and are thus considered as human rights defenders,” the group added. # (Olga Lauzon/Northern Dispatch for Kodao Productions. Featured image from the CPA.)