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Home Cordillera Peoples Alliance News Update UPDATE ON THE ARBITRARY TERRORIST DESIGNATION OF THE 4 CPA LEADERS

UPDATE ON THE ARBITRARY TERRORIST DESIGNATION OF THE 4 CPA LEADERS

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UPDATE ON THE ARBITRARY TERRORIST DESIGNATION OF THE 4 CPA LEADERS

This month, as we commemorate the signing of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 signed on March 3, 1995 and the International Day of Action Against Large Dams annually held on March 14, we acknowledge the burden carried by indigenous peoples human rights defenders as we defend land, life and rights.

Last March 8, 2023, a hearing was held at the Regional Trial Court Branch 7 in Baguio City on the civil case filed by Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) leaders Windel Bolinget, Steve Tauli, Jennifer Awingan and Sarah Alikes to review and nullify the arbitrary designation against them issued by the Anti-Terrorism Council.  The issuance of the terrorist designation last June 7, 2023 and published last July 10, 2023 has caused the arbitrary freezing of bank accounts of the CPA and the families of the unjustly designated individuals by the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

The terrorist designation took effect on July 19, 2023.  It has been seven months since then, and the ATL continues to impose a hefty burden not just on the four designated activists but on the rights and freedoms of the Filipino people.   

On November 23, 2023, the 4 CPA leaders sought the review and nullification of the arbitrary designation through the civil case Certiorari and Prohibition (under Rule 65 and the expanded jurisdiction) with Application for Writ of Preliminary Injunction filed before the Baguio City Regional Trial Court. This is the first case that challenges the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020 presenting actual injuries to citizens after the Supreme Court affirmed the Anti-Terrorism Law as constitutional, despite 37 petitions questioning it.  

WHAT DOES ‘TERRORIST DESIGNATION’ MEAN?

The Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020 created the Anti-Terrorism Council and has given it the mandate to arbitrarily designate individuals as terrorists in violation of due process and the rule of law.  The ATC is comprised of present members of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) known for their highly criticized policy-driven disinformation campaign against activists popularly through red-tagging.

The basis for designating an individual as a terrorist has been criticized as vague and overbroad.   It fails to give fair notice to citizens as to what is considered a terrorist act. Worse, it is dangerously ambiguous that law enforcers are given extensive and arbitrary discretion in its enforcement.   Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur for the Freedom of Expression cites in her preliminary 2024 country visit report that  “certain provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 are not aligned with international standards and guidance”.

Any form or act of legitimate political dissent, including the mere intention to raise dissent, may be alleged as terrorism.  The law grants the Anti-Terrorism council and State security forces too much power without the necessary safeguards to prevent abuse and necessary remedies to mitigate harm.

The law has already been used against activists. In the case of the four CPA leaders, local government resolutions from the Baguio City Council and the Mountain Province Provincial Board have been issued recognizing them as human rights defenders and thus, requesting the ATC to reverse the terrorist designation.

The unjust and arbitrary terrorist designation has caused the following:

    • Freezing of accounts of bank accounts due to AMLC Resolution No. TF-67 affecting:  

    • individual bank accounts including mobile wallet applications of the designated individuals

    • bank accounts of their family members, including those directly connected to their employment 

    •  3 bank accounts of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance meant for programs on human rights and indigenous peoples rights 

    • Harassment and Surveillance – three manifestations were filed in court as evidence of harassments and the heightened violation of the right to security even during court hearings.  One incident involved a Police Intelligence officer carrying a gun in violation of security protocols inside the Baguio City Justice Hall last December.  The recent incident involved a member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines who was apprehended after he ran inside the military camp, Camp Henry Allen.

OUR APPEAL

The next hearing will be on April 26, 2024 which is also the tentative date for the case pretrial and may be the issuance of the resolution on whether or not the preliminary injunction on the sanctions of the terrorist designation may be lifted while the case is ongoing. 

It should be strongly noted that the Anti-Terrorism Law is devoid of any protective measures for those alleged, designated or proscribed.  Access to justice has been very difficult as the immediate administrative remedies taken to delist the four have been turned down without addressing the main issues of arbitrariness and breaches committed to basic and fundamental rights. While the case is ongoing in court, the harassment and disinformation campaign against activists and anyone who voices out criticism against the anti-people policies of the government continue with impunity.

Thus, we seek your support to strongly call for judicial independence and fair trial.  

Political dissent, due process and the rule of law are elements in any democratic society and must be guarded for the interest of the people.#

For Reference:

Bestang Dekdeken

CPA Secretary-General

Casselle Ton 

Cordillera Human Rights Alliance Spokesperson

#DefendCordilleraPH

#JunkTerrorLaws 

#StandWithCPA