Trumped-up charges against IP activists rising — groups

April 3, 2023


QUEZON CITY — Groups raised the alarm about the growing number of indigenous peoples’ rights activists facing criminal charges in Northern Luzon, saying the government has “weaponized the law” against those opposing destructive projects in their communities during the public forum ‘Asunto’ on March 28 in UP Diliman.

Cordillera Peoples Alliance Chair Windel Bolinget highlighted the judicial harassment of known activists Steve Tauli, Lulu Gimenez, Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Jennifer Awingan, Florance Kang, Niño Oconer, and himself. He said the military filed “trumped-up” rebellion charges, accusing them of involvement in an ambush by New People’s Army guerillas, killing two government soldiers in Malibcong, Abra October last year.

He also mentioned the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) bombing of communities in the provinces of Cagayan and Kalinga.

Former Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Eufemia Cullamat pressed that the continuous crackdown on activists is rooted in the corporate plunder of national resources. She said that AFP acts as an investment defense force for development aggression projects such as dams, mining, and other massive infrastructure or land-use conversion projects in Northern Luzon and the entire country.

Neri Colmenares, of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), added that the government has always weaponized the law. The only difference with what is now is that it is deliberately directed against government critics, especially indigenous peoples. As documented by NUPL, lapses in the preliminary investigation were apparent in most, if not all, cases. He mentioned the death of nine Tumandok that resulted from the arbitrary issuance of a search warrant by Manila RTC Judge Jose Lorenzo Dela Rosa.

Despite this dire human rights situation, the speakers encourage people to be vigilant to prevent further harassment and other human rights violations. Colmenares suggests filing civil cases against the state perpetrators. Bolinget reminded the youth of their role as catalysts of change, to occupy space, and urge the vast majority to take action for justice and truth.

Tignayan dagiti Agtutubo ti Kordilyera para iti Demokrasya ken Rang-ay and Binnadang Amianan organized the activity, which came a week after Northern Luzon activists engaged the Commission on Human Rights and several members of the House of Representatives to probe rights violations in the region.#

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