“It is deeply concerning that authorities have routinely responded to the expressions of environmental and human rights defenders by criminalizing and delegitimizing their voices.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Support is outpouring for activists who were listed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in their petition to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorists. Aside from their respective organizations, several international organizations and United Nations (UN) bodies have also issued their statements of support and letters of concern regarding the issue.
Just recently, the city council of Baguio approved a “resolution urging the Government of the Republic of the Philippines to drop the terror tag against human rights defender residents of Baguio.”
The resolution was introduced by Councilor Arthur L. Allad-iw and Councilor Faustino A. Olawan.
At least 600 individuals were listed in the DOJ’s petition; seven of them are residents of Baguio City. According to the resolution, the seven individuals “never joined the revolutionary groups but are passionate and active in their advocacy on human rights and indigenous peoples rights both locally and internationally.”
“Their inclusion in the list did not only violate legal processes but now pose a threat to their lives and that of their friends and families,” the resolution read.
Among those seven residents of Baguio City were United Nations (UN) special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples (IPs) Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Indigenous Peoples Major Group on Sustainable Development co-convener Joan Carling and former Cordillera People’s Alliance chairperson Windel Bolinget.
UN Environment head Erik Solhiem also called for the dropping of charges against the activists.
“It is deeply concerning that authorities have routinely responded to the expressions of environmental and human rights defenders by criminalizing and delegitimizing their voices,” he said in a statement.
The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues also expressed grave concern on the accusations against indigenous human rights defenders. It described the charges as “unsubstantiated.”
“They are being targeted for their advocacy and efforts to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples. We find this unacceptable in a country that is based on principles of democracy and good governance,” the statement read.
Amnesty International (AI) also slammed the inclusion of human rights defenders in the government’s terror list. In a statement, AI said the Philippine government must stop its recent attacks on human rights defenders and international institutions.
“Human rights defenders – among them two UN human rights experts – must be guaranteed protection in the country and be allowed to carry out their work freely,” AI said in a statement.
The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines meanwhile said “the list is a vain attempt to intimidate and silence Duterte critics who are now calling for his ouster and presents the strongest opposition to his increasingly dictatorial and fascist regime.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has earlier denounced the inclusion of Corpuz’s name in Duterte’s terror list. He said it “unacceptable for a special rapporteur acting on behalf of the international community whose expertise is sought by the Human Rights Council to be treated in this way.”
Meanwhile, the CPP has belittled the petition and described it as “poorly-crafted half-baked hodgepodge of information drawn from the internet and ‘military intelligence’ sources apparently written by a junior officer of the AFP and then signed by the senior state prosecutor.” It added that the petition should be dismissed immediately.
The CPP asserts that the petition does not have “an iota of proof that the revolutionary acts of the NPA are acts of terrorism.”
“There is a vast ocean of difference between a people waging an armed revolution and unleashing terrorist violence against the people,” the CPP said in a statement.