“The terror law is added ammunition to the existing arsenal of repressive laws against the Indigenous and Moro people. This is a mockery to the exercise of our fundamental rights”
By MENCHANI TILENDO
MANILA — Indigenous peoples and Moro groups are bracing for an intensification of attacks on their ranks with the passage of Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
They are not taking it sitting down. Sandugo-Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination and other Moro and indigenous peoples groups filed with the Supreme Court, Aug. 7, the 26th petition against the Anti-Terror Act. They are urging the high court to declare the law unconstitutional, saying it “would cause irreparable and undue injury to indigenous and Moro peoples.”
“Cloaked in legalese, RA 11479 is none other than terrorism in disguise,” the petition read. They highlighted that the ambiguous definitions of ‘terrorism’ would have far reaching impacts on their communities.
“In the Philippines, IP leaders and organizations defending their ancestral lands against plunderous corporate and government projects have been tagged as enemies of the State. Human rights violations are its worst in the Philippines, which ranked as the worst place in Asia for land and environment defenders, and second in the world,” said Beverly Longid, one of the petitioners and global coordinator of International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL).
Petitioners also include Samira Gutoc, chairperson of AkoBawit; Joanna Cariño, co-chairperson of Sandugo.
Both Longid and Cariño were named in the Department of Justice’s petition to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army as terrorist organizations. They were eventually removed from the list.
They were joined by Rose Hayahay and Chad Errol Booc, volunteers teachers in Lumad schools, which have been shut down under the Duterte administration.
Amirah Lidasan of the Moro-Christian Peoples Alliance; Kakay Tolentino of Bai Indigenous Women; Nora Sukal, B’laan indigenous leader; Teresa de la Cruz, Aeta indigenous leader; Judy Pasimio of Lilak are also among the petitioners.
Antonio La Viña, lawyer, professor and environmental and human rights advocate acts as the legal counsel of indigenous peoples and Moro petitioners.
Added insult to injury against indigenous and Moro peoples
The petition states that indigenous and Moro peoples are often met with militarization and violations because of defending their lands and right to self-determination. The labels “terrorist” and “insurgents” have become the catch-all pretext to legitimize attacks on them. Far from a law that protects, RA 11479 legitimizes the structural violence already perpetuated against them.
“The Moro people are similarly placed in grave insecurity under RA 11479. The RA 11479 takes off from the dominant and prevailing global counter-terrorism agenda post 9/11 in which the central villainous figure is characterized as the Muslim terrorist,” the petitioners said.
“The Anti-Terror Law does not help in our centuries-old struggle from stereotyping, derogatory words that label Muslims as terrorists. It endangers our identity and even faith. This law is a continuation of the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007 which has primarily targeted the Bangsamoro people,” Gutoc, Marawi Moro civic leader and chairperson of AkoBakwit, said.
Gutoc cited that under the HSA 2007, Muslims were subjected to warrantless arrests, and profiling of those who wear the niqab (garment of clothing that covers the face, worn by some Muslim women), or those who have a name of ‘Muhammad.’
“…And take note, none of these mistaken arrests and identities committed by the authorities were held to account, or even investigated,” Gutoc added.
Gutoc reported that after the three-wave of President Duterte’s Martial Law imposition in Mindanao, Marawi has not been fully rehabilitated yet. She said that the Anti-Terror Law has worsened the lack of decent livelihood for Moro people in all parts of the country.
Primary victims at the forefront of the fight
“We are one of the primary stakeholders targeted by the Anti-Terror Law. We need to stand up for the war-ravaged victims, migrant and vendor communities. The Anti-Terror is an all-out war against the Moro people”, Gutoc said.
“The Anti-Terror Law discredits our struggles and legitimacy, and undermines our right to self-determination to participate and voice our opinions in matters that affect us. The terror law is added ammunition to the existing arsenal of repressive laws against the indigenous and Moro people. This is a mockery to the exercise of our fundamental rights,” Longid ended.