February 29, 2024

Four Cordilleran activists filed a landmark petition challenging the Anti-Terrorism Council’s resolution identifying them as members of a terrorist group.

In a case filed in the First Judicial Region Baguio City on Nov. 23, activists Windel Bolinget, Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Jennifer Awingan-Taggaoa, and Stephen Tauli petitioned for certiorari and prohibition, invoking the court’s expanded jurisdiction to determine whether or not there has been grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of the ATC.

The group, who are active leaders of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), specifically filed the petition against the ATC represented by Chairperson retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, and the Anti-Money Laundering Council, represented by Chair, Gov. Eli Remolona, Jr. 

CPA Secretary-General Sarah Dekdekken said this is the first legal action filed in court that seeks to overturn a terrorist designation emphasizing concerns on the infringement of constitutional rights.

On June 7, the ATC signed Resolution 41 identifying the four CPA leaders as terrorists. The press release was published on a broadsheet on July 10. 

Dekdekken said they are long-time leaders of the rights-based group and who previously faced rebellion charges by government agencies and have also reported various forms of attacks.

With this, the activists have asked the court to issue a writ of preliminary injunction to the respondents to restrain them from implementing the third paragraph of Section 25 of the Anti-Terror Act (ATA), which grants power to the ATC to designate any individual or groups, domestic or foreign upon finding of probable cause that the individual or groups attempt to commit or conspire in the commission of terrorism.

They also asked for the third paragraph of Section 25 of the ATA to be declared unconstitutional for infringing on the 1987 constitution.

They likewise asked the court to declare as void from the beginning, the ATC resolution designating them as terrorists and lifting the AMLC Resolution TF-67-2023 ordering the freezing of the petitioners’ assets “as well as those deemed materially linked or related to the same”.

Bolinget described the terrorist designation as “an assault to their basic rights” as it has effectively frozen their bank accounts and other assets including the CPA itself, “deprived them of fully practicing their work and advocacy and ultimately subjected them to further harassment, humiliation, and threats”.

The petition was crafted by a team of lawyers and groups including the National Union of Peoples Lawyers with Baguio lawyer Jose Molintas as lead counsel. – Ofelia C. Empian