May 26, 2024

The Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) has designated four Cordilleran activists as terrorists, which caused an uproar among progressive and militant organizations in the region and rest of the country.

In a press statement, the ATC chaired by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin with National Security Adviser Eduardo Año as vice chair, reported the council in its July 7 meeting has designated Sarah Abellon Alikes, Jennifer R. Awingan/Jennifer A. Taggaoa, Windel Balag-ey Bolinget, Stephen Ambucay Tauli, Jovencio Sannadan Tangbawan, and May Rodriquez Vargas-Casilao as terrorists being members of the White Area Committee of the Communist Party of Philippines-New Peoples Army.

Alikes, Bolinget, Awingan, and Tauli are known leaders of the non-government organization Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).

The ATC statement said ATC Resolution 41 cites that based on verified and validated information, sworn statements and other pieces of evidence gathered by State forces and agencies, the ATC found probable cause to warrant their designation as terrorists for violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Among the violations cited committing terrorism, planning, training, preparing, and facilitating the commission of terrorism, providing support to terrorist organizations or groups organized for purposes of engaging in terrorism.

In a statement, the CPA has urged the public to join them in calling out the ATC for its unjust designation of its leaders as terrorists.

The CPA said the four activists 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.

“This recent blow of terrorist designation shows how the State is desperate to silence us and the people we stand with. We appeal to the public to join us in condemning this and in calling for the Anti-Terrorism Act, more fitting to call it Terror Law, to be repealed,” CPA Secretary General Bestang Dekdeken said.

Dekdeken has cited the 2018 ruling by the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch19 that junked the petition of the Department of Justice to proscribe the CPP-NPA as terrorists. The DOJ’s list had more than 600 names, including the names of Bolinget and other past and present leaders of the organization, who were then delisted with the ruling.

But with the passing of the Anti-Terrorism Act  in 2020, Dekdeken said “the law was used against dissenters more so that the State had taken advantage of the pandemic to peddle its red-tagging and terrorist-tagging narratives.”

She said the CPA is its primary target in the Cordillera.

Last May 11, the four CPA leaders were included as among the seven Northern Luzon activists accused of rebellion in the Bangued RTC in Abra. A warrant of arrest was issued against them, but was quashed later for lack of evidence and basis.

Dekdeken said the terrorist designation implies threat of warrantless arrest, detention of up to 24 days, and the freezing of financial assets and properties of the individuals. – Ofelia C. Empian