A CORDILLERAN has joined petitioners from the Indigenous Peoples and Bangsa Moro asking the Supreme Court to declare the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 unconstitutional because they believe it violates fundamental freedoms and our right to self-determination.
Beverly Longid, an Igorot belonging to the Bontok and Kankana-ey tribe of the Cordillera, joined Sandugo-Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination on the filing of petition against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
"We ask the Supreme Court to give utmost consideration to our petition and heed our prayer to declare the Anti-Terror Act of 2020 unconstitutional. We are activists, not terrorists, calling us terrorists or criminals discredits our struggles' legitimacy and undermines our right to self-determination to participate and voice our opinion in matters that affect us. The terror law is added ammunition to the existing arsenal of repressive laws against the Indigenous and Moro peoples, a mockery to the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms associated with the Philippine government's democratic governance and human rights obligations," she said.
Longid is the International Solidarity officer of Katribu, the national alliance of Indigenous Peoples organizations in the Philippines and the global coordinator of the International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL).
Both organizations work for the recognition of Indigenous Peoples' rights to ancestral lands and territories, for equality and self-determination.
"Several times, the state has red-tagged, terrorist-tagged, and vilified my organization, our members and partners, the communities we worked with, and me. We are openly accused as front organizations of the CPP-NPA, as terrorists or communist supporters or sympathizers. The military refers to our communities and territories as red or rebel areas, communist infested and NPA strongholds and our Lumad schools as rebel schools," Longid said.
In 2018, the Department of Justice included Longid's name in a petition to proscribe the CPP-NPA. A year later, the DOJ amended its petition to only eight names.
"The danger remains for all those maliciously suspected and labeled in the petition. The tagging and attacks don't stop; in fact they have escalated. With the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, our organizations, communities, family, and we, activists, are further endangered. With the terror law, the DOJ sits in the all-powerful Anti-Terror Council authorized to order law enforcement agents to arrest suspected terrorists and detain them for as long as 24 days or even longer. As in the case of the proscription petition, the terror council invokes this authority based on intelligence reports," Longid added.
Longid said recently, a police officer in her hometown of Sagada stated in a public meeting that people should be wary of her and her sister because they are NPA recruiters.
A month earlier, the PNP regional office, in a press conference, made the same statement and presented alleged NPA surrenderers to support these false accusations.
"These are malicious and irresponsible accusations as these tags suggest that we are not reputable members of society and intend to alienate us from our community," Longid said.
The IP leader said at the time of a pandemic, collective actions to provide humanitarian aid are red-tagged. Under the terror law, these can be acts of providing support to terrorists.
"Do we then deny relief and assistance to indigenous communities in need, with worsening government neglect against Indigenous Peoples? Our collective actions to protect our communities from destructive projects like mining are criminalized as in the case of the one-year barricade against Oceana Gold in Nueva Vizcaya. The leaders are now facing criminal charges," added Longid.