Groups slam terrorist tag on Cordilleran leaders

THE National Union of Journalists Baguio-Benguet (NUJP) and the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu) slammed the terrorist tag of Cordilleran leaders Sherwin de Vera and Beverly Longid.

De Vera and Longid were among seven Cordillerans who were included in a list drawn up by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as part of its petition to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People's Army as terrorist organizations.

Those on the list, which comprised of over 600 names, were allegedly officers and members of the two communist organizations.

Read: 7 Cordillerans on DOJ list of 'terrorists'

Kathleen Okubo, chairperson of the NUJP Baguio-Benguet Chapter, denounced the continuing attack against De Vera, an editorial staff member of the Northern Dispatch Weekly.

“This is a clear effort of the present administration to silence its critics and to sow fear among the people. If the administration can include known rights defenders who even work for the UN, journalists and lawyers in its terrorist list, how much more for common folks? This is reminiscent of the Marcos regime when journalists critical to the government were among the first to be silenced. The Duterte administration, like its predecessors failed to learn from history that draconian measures will only result to more human rights violations.”

Last December, De Vera, also a known environmental advocate, was unlawfully arrested and illegally detained for baseless rebellion charges. He was released on bail in January.

Prior to his arrest, he was tailed by unidentified men in July. In the same month, unidentified men believed to be military agents questioned people he visited at the University of Northern Philippines in Vigan City about his whereabouts.

Longid is a Bontok-Kankanaey activist from Cordillera, global coordinator of the International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), and Katribu International solidarity officer.

Other leaders on the list include: Windel Bolinget, a Bontok-Kankanaey, Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) chairperson, and Katribu national convenor; Joanna Cariño, an Ibaloi elder and activist, Sandugo co-chairperson; Joan Carling, a Kankanaey, former CPA chairperson, and former Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) secretary-general; and Jose Molintas, an Ibaloi lawyer public servant, former national vice-president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), and former member of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP).

While Victoria "Vicky" Tauli- Corpuz, a Kankanaey, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was also included in the list.

“The charges are not only false and fabricated. They are baseless and malicious with intent to vilify, harass and intimidate the people struggling for their democratic rights and the indigenous communities defending their ancestral lands and asserting their right to self-determination. It is meant to cripple the people’s mass movement in the country and criminalize the legitimate struggles of the people by proscribing them as terrorist acts,” Katribu said in a statement.

“These fabricated charges against human rights defenders fighting against all forms of discrimination demonstrate the tyranny towards dictatorship of the US-Duterte regime," it added.
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