DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The 26th petition to the Supreme Court against the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act was filed August 7 by indigenous peoples, Moro leaders and their advocates.
The list of petitioners from the group include Samira Gutoc, Chair of AkoBakwit; Beverly Longid from KATRIBU; Joanna Cariño, Co-Chairperson of SANDUGO; Nora Sukal, B’laan indigenous leader; Amirah Lidasan, Moro-Christian Peoples Alliance; Teresa de la Cruz, Aeta indigenous leader; Kakay Tolentino, Coordinator, Bai Indigenous Women; Judy Pasimio, National Coordinator, Lilak; Rose Hayahay of Save Our Schools Network; and Chad Booc, volunteer teacher of ALCADEV, a Lumad school in Caraga. Serving as their legal counsels are former Ateneo de Manila Dean Antonio La Viña and Ryan Roset.
Human rights awardee tagged
Longid, Bolinget, and Cariño were among more than 600 individuals included in a list presented to the Department of Justice in 2018 as members or officers of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army which government wants to classify as terrorist organizations. The DOJ later amended the petition, trimming down to eight individuals after admitting that the initial list was not properly vetted.
Cariño said it is “ironic” that the government wants to declare her as a terrorist when she was also awarded Gwangju Prize for Human Rights last 2019 for championing the rights of indigenous people in the Philippines.
Being a survivor of the Marcos’ Martial Law, Cariño said that there’s a “feeling of a “deja vu” under the Duterte administration, due to “many extreme violations to human rights that have happened then are again happening now [but] in greater numbers”.
Experience of Moro People
For Lidasan from the Moro Christian Peoples Alliance, the implementation of the anti-terror law will only spur human rights violations especially among Moro civilian communities.
She cited previous cases since 2000s of Moro individuals charged of bombings and terrorist acts and were jailed for many years. Some of those arrested have names that are similar to the aliases of alleged Abu Sayaff (ASG) members.
She said that cases of discrimination and mistaken identity is more fearful especially with the Anti-Terrorism Council at the helm –with members composed of mostly security official– that has the judicial power to proscribe individuals and groups as terrorists.
“This security cluster has a long record of human rights violations against Moro people. The PNP and AFP have this Order of Battle (OB) with names listed not taken scientifically. They are using John Doe and Jane Doe, which is also used by DOJ in filing against ASG cases,” Lidasan said.
“That would also happen on a large scale under ATA, not only to Moro people but to all that will be subjectively called by the law as terrorists,” Lidasan said.
Lumad schools in Mindanao
Hayahay from the SOS Network said that even before the ATA, Lumad communities have already been subjected to attacks and red-tagging from state forces.
Their group recorded a total of 1,030 incidents of attacks on Lumad schools, including extrajudicial killings, frustrated killings, sexual harassment, trumped-up charges, indiscriminate firing, among others.
176 Lumad schools were forcibly closed by the state, Hayahay added, which includes the Department of Education’s closure order on Salugpongan schools catering education to Lumad children in Davao Region, with its volunteer teachers also branded as terrorists.
Chad Booc, a volunteer teacher to the ALCADEV school in Surigao del Sur, said he saw leaflets circulating in Caraga region that labeled him and other Mindanao-based activists as “terrorists”.
Booc said that while he and many volunteer teachers do their tasks to teach literacy, agriculture and human rights to the Lumad children, “the State, however, considered it as terrorism for it is contrary to their desire to open ancestral lands for mining.”
The group of national minorities, SANDUGO, said: “This administration is certainly not the first to malign us as enemies of the state, or attempt to snuff out our cries for justice. We are no stranger to dispossession, to the suppression of our rights, to the repression of our voices. Yet, we have always fought back. And we are still here.” (davaotoday.com)