LAND IS LIFE CONDEMNS DESIGNATION OF LAND DEFENDERS AS TERRORISTS IN THE PHILIPPINES, AND CALLS FOR AN END TO RED TAGGING
July 14, 2023
LAND IS LIFE roundly condemns the designation of four environmental and Indigenous rights leaders as terrorists, and urges the government of the Philippines to both respect their rights, and to guarantee both their safety and that of all members and staff of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) to which they belong. We also urge the authorities to make sure that due process is respected in any legal proceedings involving activists and land defenders in the Philippines.
The accusations of terrorism against the four activists - Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Windel Bolinget, Jen Awingan and Stephen Tauli – also come after a previous accusation of rebellion against them was recently thrown out of court for lack of evidence; the judge presiding over the case also required that all warrants issued against them be overturned.
The Philippines is one of the most dangerous places in the world for land and environmental defenders. According to Global Witness, two hundred and seventy defenders have been killed between 2012 and 2021, and of these over 40% were indigenous peoples campaigning to protect their land and the environment.
The criminalization of activists is often carried out through ‘red-tagging’, a long-established practice which formally exists as a strategy for combating communist-led insurgencies. However, in practice ‘red tagging’ has been used to target civilians and legitimate peoples’ organizations fighting for their rights, particularly indigenous people and land defenders, who are often falsely accused, and prosecuted, for supporting insurgencies.
The Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) is an independent federation of mainly grassroots organizations and indigenous communities of the Cordillera region. The CPA has long advocated an end to the practice of red tagging, but their leaders have been subjected to threats, and in the latest case, prosecution.
LAND IS LIFE calls on the Philippines government of Bongbong Marcos to ensure the safety of the four activists, but also to repeal the widely abused ATC Resolution No. 41 (2023), which allows people like them to be targeted and threatened for defending their lands and rights.