By NORWIN GONZALES
BAGUIO CITY— In separate statements, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Mountain Province (MP) and the Council of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP) stood by the seven indigenous peoples who were wrongly tagged as terrorists by the Department of Justice in early March.
The groups showed support for Jose Molintas, Joan Carling, Joanna Cariño, Beverly Longid, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Windel Bolinget and Jeannette Ribaya-Cawiding and urged the government to delist them at the soonest possible time as their safety is compromised by the said proscription list.
The MP council led by vice-governor Francis O. Tauli insisted that the individuals listed were indigenous peoples rights defenders through “peaceful means.”
The resolution was also approved by MP governor Bonifacio Lacwasan Jr.
Meanwhile, the ECP said that is not only because of the individuals that they oppose the proscription list. It questions the very existence of such a list.
They further cited the harassment done to other rights defenders like Sarah Abellon-Alikes, who was arrested and slapped with false charges of masterminding the bombing of a transport vehicle in Benguet.
They described the actions by the State as “a perpetuation of a labeling which we thought ended after Martial Law.”
“We now urge the new Secretary of Justice to do the right thing to withdraw the list if not the petition altogether,” the statement said.
The ECP also urged the Philippine Government and the National Democratic Front to resume peace talks. The ECP is headed by Most Rev. Joel Padchao.
The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) welcomed both statements, which adds to the many support statements that had come from national, international organizations both in government and non-government.
It cited the earlier resolutions filed by the Sagada Municipal Council and Baguio City Council.
It further praised the Ifugao people for the widening support against the vilification and terror-tagging in the province.
“The statement of concern and condemnation was issued in response to the branding of legitimate farmers, women’s and indigenous people’s organizations as NPAs and as terrorists. Political vilification fliers were scattered in Lagawe on April 21, 2018 just as delegations from Ifugao were about to travel to attend the 34th Cordillera Day celebration in Baguio,” said Bestang Dekdeken, secretary-general of CPA.
In the world arena the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said this: “The list aims to intimidate people struggling for their rights and indigenous people defending their lands. It is part of a wider campaign by the State to narrow the democratic space and to target various groups of persons.”
The group Investor Alliance for Human Rights, meanwhile said that “human rights defenders play a critical role in fostering corporate respect for human rights.”
The group, however, noted over 1000 attacks on human rights defenders between 2015 and 2017 especially when they are “standing up to corporations.”
They encouraged investors and companies to take into consideration the state of human rights in a country and take part in supporting human rights defenders worldwide.# nordis.net