[Statement] Indigenous Women Speak out: Anti-Terrorism Act is a direct threat to us as rights defenders -LILAK

Indigenous Women Speak out: Anti-Terrorism Act is a direct threat to us as rights defenders
7 August 2020

Indigenous women speak out and stood up against the Anti-Terror Act. They filed a petition before the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of Republic Act 11479.

Surmounting the challenges and difficulties of fulfilling technical legal requirements, Teresa dela Cruz, an Aeta Abelen from Zambales, and Nora Sukal, a B’laan woman from Tampakan, South Cotabato, are two of the petitioners of the IP-MORO petition led by the Atty. Tony La Vina and Atty. Efrenita Taqueban as co-counsels. Other petitioners are leaders, mostly women, of indigenous communities from Cordillera and Mindanao, as well as from the Moro communities of BARMM. LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights), a collective of feminists and women activists advocating for the rights and empowerment of indigenous women, is also one of the petitioners. This comes two days before the celebration of the International Day of Indigenous Peoples (Aug. 9).

In a time of pandemic, the Duterte government railroaded a bill that would neither combat COVID-19 nor better the situations of many Filipinos suffering from the pandemic. The year 2020 has seen worsening poverty, unemployment, and hunger while Duterte strengthens the military and police to battle against what it considers terrorism – the growing anger, disgruntlement and resistance to its violent, corrupt, anti-people governance.

The vague definitions of terrorist and terrorist act in ATA endanger indigenous peoples who, for years, have been threatened, harassed, terrorized and red-tagged as they assert their rights to their ancestral lands. Even before the introduction of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, the Duterte government has accused indigenous leaders – who are defenders of the environment and natural resources – of being enemies of the state.

According to the UN Human Rights Office, 248 activists were killed from 2015 to 2019, Global Witness tagged the Philippines the most dangerous country for environment and lands rights defenders. They counted 133 killings during Duterte’s presidency; 46% of the cases are believed to have been perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines; 44% occurred in Mindanao; and 22% of the victims were indigenous people. A large percentage of the killings were related to land-grabbing of agribusinesses, plantations, and mining companies and state-sponsored development projects such as mega dams and power plants. These are from killings which were reported. There are more acts of violence and killings within their ancestral domains which are not officially documented and reported.

Teresa and Nora are indigenous women who are in the frontlines of their communities’ struggle against large scale mining within their ancestral domains, and land grabbing. They themselves are victims of different forms of harassment and threats; and they fear that they are the targets of the law. According to Teresa, “Kami na mga naninirahan sa bundok, at doon nagtatanggol ng aming karapatan para mabuhay, ay nangangamba na kami ay matuturing na terorista. Dahil sa ilalim ng pamahalaang ito, ang sino man ang di payag o di sang-ayon sa kanilang gawain ay tinuturing na kaaway (We who live in the mountains, where we fight for our rights to live, are afraid that we will be considered terrorists. Because under this administration, whoever is against of their actions are considered enemies)”.

The ATA is an obvious weaponization of the law aimed to silence dissent. It is a violation of human rights and a mockery of the Philippines’ legal systems. The Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) that has the power to permit arrests, surpassing the power of the judiciary, will consist of presidential appointees, Duterte’s loyal “yes men”.

LILAK will continue to support indigenous women and their struggles, as we join hands, and link arms in our collective defense and assertion of our rights against Duterte’s fascism, impunity, and misogyny.

For more information please contact,
judy pasimio – 09175268341 | judy104@lilak.net
Shar Balagtas – 09771966122 | sharbalagtas.lilak@gmail.com

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