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From Under This Hat: Stand with human rights defenders


Kathleen is giving her column space to Abigail B. Anongos. former EIC of Nordis Weekly.

I write today on behalf of human rights defenders in my Cordillera homeland: for the communities asserting self-determination from militarization and development aggression, for activist colleagues in different people’s organizations and institutions, for those who have not given up and continue to live out the legacy of our ancestors from the stories of Chico and Cellophil. For our elders who have gone ahead and have left us a legacy to live out.

I write for colleagues in the Cordillera people’s movement confronted by State persecution, their work dangerously criminalized and dismissed as terrorism. I write for fellow women human rights defenders Rachel Mariano, Sherry Mae Soledad, Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Joanne Villanueva and Asia Isabelle Gepte. They are presently facing trumped-up charges by the 81st Infantry Battalion of the AFP. They are women of courage and determination, for their families and beyond.

I write for colleagues in the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, pioneers, past and current officers: Joanna Cariño, Joan Carling, Atty. Jose Molintas, Windel Bolinget, Beverly Longid, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Jeannette Cawiding. They too face trumped-up charges in Department of Justice petition that proscibes as terrorist the CPP-NPA with a list of some 600 individuals, their names included. I also write for fellow writer and my MATH 14 classmate Sherwin De Vera who was also slapped with trumped-up charges in Abra.

I write this because of the worsening state of human rights in the country, the Cordillera included. I write this because human rights defenders are highly at risk, and the attack to people’s rights has become more systematic, with the State branding legitimate dissent as criminal acts and activists vilified as terrorists.

But activism is not terrorism. Activism simply takes into action to effect social change. Activism embodies the very same positive values espoused by our ancestors during the Chico and Cellophil struggles, and that is the noble defense of land, life and honor, and that we must rise up to defend life when it is threatened—ultimately, it is service to the ili/people for the greater good. To quote the venerable Benedict Pecdasen Solang—sorely missed, I must say—“activism is service to the people. It dares to question injustice and actively advances the common good”.

The track record of the Cordillera human rights activists facing trumped up charges lived these very dictums to the fullest, and that is all-out service to the people, defense and nurture of the ili/tribe, upholding identity and self-determination. These are the values of our people embodied in the Cordillera people’s movement. There is nothing, nothing at all terroristic or criminal in these. These are noble acts that uphold the interest of the greater good that entails a lot of sacrifice. Activists and human rights defenders are important to society, for the checks and balances to make sure that social justice is genuine democracy is upheld.

On the otherhand, terrorism is what we witness and experience presently: militarization and bombing of indigenous communities as in Abra province, the harassment and vilification of communities and people’s organisations, extrajudicial killings of indigenous leaders as in the case of Tinoc anti-dam activist Ricardo Mayumi, enforced disappearances, the filing of trumped- up charges against human rights defenders, impositions to our ancestral lands in the form of destructive mining and energy projects and plunder of our remaining resources. In fact, Cordillera activists and the people’s movement has been the constant victim of State terrorism.

To borrow from the words of Jose “Ka Pepe” Diokno, there is no cause more worthy than human rights. Let us therefore live out the challenge penned in the words of Macliing Dulag when he said, during the Chico dams struggle, that we must resist if life is threatened. The situation presently begets for all to rise up to the challenge and be a human rights defender, for the Cordillera homeland and the nation.

Source: Nordis

Related to SDG 10: Reduced inequalities and SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

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