Hands off PH human rights defenders and land rights activists! Promoting food sovereignty is not terrorism!

March 15, 2018

The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty strongly denounces the red-tagging of more than 600 Filipino human rights defenders and activist leaders and their inclusion in the Duterte administration’s supposed “terrorist” list.

Many in the list are leaders of the Philippine mass movement – a considerable number of whom are indigenous peoples and peasants – who have been critical of what is widely seen as a dictatorship-style leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte. It also includes some international activists such as Beverly Longid, the global coordinator of the International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) and co-chair of the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE), and notably, even the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Vicky Tauli-Corpuz.

These IP and peasant leaders, throughout the years, were at the forefront of the struggle versus the corporate control over agriculture and food production. They have stood for the welfare and interests of communities to land and food against state-sponsored neoliberal policies that further their marginalization. Labelling them as “terrorists” for their activist activities – particularly the promotion of food sovereignty – is unfounded and malicious.

The list is part of a government petition before a local court seeking the declaration of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) as “a terrorist and outlawed organizations, associations, and/or group of persons” under the country’s anti-terrorism law, the Human Security Act of 2007 (Republic Act 9372). The Department of Justice (DOJ), a component of the national executive branch, made the petition on 21 February 2018.

This follows the signing of Presidential Proclamation No. 374, which declares the belligerent CPP-NPA as terrorist organizations under RA 10168, or “The Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012, and Proclamation No. 360, which terminates the peace negotiations between the two parties.

PCFS echoes the sentiment of many Filipino activists and human rights advocates that the terrorist label could be part of the efforts of the Duterte government to suppress those who are critical of government policies and to criminalize legitimate dissent. In fact, many Filipino activist leaders are being harassed and jailed for trumped-up charges.

PCFS condemns the apparent witch-hunt targeting human rights defenders and activists especially IP and peasant leaders. President Duterte has opted to silence those who defend the country’s farmlands and ancestral domains from corporate land grabbing and environmental destruction.

The Coalition also slams Duterte’s subservience to the military and its benefactor the United States, which first designated the CPP-NPA as a “foreign terrorist organization” in 2002 despite their belligerency status. His latest actions befit the “war on terror” narrative of the US in accordance with its Operation Pacific Eagle – Philippines. The plan is part and parcel of the US Pivot to Asia, its strategy to focus economic and military activities in Asia to challenge China’s growing influence in the region as a competing superpower. We fear that this would result to further military intervention and massive landgrabs in the Philippines to give way to investments by US multinational companies – and doing so would be so much easier with the elimination of many staunch Filipino human rights defenders and activist leaders through the “terrorist” list.

We urge the Philippine government to uphold democracy, stop the intimidation of human rights defenders and activists, and withdraw the questionable list. Instead of red- and terror- tagging under a counterinsurgency plan directed at activists and rural communities, PCFS appeals to the Duterte government to instead address systemic landlessness and industrial backwardness that feed the country’s chronic poverty and social unrest.

The Coalition calls on all members of the PCFS across the globe to express support to Filipino human rights defenders and activists. PCFS also calls all food sovereignty and human rights activists in the Philippines to resist the attacks of the Duterte administration that aim to pacify the mass movement and intensify the struggles for our legitimate demands to land, wages, jobs, social services, and rights. Our strengthened unity and resolve is our best defense. ###