Philippines: Indigenous rights activists at risk after being tagged as ‘terrorists’

The government in the Philippines has officially labelled a number of local indigenous rights activists, as well as a United Nations Special Rapporteur, as “terrorists”.

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS strongly condemns this action and calls on the government of President Rodrigo Duterte to remove these rights defenders from a list of accused “terrorists” and take immediate steps to ensure their safety.

A government petition, filed in a Manila court in February 2018, accuses 600 people of terrorism and alleged membership of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA). President Rodrigo Duterte signed a proclamation declaring the CPP-NPA a terror organisation in December last year, after peace negotiations collapsed.

Among those on the “terrorist” list is Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and a Filipino national, who was listed as a member of the Maoist CCP-NPA rebel group. Tauli-Corpuz has called these accusations “baseless and malicious”. UN experts believe that this is an act of retaliation for her public comments against the attacks and killing of indigenous Lumad peoples by members of the security forces in the southern province of Mindanao.

Others on the list include International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) Global Coordinator, Beverly Longid; Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) Chairperson Windel Bolinget; SANDUGO co-chairperson Joanna Cariño; former Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) Secretary-General Joan Carling; Jose Molintas, former member of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) and at least 10 Lumad leaders from Mindanao.

Said David Kode, CIVICUS head of Campaigns and Advocacy: “The Philippines government is putting these activists at great risk by arbitrarily labelling them as ‘terrorists’. It is clear they are being targeted to discredit their crucial work in defending the rights of indigenous people and to quell criticism of Duterte’s policies in Mindanao.”

“The government must drop this petition immediately and instead protect human rights defenders so they can carry out their legitimate human rights work.”

The systematic and targeted killings of human rights defenders have long been a problem in the Philippines. However, Duterte’s administration has increased the vilification and threats against activists and journalists, particularly critical of his “war on drugs” - a campaign that has adversely affected thousands of Filipino citizens.

As CIVICUS’ State of Civil Society Report 2018 shows, authoritarian rulers typically repress civil society when it tries to stand up for excluded groups. CIVICUS calls on the Philippines administration to stop all forms of intimidation of and attacks on human rights defenders, ensure independent and effective investigations into their killings and allow UN Special Rapporteurs immediate and unfettered access to the country.

The Philippines is rated as obstructed by the CIVICUS Monitor, an online tool that tracks threats to civic society in all countries across the globe.


For more information, contact:

Josef Benedict

Civic Space Research Officer, CIVICUS

Tel: +60 10 437 6376 




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