Anti-terrorism raps vs Southern Tagalog activists alarm group | Inquirer News

Anti-terrorism raps vs Southern Tagalog activists alarm group

By: - Correspondent / @dtmallarijrINQ
/ 04:35 AM July 24, 2023

Anti-terrorism raps vs Southern Tagalog activists alarm group

SONA DEMAND | Session Road in Baguio City becomes a pedestrian mall each Sunday and children and young artists turn its pavements into canvasses for chalk art. On Sunday, July 23, 2023, activists expressed their sentiments in a chalk art message in time for President Marcos’ second State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday. (Photo by VINCENT CABREZA / Inquirer Northern Luzon)

LUCENA CITY, Quezon City, Philippines — Human rights group Karapatan has expressed alarm that the filing of criminal complaints against activists for alleged violations of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act has become a “fast-emerging pattern” in the Southern Tagalog region.

“This sets a dangerous precedent that seeks to foist a chilling effect in rural and indigenous communities in the region,” Karapatan said in a statement on Saturday.


(Southern Tagalog is the old name of the Calabarzon region, which comprises the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon.)


The group noted that Rev. Glofie Baluntong of the United Methodist Church and youth activists Hailey Pecayo, Kenneth Rementilla, and Jasmin Rubia had all been recently charged with alleged violations of the terrorism law.

Baluntong, who is serving his church’s faithful in the Mindoro provinces, was slapped last year with attempted murder charges and violation of the terrorism law by the military.

Church groups in the region had denounced as harassment the filing of charges against Baluntong.

“Ministering to the poor, providing services for them and defending human rights are never acts of terrorism. We decry the use of the law to criminalize our work and to derail our human rights advocacy,” Karapatan quoted the four activists as saying during a press conference on Saturday.

Fact-finding mission

The complaints against Pecayo, Rementilla, and Rubia were lodged against them by the military last month after they conducted fact-finding investigations into incidents of alleged extrajudicial killings in Batangas province, Karapatan said.

The three activists were part of teams investigating the killing of farmer Maximino Digno and Kyllene Casao in July 2022 which they blamed on the military.


The police had earlier reported that Casao was hit by a stray bullet when she was caught in the middle of the firefight between a group of suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and soldiers from the Army’s 59th Infantry Battalion (IB) on July 19, 2022.

Digno, who residents claimed was a mentally ill farmer, was allegedly killed by government troops in Calaca town also in Batangas last July 26.

The 59th IB had vehemently denied they were responsible for the deaths of Casao and Digno, claiming the killings were committed by the communist rebels.

“Our soldiers have long clarified the issue of [Kyllene] Casao. The DOJ (Department of Justice) already issued a resolution in January of this year stating that there is evidence that the terrorist groups CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front) are responsible for the death of the innocent child,” the 59th IB said in a statement posted on social media.

Fundamental freedom

In Baguio City, activists that continued to grapple with Red-tagging and being labeled as terrorists had found a champion in the city council, which is mulling an ordinance that would shield rights advocates.

The proposed ordinance “protecting the rights and fundamental freedoms of human rights defenders operating in the city of Baguio” was filed before the city council in the wake of the release of Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) Resolution No. 41, which was issued on June 7 but made public on July 10, that classified four Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) members — Windel Bolinget, Sara Alikes, Jennifer Awingan and Steve Tauli — as communist rebels who operate in so-called white zones, and were therefore, terrorists.

According to police and military sources, “white zones” are areas where armed communist rebels covertly recruit students and undertake nonviolent political campaigns allegedly with the help of unarmed sympathizers who take part in street protests.

Last Thursday, the CPA denounced the Anti-Money Laundering Council for freezing their accounts on July 12, apparently in relation to ATC Resolution 41 which classified four of its members as terrorists.

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The military’s assumption that rebellion is tied to mainstream activism has been blamed for the allegedly coordinated attacks against government critics and other forms of harassment in order to quell legitimate dissent, rights advocates in the Cordillera said.



Anti-terrorism raps vs Southern Tagalog activists alarm group

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TAGS: Anti-Terrorism Act, Glofie Baluntong, Hailey Pecayo, Jasmin Rubia, Karapatan, Kenneth Rementilla, Southern Tagalog activists

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