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Stop Putting IP, Activists’ One Foot In The Grave With ‘Red-Tagging’ – IPMSDL

International Indigenous Peoples (IP) group denounce the recent series of ‘red-tagging’ by the Philippine government, military and police on IP leaders, activists and people’s organizations on the recent Philippine Senate-hearing on red-tagging last November 3.

“This bears evidence to the criminal neglect of the Duterte administration towards its citizens who are suffering from the brunt of Super Typhoon Goni amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) Global Coordinator Beverly Longid.

“It brazenly smears Indigenous Lumad schools, IP advocates and activists as terrorist fronts making them an open target of harassments and killings widespread in the Philippines,” she added.

Red-tagging in the Philippines refers to the malicious listing of individuals or organizations critical to the current government as enemies of the state, terrorists or alleged fronts of armed insurgents Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) – New People’s Army (NPA).

United Nations experts and international groups have condemned the continuous red-tagging which leads to killings or arrests and crackdown of those red-tagged.

“Parroting President Duterte militarist pronouncements, government agencies lead by the National Task Force to End Local Communist and Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), has shown no urgency in addressing pressing issues of disaster response, health emergency and economic crisis due to the pandemic,” said IPMSDL’s Longid.

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Around 36M USD damage on agriculture and 119M infrastructure damage is estimated to be caused by Typhoon Goni, the strongest landfalling tropical cyclone in the world, that hit the Philippines last October 31. Meanwhile, the Philippines is expected to contract its gross domestic product (GDP) growth to -0.6% to 4.3% in 2020, the biggest contraction since the 1998 Asian financial crisis.

“Terror” law, crackdown in full-swing

“Red-tagging has now became a systematic weapon against dissent, especially to IP defending their lands against government and business encroachment, now with the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 in full swing,” Longid said.

On October 21, four indigenous Aeta farmers were arrested and filed charges under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 plus trumped up charges of murder, attempted murder and illegal possession of firearms and explosives – all non-bailable charges. All of them accused of being NPA rebels.

Their arrest came after news of torture and illegal detention by military. The Aeta communities have been heavily militarized which is linked to pave the way for further mining explorations.

On October 25, indigenous Igorot women leader and environment activist Betty Belen, member of IPMSDL’s local affiliate Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), was arrested for alleged possession of firearms and explosives. Belen is a known defender of IP rights leading barricades against Chevron’s geothermal power project in their community.

Belen was a victim of red-tagging by the military before she was arrested. Soldiers allegedly told people in Belen’s province that she works for a front organization for the CPP-NPA.

Longid emphasized that whether in Asia, Latin America, or in Africa, criminalization and smear campaigns sponsored by State agents fit hand in glove with business interests that are targeting indigenous leaders and communities. “It’s a global threat that, with red-tagging, IP and activists in the Philippines are facing with one foot in the grave,” she added.

“We see these everywhere, everyday. Dissent is silenced and those standing up are terrorized. Speaking truth to power and solidarity is our force against all attempts to cower us down, and we need to strengthen it now,” Longid ended.

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