Statement of Dr Walden Bello, recipient of Amnesty International Philippines’ Most Distinguished Defender of Human Rights Award, 2023

On July 10, the Anti-Terrorism Council publicly released a resolution designating six individuals as terrorists. This move is the latest episode of this regime’s continued assault and mockery of our democracy, and I condemn it unequivocally. Among the six individuals are Cordilleran activist Jennifer Awingan, who I wrote about a few months ago for her wrongful arrest on trumped-up rebellion charges, and Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) chairperson Windel Bolinget. They have all been identified by the ATC as members of the CPP-NPA.

There are serious concerns about whether the aforementioned activists have been afforded the right to justice and due process that every Filipino deserves. It must be noted that the inutile state institutions have made countless wrongful accusations and breaches of due process against leftist activists, including failing to serve a subpoena to Jennifer Awingan before she was arrested, and many cases would eventually be dropped by courts for failing to meet the basic standard of probable cause. The designation of Bolinget, as reported by rights watchdog Karapatan, comes after he filed a civil suit against police authorities for falsely accusing him of murder.

The designation grants the Anti Money Laundering Council the ability to freeze the financial assets of the aforementioned activists. Aside from limiting their financial mobility on a whim, the move also sends a clear message to those who wish to raise valid concerns about the state and the justice system: that they are enemies of the state and will feel its heavy hand.

Having myself experienced the heavy hand of state oppression, I understand the courage and sacrifice it takes to stand up against injustice, as well as the heavy toll that the state’s retribution takes. I have been branded a “narcoterrorist” and also targeted with legal harassment and arrested for “cyberlibel” simply for telling the truth about the activities of powerful political actors.

Activists play a vital role in holding those in power accountable, exposing corruption, and advocating for the marginalized and voiceless. The conflation of criticism of the state and the powerful with terrorism is disgusting and must be opposed. I call upon Malacanang to order the revocation of this decision immediately, and for others who support democracy and human rights to make a clear stand against it. We reiterate our comprehensive call to protect democratic expression: Junk the Anti-Terror Law! Free Leila de Lima! Decriminalize libel!