On 21 February 2018, the Philippines State Prosecutor of the Department of Justice filed a petition in a Manila court to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorist organisations. The petition includes the names of more than 600 people, who the government claims are communist guerrillas.
Included on the list are indigenous leaders and human rights defenders from the Cordillera region, including Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Joan Carling, Co-convener of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group on the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Indigenous Peoples Major Group has set up a petition asking the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to remove the names of indigenous peoples’ leaders and human rights defenders from the list of alleged terrorists. Click on the image below to sign the petition:
Tauli-Corpuz put out a press statement on 8 March 2018:
Statement of Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
I just got the information that my name has been included in a petition of the Department of Justice to Declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army a.k.a. Bagong Hukbong Bayan As Terrorist Organizations. In this 55 page petition my name has been included as one of the respondents and as one of the officers and members of the CPP and NPA.
I denounce this act by the Department of Justice of including me in this list.
I am not connected at all in anyway to those organizations nor do I have any knowledge, much less participation, with the alleged incidents cited in the petition.
I will address this baseless, malicious and irresponsible inclusion of my name even as I am consulting my lawyers on what legal courses of action to take to clear my name and even make accountable those who put my life and security at risk.
8 March 2018
Worries about the safety of people on the list
Tauli-Corpuz told Reuters that, “I am worried for my safety and the safety of others on the list, including several rights activists.”
Human Rights Watch describes the Justice Department’s petition as a “virtual government hit list”.
There’s a long history in the Philippines of the state security forces and pro-government militias assassinating people labeled as NPA members or supporters. The Duterte administration should publicly reject this petition and ensure the safety of those listed in it – or risk being complicit in the resulting crimes.
Many organisations have put out statements in support of Tauli-Corpuz and the other human rights activists on the government’s terrorist list. IUCN’s Director General, Inger Andersen, said,
“We at IUCN are dismayed that the Philippine Government could target a globally respected voice and spokesperson for indigenous peoples’ rights with malicious, unfounded and downright dangerous accusations. We note that the Philippines ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and call on President Duterte and the broader government authorities to immediately annul this unacceptable action and to issue apologies and regrets to all concerned.”
In a statement, Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Chairperson of the Coordination Committee of the Special Procedures, said,
“We are shocked that the Special Rapporteur is being targeted because of her work defending the rights of indigenous peoples. The accusation against her comes after the public comments made, jointly with other Special Rapporteurs, in relation to the militarization, attacks and killings of indigenous Lumad peoples by members of the armed forces in Mindanao; this accusation is considered as an act of retaliation for such comments.
“We call on the Philippine authorities to immediately drop these unfounded accusations against Ms. Tauli-Corpuz and to ensure her physical safety and that of others listed”
Julie Koch, Executive Director of the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, said,
“The Government of the Philipines regularly and increasingly threatens and harasses indigenous peoples. But this is taking it to a whole new level. At IWGIA, we are extremely worried about finding some of our long-term partners on the list, without having given them a possibility to deny the accusations. We fear for their personal safety.”
War of words
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights went a bit further. He said,
“This is absolutely disgraceful that the president of a country could speak in this way, using the foulest of language against a rapporteur that’s highly respected. And really, it makes one believe that the president of the Philippines, needs to submit himself to some sort of psychiatric evaluation.”
President Duterte’s response was extraordinary. He said that if the UN Human Rights team investigates his war on drugs (which has led to 12,000 deaths) they should be fed to crocodiles. The Philippine Star reported Duterte as saying,
“If these fools come here, are there crocodies here? The ones that eat people? Throw those sons of b****** to them.
During a press briefing on 12 March 2018, China’s foreign Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang, backed the Philippines,
“Relevant sides of the international community, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, shall respect the sovereignty of the Philippines and the will of its people.”