DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Indigenous Peoples and Moro groups denounced the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 which they fear would put them into more danger as experienced in the past.
Recalling that even long before the law was signed, Beverly Longid, officer of the national minority group Katribu, said that the government has already “openly accused” Lumad leaders as “terrorists or communist supporters or sympathizers.”
Longid pointed out that military intelligence have referred to indigenous communities and territories nationwide as “rebel areas”, “communist infested” and “NPA strongholds” while branding Lumad schools as “rebel schools.”
“This has led to the militarization of our territories and countless civil and political rights violations of killings, arrests, and torture,” she said.
The Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao Region also warned that the anti-terror law could be “weaponized” against Lumad communities in Mindanao who are protecting their ancestral lands.
“Under this law, it would be easy for us to be labelled as terrorists for declaring ‘pangayaw’ (tribal defense) against those who want to plunder our ancestral lands,” the PASAKA-SMR said.
“It is also easy to call us terrorists for joining protests to demand to stop the militarization of our communities which the government has not yet resolved,” they added.
President Duterte signed the law a day after calls from the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority appealed for its rejection.
Many of the Moro people in Mindanao have already been victims of the government’s counter-terrorism campaign in the past, said the group Suara Bangsamoro.
The group recalled the incidents in the early 2000s where the government declared Moro areas as the “second front in the global war on terror” following 9-11 and the spate of Mindanao bombings.
“(There was) terror-tagging which resulted to discrimination and rights violation such as illegal arrest, detention, filing of trumped-up charges, airstrikes and mortal shelling to communities accused of coddling terrorists, and categorizing organizations and assertion for self-determination as terrorism,” the group said.
Suara Bangsamoro said that the anti-terror law is “worse” than previous campaigns and laws on counter-terrorism.
“If they made the destruction of Marawi City and other Moro communities legal, and disregarded the deaths of children who died due to the military’s mortal shellings on communities–they can further do it to the wider number of people,” the group said.(davaotoday.com)