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Global probe on PH rights violations to include case of harassed indigenous peoples leader

Igorot activist Windel Bolinget politically persecuted, submitted himself to authorities for custodial protection on fabricated charges

Press Release
January 26, 2021

MANILA – Investigate PH, an independent international investigation on the human rights abuses in the Philippines announced Wednesday that it will include the case of Cordillera indigenous leader Windel Bolinget. Last week, Bolinget submitted himself to the authorities for protection as he faces the trumped-up murder case that was filed by a police against him. Prior to this, a shoot to kill order and bounty of US $2,100 was issued by the police directly threatening his life.

“We are determined to pursue the case of indigenous peoples activist Windel Bolinget in this ongoing independent investigation. The absurd cases filed against him causing fear for his life and the safety of his family are testaments to the terror human rights defenders face in the Philippines,” says International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippine (ICHRP) Chairperson Peter Murphy who is also part of the global probe Investigate PH.

Bolinget’s case which involves harassment, red-tagging and the now trumped up charges has been shortlisted by Investigate PH in its investigation. The independent international probe will submit a report to the upcoming Regular Sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Mr Bolinget is the Chairperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and national convenor of KATRIBU national alliance of indigenous peoples. He is also a member of the global steering committee of Land is Life, a global network of indigenous peoples’ organizations and advocates. “Windel Bolinget has long been known globally as an indigenous activist strongly committed to his work, and for many years has suffered red-tagging and death threats,” says Murphy.

On 6 August 2020, a criminal case was filed at Davao del Norte, Southern Philippines, against eleven individuals including Mr Bolinget, for their alleged involvement in the murder of Garito Malibato on 21 March 2018. Bolinget belongs to the Kankanaey and Bontok indigenous peoples in the Cordillera Region, Northern Philippines. The distance between the Cordillera and Davao del Norte is more than 1700 kilometres and is two major islands away.

“The murder charge appears to be absurd and out of this world. The Cordillera is in the north of the Philippines, while Davao del Norte is very far to the south,” says Murphy.

The Police circulated online and in public places the Wanted Poster announcing a reward of P100,000 (2,080 USD) for any information that could lead to his arrest. On January 19, 2021, Police Provincial Regional Office Cordillera Chief R’win Pagkalinawan released a ‘shoot to kill’ order for Mr Bolinget, qualifying it only with ‘if nanlaban’ (if he retaliated). ‘Nanlaban’ is the routine excuse for police shooting of alleged drug suspects and indicates that the target person ‘resisted’.

According to ICHRP, this bounty only encourages vigilantes and more violence, which further puts in danger the life of Bolinget. It also denied due process to the falsely accused Mr Bolinget.

The ICHRP Chairperson reminded Chief Pagkalinawan that his statement “is a pretext for the speedy extra-judicial killing of Mr Bolinget before evidence presented in a legal process could prove that the murder charge is false.”

The Independent International Commission of Investigation into Human Rights Violations in the Philippines or Investigate PH seek to look into cases of killings of those allegedly involved in drug trade/use and the persecution of human rights defenders and civil society organizations like that of Bolinget.

Investigate PH will be holding a global launch this week to introduce its commissioners who are leaders of government parliaments, international legal organisations and churches.

Lastly, the global rights group ICHRP stressed that Bolinget’s case is just one of many cases that demonstrate that the Philippine government claims to the international community that its domestic processes upholding human rights are blatantly fraudulent.

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