Philippines: The Right Energy Partnership with Indigenous Peoples (REP) Stands with Indigenous Human Rights Defenders and Activists in Northern Luzon, Philippines
On January 24, 2023, five indigenous human rights defenders associated with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and two activists based in Ilocos, Philippines were named in a warrant of arrest on charges of “rebellion” about an incident on October 27, 2022, in Brgy. Gacab, Malibcong, Abra, Philippines where four army soldiers were attacked. The CPA is a partner of REP, an indigenous-led multi-stakeholder partnership that supports indigenous-led solutions and puts indigenous rights at the center of renewable energy. With its more than 30 years track record, the CPA is spearheading REP’s work in the Philippines advocating and working towards the goal of centering indigenous peoples at the heart of just energy transition in the country.
Among those named in the warrant of arrest is Lulu Gimenez, a researcher who is coordinating REP-supported campaigns of indigenous communities in Kabugao, Apayao against the Gened Dam, and indigenous communities in Ifugao against the Alimit Hydropower Complex. The two mentioned large-scale renewable energy projects are being protested by the indigenous communities due to the massive loss of their land and resources should the projects push through. Moreover, the free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) process of the indigenous peoples in Kabugao, Apayao is mired in controversy due to allegations of manipulation.
Others named in the arrest are Jen Awingan, Windel Bolinget, Steve Tauli, Sarah Alikes, Niño Oconer, and Florence Kang. Jen Awingan was arrested on January 30, 2023. Windel Bolinget and Sarah Alikes have been previous victims of similar trumped-up charges that were dismissed due to lack of merit and evidence. Steve Tauli was a victim of a believed state-sponsored abduction and torture but was released after a public campaign and pressure to surface him. All of them have been the subjects of political vilification, harassment, and surveillance before the filing of the rebellion case.
Those named in the warrant of arrest were not afforded due process before the issuance of the warrant. They were not served a subpoena, a notice of a pending case, nor informed of a preliminary investigation. Their whereabouts during the said incident cited in the case charged against them can easily be attested to by their colleagues, friends, and family to prove that they were nowhere in the vicinity of the incident.
The Right Energy Partnership welcomes the release of Jen Awingan on bail on February 7, 2023. Following this positive development, REP continues to join the global call to drop the trumped charges against Lulu Gimenez and the other six indigenous human rights defenders and activists. We also join the call for the Supreme Court of the Philippines to take swift action and look into instances of warrant issuances without due process. We join the call to demand that those instrumental in the violation of human rights of the seven indigenous human rights defenders and activists, as well as, other victims of state-sponsored attacks against activists in the Philippines be held accountable.
We also call on the Philippine Government to stop the judicial harassment of indigenous human rights defenders. We further call on the Philippine Government, particularly the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to address the concerns of indigenous peoples concerning renewable energy projects implemented without their FPIC and the manipulation of the FPIC process to favor project proponents.
The Right Energy partnership calls on its partners to issue similar statements of support for the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Lulu Gimenez, and their fellow activists. We also enjoin everyone to sign the petition to drop the charges against the 7 activists: https://forms.office.com/r/DRaP6JPtyj.