Philippines: indigenous leader falsely accused of murderEvent
- Initial Date
- Aug 6, 2020
- Event Description
Windel Bolinget is an indigenous rights defender and the Chairperson of the Cordillera PeoplesAlliance (CPA), an alliance of over 300 indigenous people’s organisations in the Cordillera region ofthe Philippines. The human rights defender has been leading many of CPA’s campaigns againsthuman rights violations such as extrajudicial killings, trumped-up cases, enforced disappearance,harassment, and intimidation of Cordillera indigenous peoples. He has also been at the forefront oflocal movements against large-scale mining projects, mega-dams and other projects that pose athreat to the environment.
On 6 August 2020, a criminal case was filed at Davao del Norte, against ten individuals, includingindigenous rights defender Windel Bolinget, for their alleged involvement in the murder of GaritoMalibato, a member of a local indigenous peoples organisation called Karadyawan, on 21 March2018.
On 25 September 2020, the Regional Trial Court in Tagum City issued a warrant of arrest formurder against the individuals. However, the CAP and Windel Bolinget were only made aware ofthe arrest warrant in the last week of December 2020.The murder charges brought against the defender appear to be completely fabricated. WindelBolinget has never been to Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, where Garito Malibato was murdered.Following the murder, local indigenous organisations pointed to a paramilitary group as theperpetrators. Further, a relative of the victim also expressed that Malibato had received severaldeath threats from the same paramilitary group before he was killed. With the defender yet to be arrested, police intelligence agents have regularly been approachingrelatives, friends and colleagues of the human rights defender, interrogating them for informationon his whereabouts. There has also been heavy physical surveillance, with men, believed to bemembers and assets of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police,walking around Windel Bolinget’s house and also the regional secretariat of the CPA, in search forthe defender.Windel Bolinget’s family and colleagues fear that, if the defender is arrested, he maybe subjected to the “tokhang”-style execution (extrajudicial killing under the pretext of “resistingarrest” or “nanlaban/fought back”), which is a common occurrence in the country.This is not the first time that the defender has been targeted for his peaceful human rights work. In2006, Windel Bolinget was included in a military hit list, along with other leaders of the CPA. InFebruary 2018, the Department of Justice’s terrorist proscription list included the defender’s nameand that of former CPA leaders. Their names were eventually dropped from the list due to lack ofproof. Since mid 2020, the targeting of the defender has intensified, with many pages on socialmedia branding him, his family and his colleagues as terrorists. On 10 December 2020, flyers witha photo of the defender and text calling him immoral and recruiter of the armed revolutionarygroup, New Peoples Army, were scattered along the road 80 from his house in La Trinidad,Benguet to Baguio City.
- Impact of Event
- Gender of HRD
- Other (e.g. undefined, organisation, community)
- Intimidation and Threats
- Judicial Harassment
- Rights Concerned
- Right to healthy and safe environment
- Right to liberty and security
- Family of HRD
- Indigenous peoples' rights defender
- Monitoring Status
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 25 September 2020, Windel Bolinge, indigenous people's rights defender already victim of red-tagging, was issued an arrest warrant months after murder charges were filed against him baseless by a court in Tagum City, the Philippines.