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Judicial harassment of Windel Bolinget

Status: 
Judicial Harassment
About the situation

On 21 January 2021, human rights defender Windel Bolinget presented himself before the National Bureau of Investigation in Baguio City following the filing of a fabricated murder case against him. The human rights defender is keen to prove his innocence and to access protection in a climate where extra-judicial killings of human rights defenders regularly take place

Since late December, there has been intensified targeting of human rights rights defender, Windel Bolinget, in relation to a trumped up murder case filed against him in August 2020. The case filed by the by the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Taguma City, Davao del Norte, names Windel Bolinget and ten other individuals. The defender was only informed of the warrant for his arrest in the last week of December. Since then, there has been constant police surveillance of his office and locality and police have been harassing his family and friends for information on his whereabouts.

About Windel Bolinget

Windel BolingetWindel Bolinget is an indigenous rights defender and the Chairperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), an alliance of over 300 indigenous people’s organisations in the Cordillera region of the Philippines. The human rights defender has been leading many of CPA’s campaigns against human 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 of local movements against large-scale mining projects, mega-dams and other projects that pose a threat to the environment.

22 January 2021
Windel Bolinget seeks protective custody

On 21 January 2021, human rights defender Windel Bolinget presented himself before the National Bureau of Investigation in Baguio City following the filing of a fabricated murder case against him. The human rights defender is keen to prove his innocence and to access protection in a climate where extra-judicial killings of human rights defenders regularly take place. On the previous day, 20 January 2021, the Cordillera Police Director issued a “shoot-to-kill” order against the defender should he offer any resistance on being apprehended. Prior to the order, on 15 January 2021, the Kalinga provincial police announced a bounty of P100,000 (1,709 euro) for any information that would aid in Windel Bolinget’s arrest.

Front Line Defenders is extremely concerned for the safety of Windel Bolinget on account of the smearing human rights defenders are subjected in the Philippines, where they are frequently linked to crimes they have no involvement in. Over the past number of years, several human rights defenders, including peasant leaders of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, have been killed after they were red-tagged (smeared as a member of a Communist rebel group) and judicially harassed.

Front Line Defenders condemns the judicial harassment of Windel Bolinget and the fabricated charges brought against him, as it believes he is being targeted for his legitimate and peaceful work for the protection of human rights. It urges the authorities to immediately cease the investigation and drop all charges against Windel Bolinget and guarantee in all circumstances that he and other human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

14 January 2021
Judicial harassment of Windel Bolinget

Since late December, there has been intensified targeting of human rights rights defender, Windel Bolinget, in relation to a trumped up murder case filed against him in August 2020. The case filed by the by the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Taguma City, Davao del Norte, names Windel Bolinget and ten other individuals. The defender was only informed of the warrant for his arrest in the last week of December. Since then, there has been constant police surveillance of his office and locality and police have been harassing his family and friends for information on his whereabouts.

Download the Urgent Appeal

Windel Bolinget is an indigenous rights defender and the Chairperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), an alliance of over 300 indigenous people’s organisations in the Cordillera region of the Philippines. The human rights defender has been leading many of CPA’s campaigns against human 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 of local movements against large-scale mining projects, mega-dams and other projects that pose a threat to the environment.

On 6 August 2020, a criminal case was filed at Davao del Norte, against ten individuals, including indigenous rights defender Windel Bolinget, for their alleged involvement in the murder of Garito Malibato, a member of a local indigenous peoples organisation called Karadyawan, on 21 March 2018. On 25 September 2020, the Regional Trial Court in Tagum City issued a warrant of arrest for murder against the individuals. However, the CAP and Windel Bolinget were only made aware of the arrest warrant in the last week of December 2020.

The murder charges brought against the defender appear to be completely fabricated. Windel Bolinget has never been to Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, where Garito Malibato was murdered. Following the murder, local indigenous organisations pointed to a paramilitary group as the perpetrators. Further, a relative of the victim also expressed that Malibato had received several death threats from the same paramilitary group before he was killed.

With the defender yet to be arrested, police intelligence agents have regularly been approaching relatives, friends and colleagues of the human rights defender, interrogating them for information on his whereabouts. There has also been heavy physical surveillance, with men, believed to be members 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 for the defender.Windel Bolinget’s family and colleagues fear that, if the defender is arrested, he may be subjected to the “tokhang”-style execution (extrajudicial killing under the pretext of “resisting arrest” 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. In 2006, Windel Bolinget was included in a military hit list, along with other leaders of the CPA. In February 2018, the Department of Justice’s terrorist proscription list included the defender’s name and that of former CPA leaders. Their names were eventually dropped from the list due to lack of proof. Since mid 2020, the targeting of the defender has intensified, with many pages on social media branding him, his family and his colleagues as terrorists. On 10 December 2020, flyers with a photo of the defender and text calling him immoral and recruiter of the armed revolutionary group, New Peoples Army, were scattered along the road 80 from his house in La Trinidad, Benguet to Baguio City.

Front Line Defenders recognises the importance of investigating and elucidating all the facts about the murder of Garito Malibato. Nevertheless, it believes that this latest warrant of arrest forms part of a wider pattern by the military to intimidate and vilify human rights defenders by linking them to crimes they did not commit or had no involvement in. Over the past years, several human rights defenders, including several peasant leaders of the CPA have been killed in this manner, after they were red-tagged and judicially harassed.

Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned by the increasingly hostile environment for human rights defenders in the Philippines. Front Line Defenders condemns the judicial harassment of Windel Bolinget and the fabricated charges brought against him, as it believes he is being targeted for his legitimate and peaceful work for the protection of human rights.