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CPA Statement on Libel Charge against Bestang Dekdeken

Cordillera Peoples Alliance
Public Information Commission
On the Promulgation of the Libel Charge Against CPA Secretary General Bestang Dekdeken
A WOMAN OF COURAGE| Bestang Dekdeken during Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC) and Women Working for Justice and Peace Network in the Cordillera (JaPNet) tribute to the Women of Courage in the Cordillera held last December 12, 2021 in Baguio City.
Libel in the context of our current justice system is an attack on truth and freedom of speech.

The court’s guilty verdict of cyberlibel against CPA Secretary-General, Sarah “Bestang” Dekdeken, is an attack on truth itself.

Dekdeken was charged by former Cordillera Police Chief R’win Pagkalinawan in 2021, after she relayed in a press conference, the details of incidents leading to the desecration of the Cordillera Heroes’ Monument in Tinglayan, Kalinga, and the entities behind it.

In her testimonies and affidavits to the court, Dekdeken made clear that the narratives of the incident are relayed as per the reports from the residents of Bugnay, Tinglayan, Kalinga who bore witness to the destruction of the structure in 2020. It is for this same reason that the Barangay council came up with a resolution condemning the ‘dastardly act of the PNP’, said resolution includes a request for a ‘parallel in-depth investigation on the demolition of said structure.’

This libel case is an attack on truth and those who wield it to champion peoples’ political rights. It is a machination to cover-up their involvement in the desecration of the Cordillera Heroes’ Monument, a symbolic structure of peoples’ triumphs over state-sponsored destructive development initiatives. It is a part of their attempt to erase or deny their involvement for it would strip them of integrity if it was known that those who are supposed to serve their constituents, are the same ones violating our civil-political rights.

This court ruling borne of an unscrupulous justice system gives an impression that even truth is without potency when we hold state entities to account for their actions against the people.This consequential implication can further embolden elements of the state to wantonly use the same machinations against activists, human rights defenders and other civil society actors.

In fact, even without this example, Pagkalinawan earlier issued a ‘shoot to kill’ order for CPA Chairman Windel Bolinget for a trumped-up charge that was later dismissed. This is another example of wanton abuse of power and disregard for rule of law and due process which this recent court ruling has reinforced.

The cyber libel case is clearly a part of the state-sponsored attacks against the CPA with the goal of delegitimizing the organization. No amount of repression, however, will deter us in our commitment to uphold human rights and justice as pioneered by our local Indigenous heroes.

We maintain that speaking the truth is not libelous nor is it a crime; especially so if the truth narrative is a revelation of state institutions’ abuse of power. This is a responsibility of every citizen in a democratic society.

We stand by Bestang Dekdeken and will be relentless in our continuing fight for justice, and to bring the real culprits to account.

We pose a challenge and an encouragement to the champions of justice, the legal practitioners, may they be ruthless in pursuing justice and truth in every case, keeping in mind that the judiciary is a vital pillar of democracy.###