Abra court orders arrest of 9 activists in Northern Luzon
BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — An indigenous peoples’ rights activist in this city was arrested on Monday after a regional trial court (RTC) in Abra province issued a warrant against her and eight other activists on charges of rebellion or insurrection, militant groups said.
Police here arrested Jennifer Awingan, a native of Kalinga province and a researcher for the Baguio-based progressive Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), at her residence in Barangay Pinsao Proper in this city at 11:31 a.m.
Awingan was placed in the custodial facility of the police’s City Intelligence Unit, according to her husband, Ronald.
The arrest order, issued by Judge Corpus Alzate of RTC Branch 2 in Bangued on Jan. 24, also included Windel Bolinget and Steve Tauli, CPA chair and regional council member, respectively; development worker Sarah Abellon; peasant activist Lourdes Gimenez; Florence Kang of the Ilocos Center for Research, Empowerment and Development; Niño Oconer, a correspondent for the online news portal Northern Dispatch; and two other individuals identified as Jovensio Tangbawan and Salcedo Dumayom Dappay Jr.
No bail was recommended as they were charged with rebellion or insurrection, a nonbailable offense, the court said.
No due process?
But the families of the activists were clueless as to who filed the charges against them. In fact, the activists were apparently unaware of the “trumped up” charges against them, said the progressive Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in a statement on Monday.
Awingan, 49, is the mother of youth activist Kara Lenina Taggao, who was also arrested in Quezon City in October 2022 for direct assault complaints filed by the police.
Police claimed Awingan is a high-ranking official of the Ilocos-Cordillera regional committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Bayan said the arrest order was based on false rebellion charges.
“This must stop. Prosecutors and judges should not allow themselves to be used in these trumped-up charges and rights violations,” the group added.
Bayan said the activists have long been subjected to Red-tagging, harassment, false charges and abduction.
Tauli was abducted by suspected state agents in August 2022 and released after over 24 hours. According to Tauli, his abductors forced him to sign a prepared statement admitting his supposed ranking position in the CPP-New People’s Army (NPA).
In July 2022, Judge Sharon Rose Saracin of Tagum City RTC Branch 30 dismissed the murder case against Bolinget and five other activists related to the killing of an indigenous leader in 2018 that the police filed in August 2020.
In September 2022, Judge Eilyn Castillo-Rimando of the 7th Municipal Circuit Trial Court in San Juan, Abra, dismissed an attempted murder charge against women activists, including Abellon. The Philippine Army accused them of being part of an NPA army unit that ambushed government soldiers in Salcedo town, Ilocos Sur province, in July 2017.
Innabuyog, an alliance of women’s organizations in the Cordillera, condemned what it described as “attacks against activists in north Luzon” and called for the immediate release of Awingan and the dropping of charges against her and her co-accused.
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