Rebellion rap vs activists linked to Abra ambush | Inquirer News

Rebellion rap vs activists linked to Abra ambush

By: - Correspondent / @kquitasolINQ
/ 05:00 AM February 02, 2023
Composite image of Abra map and hand holding a cocked pistol. STORY: Rebellion rap vs activists linked to Abra ambush


BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — The rebellion charge filed against seven activists and two others in Northern Luzon stemmed from the complaint of two soldiers who survived a gun battle with suspected communist rebels in Malibcong, Abra, in October 2022.

In a telephone interview on Monday, lawyer Jose Molintas, lead counsel for the activists, said his clients were named in the charge after they were accused of being leaders of the regional communist command who reportedly ordered the ambush staged by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.


Molintas said the seven activists (not nine as earlier reported) were not allowed to post bail because of the allegation that they were high-ranking communist leaders.

Only seven of the accused are members of progressive groups in the Cordillera and Ilocos regions.


One of them, Jennifer Awingan, was arrested in her house by the local police on Monday in Barangay Pinsao Proper here after Judge Corpus Alzate of the Regional Trial Court Branch 2 in Bangued, Abra, issued on Jan. 24 a warrant of arrest against her and the eight co-accused.

Awingan, 49, is an indigenous peoples’ rights activist and researcher for the Baguio-based Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA). She was initially detained at the local police’s custodial facility and was transferred to the Abra provincial jail.

Also charged with rebellion were Windel Bolinget and Steve Tauli, CPA chair and regional council member, respectively; development worker Sarah Abellon; advocate for farmers Lourdes Gimenez; Florence Kang of the Ilocos Center for Research, Empowerment and Development; and Niño Oconer, a correspondent for the online news portal Northern Dispatch.


The two other individuals named in the same charge were identified as suspected NPA rebels Jovensio Tangbawan and Salcedo Dumayom Dappay Jr.

Tangbawan and Dappay were described as the “assailants” by the complainants, Privates First Class Reymond Galo and Randy Cinco of the 24th Infantry Battalion under the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.

Galo and Cinco were among the four Army soldiers who were ambushed by NPA rebels on Oct. 27 last year at Barangay Gacab in Malibcong while government troops were heading to Baay-Licuan town to assist victims of the magnitude 6.4 earthquake that hit the province two days earlier.

The other soldiers were identified as Pfc. Ariz Bautista and Pfc. Jimmy Viernes, who were both killed in the attack.


Galo, Cinco, and relatives of the slain soldiers had filed two counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder against the nine respondents on Dec. 7 last year.

But on Jan. 3, Abra Deputy Provincial Prosecutor Gerardo Tagura ruled that the supposed NPA rebels and their alleged “supervisors” could only be charged with rebellion.

“The respondents and their leaders cannot be held liable for the crimes of murder, theft or terrorism,” Tagura stated in his resolution.

He said these were “committed in furtherance of overthrowing the government, so that the crime committed by the respondents and their superiors is only rebellion.”

“The respondents and their superiors are obviously members of an armed group rising publicly against the government, as shown by the structure of the organization presented by an intelligence officer of the Philippine Army. As such, they are beyond the reach of the process of subpoena,” Tagura said.

Voluntary surrender

Molintas said his clients were implicated in the case by the “mere accusation” of soldiers and policemen that they were high-ranking communist leaders.

“But they (complainants) did not identify the seven activists. They were included in the charge on the allegation that they were leaders of the regional communist command who directed the ambush,” he added.

He said the prosecutors’ office decided not to subpoena all the accused “on the mere presumption that they are rebels and have no permanent addresses.”

According to Molintas, he will voluntarily surrender his clients to court to prove that they are innocent.

He said he would also simultaneously file a motion to drop the names of the seven activists from the case and quash the arrest warrant against them.


Abra court orders arrest of 9 activists in Northern Luzon

Kin seek justice for soldiers slain in Abra rebel attack

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