Kalinga mom pleads with Marcos to spare daughter from terror tag
BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — The mother of a Cordillera activist, who was branded a terrorist along with three other members of the Baguio-based Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to spare them through a handwritten letter she read at a pre-State of the Nation Address (Sona) rally here on Monday.
Petronas Awingan, a retired high school teacher from Kalinga province, appealed for Marcos’ “benevolent consideration and good judgment” regarding her daughter, Jennifer Awingan-Taggaoa, who was declared a terrorist alongside Sara Abellon-Alikes, Steve Tauli and CPA chair Windel Bolinget through the June 7 Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) Resolution No. 41.
“I have been deeply saddened and depressed,” Awingan said, thinking about the threats and negative assumptions being made about Jennifer, a graduate of Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education at the University of Baguio.
“[Jennifer] has been a law-abiding citizen since high school and up to the present,” she asserted, adding that the activist had been “a mere citizen” who opened a small business so she could help her siblings finish their education.
“Owing to her great desire to help her parents, she opened a small business and gave support to our farm work, which alleviated my meager salary as a teacher, and supported and maintained the [college tuition] of her brothers and sisters, who are now government employees,” Awingan said.
She said she intended to transmit her letter by official mail to Malacañang, the ATC, the police, and the military this week.
Awingan joined around 50 local activists who denounced the continuing attacks on militants and dissenters and doubted Marcos’ promise to reduce rice prices to P20 a kilo when they delivered their own version of the Sona.
Flanked by Baguio policemen, they held their short rally at the city’s Kilometer 0 park, meters away from Igorot Park, where a Cordillera police community relations event was being held.
Setting a more combative tone at the rally, the children of Steve Tauli expressed their outrage at how the government has mistreated their father.
“[Steve] helped the marginalized and is a good man. He is not a terrorist,” said Josefa, the activist’s daughter, adding that her father is now a senior citizen “who spent his time helping miners, the urban poor, and peasants protect their civil rights.”
Josefa said the family was shocked and traumatized last year when they learned that their father was abducted in Kalinga and “underwent psychological torture from men we believe to be part of state forces,” before he was released.
Tauli is the brother of former United Nations special rapporteur Vicky Tauli-Corpuz. He was included in a proscription list of 600 activists whom the government wanted to be declared terrorists by a Manila court in 2018. The court rejected the government’s petition last year.
Tauli’s older sibling, Anne, was linked to communist rebels by the military but was flown to Baguio City from Mountain Province in 2020 by her former schoolmate, then-National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, at the height of the pandemic lockdown “to clear her name.”
The ATC resolution, which became public on July 10, enabled the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to direct banks to freeze the accounts of CPA.
To date, AMLC had blocked not only the CPA’s bank account but also that of Awingan-Taggaoa’s husband, Ronald Taggaoa, a teacher at Saint Louis University (SLU) here.
Ronald, who heads the SLU employees union, said his bank notified him about his frozen accounts, citing ATC Resolution No. 41, despite the fact that he is not on the ATC’s list of so-called terrorists.
He and the family of Tauli also complained that the AMLC had disrupted their regular financial transactions, such as monthly installment payments.
The lawyers of the four activists were expected to file a petition on Tuesday to remove their names from the government’s list of terrorists.