Free Jen Awingan! Drop the Charges against 7 Northern Luzon, Activists! Stop the Attacks!
The January 30, 2023 arrest of Jennifer “Jen” Awingan, one of Cordillera Peoples Alliance’s long-time staff and research aid, sent ripples of shock across the nation. This came after Bestang Dekdeken’s cyber-libel case promulgation last December 2022, Steve Tauli’s abduction in August 2022, the denial of CPA’s petition for the Writ of Amparo in October 2022, and the non-stop red tagging and harassment of CPA members and chapters. On a national scale, Jen’s arrest is only one of the many attacks that have been happening recently.
Six other activists were also included in the warrant of arrest issued by Abra Judge Corpus Alzate, dated January 24, 2022. 4 of them are also members of CPA, while the other 2, Niño Oconer and Florence Kang, are activists from the Ilocos region involved in peoples’ welfare and development campaigns. As per the official documents reported to CPA, the case of rebellion filed against them is in reference to an incident on October 27, 2022, in Brgy. Gacab, Malibcong, Abra where 4 army soldiers were attacked by alleged members of the New People’s Army. Jen Awingan, Windel Bolinget, Steve Tauli, Lulu Gimenez, Sarah Alikes, Niño Oconer, and Florence Kang were identified as perpetrators with no clear evidence and with no due process. There was no notice of a pending case, no preliminary investigation, and no subpoena for reasons that they were immediately deemed unreachable despite being open and public. Even so, family, colleagues, and friends can attest to the whereabouts of the named individuals at the time of the incident being charged against them.
The 7 activists in the warrant are all victims of human rights violations at the height of EO 70 and NTF-ELCAC’s operations. And if there is another thing that they all share, it is their undeniable commitment to forward the peoples’ rights and welfare in their respective communities. Jen, an indigenous woman of the Limos tribe in Kalinga, is active in the opposition against the proposed Saltan Dams, along with Steve Tauli who had been working with the dam-affected communities before his abduction. Windel continues to lead the Cordillera Peoples Alliance as the Chairperson. Lulu Gimenez and Sarah Abellon-Alikes are both founding members of CPA and are also involved in CPA’s research commission. From Ilocos, Niño Oconer is the current campaign coordinator of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Ilocos and a correspondent of alternative media outfit Northern Dispatch while Florence Kang is the current executive director of Ilocos Center for Research Empowerment and Development (ICRED).
Again, we assert that the case is part of the state’s systematic attacks and criminalization of activist work. The distinction between legal, democratic civilians from armed rebels is no longer upheld. In the eyes of the state, those who dissent are easily members of the Communist Party and the New People’s Army who should be arrested, or worse, killed.
We appeal to the public to join us in our call to free Jen Awingan, drop the trumped-up charges against the 7 activists, and hold the Duterte and Marcos Jr. regimes accountable for their gross human rights violations. With the law being continuously weaponized, we implore the Supreme Court to address these instances of warrant issuance with no due process for the respondents.
The attacks seem to never end, especially under tyranny and dictatorship, but as long as we continue to build solidarity and strengthen our campaigns for human rights, democracy, and peace, we can emerge victorious. ### (PR)
For now, here’s how you can help:
1. ISSUE STATEMENTS AND OTHER FORMS OF PUBLIC SUPPORT for the swift release of Jen Awingan and the immediate dropping of the trumped-up charges against the 7 Northern Luzon activists.
2. FINANCIAL SUPPORT for the expenses needed for the legal defense of all the accused.
Account Name: Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Inc
Account Number: 001326723548
GCash: Casselle Jannica Ton GCash no. 09978191460
Message: “For NL7”
3. SEND LETTERS OF CONCERN to Philippine government personalities and international bodies that may be of assistance.