“The decision of the trial court is but another knot in the long line of similar fabricated cases filed against activists and eventually dismissed because they are that – fabrications.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Rights groups lauded the recent order of a local court in Bangued, Abra to quash the rebellion charges against seven activists in Cordillera region.
On May 11, Judge Corpuz B. Alzate of the Branch 2 Regional Trial Court Bangued, Abra granted the motion to quash filed by Jennifer Awingan, Sarah Abello, Stephen Tauli, Windel Bolinget, Lucia Lourdes Gimenes, Nino Joseph Oconer and Florence Kang.
“The decision of the trial court is but another knot in the long line of similar fabricated cases filed against activists and eventually dismissed because they are that – fabrications,” said Rene Cortes who stood as a lawyer for the seven activists.
He added that the government should focus its efforts in curbing the rampant corruption and abuses perpetrated by government officials, “instead of wasting resources on forging bogus cases.”
The court said that the rebellion charges against the seven activists lack probable cause.
The case stemmed from an ambush on Oct. 27, 2022 at sitio Kutop, barangay Gacab, Malibcong, Abra where two of the four members of the Philippine Army died. The survivors identified the supposed assailants from a rogue gallery namely Jovencio Tangbawan and Salcedo Dumayom Dappay. The court noted that the seven activists were never identified by the survivors. Nevertheless, the filers of the case still included them in the rebellion case.
Read: Cordillera activist arrested, 8 others charged with rebellion
Meanwhile, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said that the case should not have been filed and given course since “these are baseless and fabricated cases meant to persecute the defenders.”
“The government should stop the practice of filing trumped up criminal charges depriving many, especially political prisoners, their liberty and freedom,” Palabay said.
Baguio-based alternative media outfit Northern Dispatch also welcomed the court’s decision but also expressed concern on the safety of those who are victims of trumped-up charges.
Oconer is a correspondent of the Northern Dispatch (Nordis).
“This senseless witch hunt – red tagging and filing of fabricated cases – borne out of the government’s paranoia puts peoples’ lives in danger. It also takes a toll physically, mentally, financially, and socially – as it also affects one’s credibility and community relation,” the group said in a statement.
The group also demands accountability for those who are filing trumped-up charges against activists.
“This is the nth time the court unraveled the lies and deceit of state security forces. Unless these liars are made to account for their deception and the suffering they have brought upon those they deliberately implicated in charges without proof, this injustice will continue,” Nordis said.
“We thank all those who provided support for the campaign and the legal needs of our colleague. We are also grateful for your continuing trust and interest in our reportage despite the unrelenting vilification against our staff and editors,” Nordis added.
Nordis editors Sherwin De Vera and Kimberlie Ngabit-Quitasol have also been red-tagged and charged with trumped-up cases.
De Vera was charged with rebellion but was also junked by Abra RTC in 2020 for lack of evidence.
Quitasol, meanwhile, faced cyber libel filed by then regional director of the Philippine National Police for the Cordillera region, B.Gen R’win Pagkalinawan. It was dismissed by the La Trinidad RTC in May 2022 for insufficient evidence.
“As we continue to call to stop the attacks, we also savor this win for press freedom, this triumph for activists. Today’s victory proves that no matter how hard, the truth shall always prevail against those who weave lies,” Nordis said. (RVO)