Persecution of Militants
Continue: An Update on Jose Cawiding
The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) strongly condemns the prolonged
incarceration of Jose Cawiding despite the absence of witnesses
to his case since his arrest last October 2007. Cawiding is the
secretary general of the Metro Baguio Tribal Elders and Leaders
Assembly (MBTELA) and a former staff of the CPA Education Commission
and Elder's Desk.
Court hearings started October 8, 2007. Cawiding
has not spent Christmas and New Year with family.
Obviously to delay Cawiding's release, Provincial Prosecutor Moises
Ayochok has asked for an additional five (5) hearing dates to present
alleged witnesses against Cawiding. The said prosecutor has charged
Cawiding and other alleged members of the New People's Army in Mountain
Province of separate charges of murder for soldiers who died in
an ambush on July 14, 2003 in Mountain Province .
This development is nothing but continuing political persecution
against legal, progressive organizations and an attack to the people's
movement. This legal offensive is part of the overall objective
of the AFP to destabilize the growing open mass movement in the
country, as leaders and members of legitimate organizations are
harassed, kept under constant surveillance and are under threat
of being incarcerated for false, baseless and malicious charges.
It has claimed that one Rudy Kumawil - an alleged former NPA - stands
witness against Cawiding. His affidavit states that he is native
of Pinukpuk, Kalinga. However, a check with the local civil registrar
has shown that no such person is on record or does not exist. This
is also similar to the case of Elizabeth Prinsipe - a consultant
of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Cagayan
Valley who remains incarcerated at Camp Crame. Her husband Leo Velasco
remains desaparecido. Both are covered by the Joint Agreement on
Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG.) The JASIG remains in effect
despite the absence of formal talks between the GRP and the NDFP.
It remains in effect unless one or both parties duly inform the
other party of its withdrawal from the agreement or negotiations
in which case, it takes effect 30 days after said formal notification.
It is unfortunate that the Provincial Prosecutor has become an instrument
of harassment against the people. While it is true that the Prosecutor
is mandated by law to litigate cases for the State, it is also his
duty to dismiss complaints that are baseless or do not have support
in evidence. The case of Cawiding is an example where from the very
start - the prosecution has failed to present a single witness much
less name the said witness, if indeed, there is! The provincial
prosecutor can dismiss complaints filed in his office when there
is no enough reason to justify the filing of charges, or the absence
of probable cause to do so. This, however, is not the case herein.
This political persecution is still part of the Oplan Bantay Laya,
and specifically, the activities of the Inter-Agency Legal Action
Group (IALAG), which tasked to file charges of terrorism or common
crimes against those identified as enemies of the State-these being
the revolutionaries and militants
Political developments such as the Human Security Act, National
Identification System revival, AFP pronouncements of crushing the
revolutionary base and the very recent unlawful arrest of Kilusang
Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) leader Randal Echanis on trumped up
charges indicates further intensification of this fascist state's
terrorism, without even declaring Martial Law.
These are signs of intensifying fascism, worsened
attack and persecution of the people's movement that we must not
allow. Therefore, our vigilance and continued defense of our civil
and political rights, and our collective rights as indigenous peoples
is both urgent and necessary. While we have gathered local, national,
and even international support for the release of Joe Cawiding,
we must remain watchful of developments that could further violate
our human rights, as it is the nature of a regime at the brink of
Assert People's Rights! Free Jose Cawiding!
Beverly L. Longid
Cordillera Peoples Alliance