Last October 1, 2007,
Jose Joe Cawiding, current Secretary General of the
Metro Baguio Tribal Elders Assembly (MBTELA) and accredited local
mediator of the Philippine Mediation Center of the Supreme Court
and former Bayan Muna coordinator for Benguet submitted himself
to the Philippine National Police (PNP). He is falsely charged with
multiple murder last August 2003 in connection with the July 14,
2003 New Peoples Armys ambush of elements of the Armed
Forces of the Philippines (AFP) resulting to the demise of eight
soldiers in Talubin, Mountain Province. At that time, he was in
Baguio City as Bayan Muna Coordinator, member of the Cordillera
Peoples Alliance Education Commission and Elders Desk at the regional
An award for his arrest at P500, 000 was issued
by the Department of National Defense last week. According to the
PNP and AFP, Cawiding is Ka Willy and is an intelligence
officer of the New Peoples Army.
Jose Cawiding is currently in the custody of the
Benguet Provincial Police Office (BPPO) Camp Dangwa to clear his
name of an act he is innocent of.
The false charge against Jose Cawiding is part of
the political persecution being experienced by members of legal
and progressive organizations under the Arroyo regimes Oplan
Bantay Laya. Under this counter-insurgency program, members of the
legal peoples organizations and party lists like Bayan Muna
are tagged as sectoral fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines
National Democratic Front of the Philippines New Peoples
Army and are considered enemies of the state and are
up for neutralization. This program also provided for the formation
of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) a government
interagency formation tasked to file charges against members and
leaders of peoples organizations in the Order of Battle as
part of efforts to silence dissent.
A year ago, Jose Cawiding was among those listed
in the Order of Battle of the AFP. Jose Cawiding and his wife, Jeannette
Ribaya leader of Tongtongan ti Umili were closely surveilled
in the same pattern as those who have been victims of extrajudicial
killings. They were able to evade the gunmen who were already stationed
in front of their house because of information that was given to
them by members of their barangay.
This threat against their lives and security because
of their political beliefs was reported and filed as a complaint
with United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston when he visited
the country last February.
We see the case of Jose Cawiding as the start of
another wave of aggressive attack against the militant peoples
movement in the Cordillera.
We condemn this act by the government which aims
to silence the people.
We demand justice for Jose Cawiding. He is not a
member of the New Peoples Army and is not in violation of
any law. He has to be unconditionally and immediately released.#
Atty. Randy Kinaud
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance
Cordillera Peoples Alliance
Alliance of Concerned Teachers - Metro Baguio