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January 30, 2008

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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 collapse.

Assert People's Rights! Free Jose Cawiding!


Beverly L. Longid
Cordillera Peoples Alliance

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