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October 5, 2007

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Stop Political Persecution!

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 People’s Army’s 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 Office.

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 People’s 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 regime’s Oplan Bantay Laya. Under this counter-insurgency program, members of the legal people’s 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 people’s 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 people’s 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 People’s Army and is not in violation of any law. He has to be unconditionally and immediately released.#

For Reference:

Atty. Randy Kinaud
Secretary General
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance

Windel Bolinget
Secretary General
Cordillera Peoples Alliance

Jeanette Ribaya-Cawiding
Alliance of Concerned Teachers - Metro Baguio

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