BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) researcher Jennifer Awingan-Taggaoa walked free after more than a week of detention at the Abra Provincial Jail on Tuesday, February 7 after being granted P100,000 bail by Judge Corpuz Alzate of the Bangued Regional Trial Court Branch 2.
Awingan-Taggaoa’s family and the CPA raised the P100K bond from relatives, colleagues, friends and supporters.
Police arrested the CPA researcher for rebellion on January 30 at her Baguio City residence.
The military had implicated Awingan-Taggaoa and six other activists and development workers of involvement in the October 27, 2022 New People’s Army (NPA) ambush that killed two soldiers in Malibcong, Abra.
The Police report on the arrest claimed Awingan-Taggaoa as the secretary of the Regional Urban White Area Committee of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Her warrant did not recommend bail. But the court allowed bail “as a matter of right” since the prosecution still has to prove strong evidence of guilt, said Awingan-Taggaoa’s counsel Jose Molintas, a councilor of Baguio City and Free Legal Assistance Group Coordinator for Cordillera.
Ronald Taggaoa, husband of the accused, welcomed the courts decision.
“We thank the Abra RTC for granting the bail. It is our prayer that the motion to quash the information and exclude Jen, Windel, Steve, Lulu, Niño, Renz, and Sarah from the charge of rebellion be granted soon as well,” he said in a text message to Rappler.
“We are thankful, too, to Baguio City Police for their professional handling during her arrest and detention. It must be acknowledged that they did follow the procedure and brought Jen to proper judicial authorities immediately after her arrest,” he added.
‘No probable cause’
Awingan-Taggaoa’s counsel also argued that “there is no probable cause to indict” the seven charged, including a community journalist.
Citing the affidavits of soldiers who survived the ambush, Molintas said the witnesses only named two alleged NPA members as perpetrators.
The other accused, Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Windel Bolinget, Lourdes Jimenez, Florence Kang, Niño Oconer, and Stephen Tauli, “were not among those identified as assailants.”
Based on the court documents, it was 24th Infantry Battalion (24 IB) Bravo Company intelligence officer Staff Sargent Christopher Druja who implicated the activists in the incident.
Molintas also noted that his client and the six other individuals were “charged for being members, and not as leaders, of the Communist Party of the Philippines.”
“Thus, the penalty imposable is reclusion temporal, which is a bailable offense, pursuant to Article 135 of the Revised Penal Code,” he added.
Awingan-Taggaoa, a native of Barangay Limos, Pinukpuk, Kalinga, was one of the founding members of the Asia-Pacific Indigenous Youth Network, now Asia Young Indigenous Peoples’ Network, where she also served as coordinator.
She is the mother of Kilusang Mayo Uno International Officer Kara Lenina Taggaoa, who also faces allegations of direct assault and robbery filed by the police before a Quezon City court and is currently out on bail.
Her husband, Ronald, is president of the Union of Faculty and Employees of Saint Louis University.
Last year, Awingan sought the assistance of the Commission on Human Rights Cordillera following a series of harassment by men who introduced themselves as military personnel.
More activists charged
Oconer is the Ilocos correspondent of alternative media outfit Northern Dispatch and videographer for Ilocos multimedia group Tignayan Productions. He also served as the regional coordinator of Anakbayan Ilocos.
Bolinget was among those implicated in the killing of Garito Tiklonay Malibato, in Kapalong, Davao del Norte, on March 2018. The court dismissed the case in July 2021 for lack of probable cause.
Suspected state agents seized Tauli in August 2022 near the CPA provincial office in Tabuk City, Kalinga. He is a volunteer worker at Timmuyog ti Mannalon ti Kalinga. He is active in the anti-dam struggles in the province. His captors released him more than 24 hours after his reported abduction.
Abellon-Alikes is a development worker at the Katinnulong Dagiti ti Umili ti Amianan, a development institution focused on environmental concerns and disaster preparedness. She previously faced several charges filed by the police and military against attacks by the New People’s Army in Benguet and Ilocos Sur. The courts dismissed all of the cases.
Lulu Jimenez is a secretariat member of the peasant group Alyansa dagiti Pesante iti Taeng Kordilyera (Peasant Alliance in the Cordillera Homeland) and also worked with CPA’s research committee. She also contributes articles and analytical pieces to Northern Dispatch.
Kang is the executive director of the Ilocos Center for Research, Empowerment, and Development and Kabataan Party-list 5th Nominee during the 2019 elections. He was among those named by the 7th Infantry Division as “Threats in Region 1” in one of the Ilocos Regional Peace and Order Council meetings in 2020.
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