October 2, 2023

Abra Regional Trial Court Branch 2 Judge Corpuz Alzate has ordered the removal of the names of seven activists who were included in a rebellion case for lack of probable cause.

In his May 11 order, Alzate has granted the earlier motion to quash filed by Jennifer Awi-ngan, Sarah Abellon, Stephen Tauli, Windel Bolinget, Lucia Lourdes Gimenes, Niño Joseph Oconer, and Florence Kang.

The activists are among the “Abra seven” who are implicated in the October 2022 NPA ambush in Malibcong, Abra, where two soldiers were killed. The activists were accused of being a part of the Kilusang Larangang Gerilya North Abra of the New People’s Army.   

The court said during the investigation, a rogue gallery of the identified assailants were shown to the ambush survivors Privates First Class Reymund Galo and Randy Cinco, where they identified the assailants as Jovencio Tangbawan and Salcedo Duma-yom Dappay, who were then included in the rebellion case with the seven acti-vists. 

The court also stated the seven individuals were never identified by the survivors but they were included in the indictment for rebellion based on the statement of an intelligence officer based in Malibcong.

The order stated with the filing for the motion to quash by the seven activists, the prosecution failed to file their objection, hence the incident was submitted for resolution.

“It is clear that the ambush resulting in the death of PFC Ariz Bautista and PFC Jimmy Viernes triggered the filing of the instant rebellion charge against the accused,” the court order stated.  

“Consequently, all warrants of arrest issued against them in connection with the case are ordered quashed,” it added.

Lawyer Rene Cortes, the counsel for the seven activists, said while the state prosecutors have the option to appeal the decision, he is confident it will be denied since there is not even a strand of evidence to link the activists to the armed encounter.

“The decision of the trial court is but another knot in the long line of similar fabricated cases filed against activists and eventually dismissed because they are that – fabrications,” Cortes said.

Cortes said instead of wasting resources on forging bogus cases, the government should focus its efforts in curbing the rampant corruption and abuses perpetrated by government officials. – Ofelia C. Empian