October 3, 2023

Cordilleran activist Windel Bolinget has filed a damage suit against former Police Regional Office-Cordillera director, retired B/Gen. R’win Pagkalinawan, along with two others for including his name as a suspect in the killing of an indigenous leader in 2018 in Davao del Norte.

Bolinget trooped to the La Trinidad Municipal Trial Court-First Judicial Region on June 23 to file his complaint that also included Maj. Ruth Dizon, the chief of police of the Kapalong Municipal Station in 2020 who filed the murder case and Ranel Tibog Vender, a rebel returnee who testified to the police about the alleged involvement of Bolinget. 

In the 11-page complaint, Bolinget said he is not an armed insurgent but only known in the Cordillera as an outspoken critic of unfair government policies, which made him a target of vilifications.

Bolinget, chair of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, and 10 other individuals were accused of killing Garito Tiklonay Malibato on March 22, 2018 in Gupitan, Kapalong. Malibato was a member of the IP group Karadyawan in Kapalong, Davao del Norte.

He said in the complaint that he only came to know of the arrest warrant in December 2020.

In his complaint, Bolinget said after the arrest warrant came out, he immediately observed he was under surveillance and manhunt operations by state forces, not only in his residence in Ambiong, La Trinidad, Benguet but also in his hometown in Sagada and Bontoc, Mountain Province.

The complaint stated that flyers red-tagging Bolinget was strewn in his barangay while PNP intelligence agents approached his relatives, in-laws, friends, and families of colleagues asking for his location.

He added that in January 2021, Pagkalinawan issued a shoot to kill order and P100,000 bounty against him, which he claimed is “an extrajudicial killing order”.

Tarpaulins showing that Bolinget is a wanted person were then posted in Ambiong and different barangays of La Trinidad and Baguio City.

This prompted Bolinget and the CPA to issue public statements denying the accusations.

He stated in the complaint he did not receive any subpoena or given any opportunity to counter the allegations against him during the preliminary investigation.

He added the complainants in the murder case misled the prosecution by stating his address is at Mankay, Gupitan, Kapalongwhere the subpoena was served.

He said he has been living in Ambiong since 2007 and has never set foot in Davao del Norte. 

Bolinget then voluntarily surrendered before the National Bureau of Investigation-Cordillera for fear of his safety and was isolated at the NBI Detention Center in Baguio City.

There, his family and colleagues were given limited visitation rights.

“Defendants acted in conspiracy, confederation, and aiding one another to hurl false accusations against the plaintiff which caused his illegal detention,” the complaint stated.

Dizon was included as a respondent for filing the complaint in the Tagum City RTC Branch 30 anchored on the testimony of Vender, the rebel returnee.

Bolinget’s complaint stated that the prosecution relied purely on the affidavit of witness submitted by Dizon, which bears no direct evidence to prove he was involved in the death of Malibato.

But the court’s dismissal of the case against Bolinget and others for lack of probable cause shows that the charges against them were fabricated.

The court also cited the earlier dismissal of the RTC Branch 2 of Bangued, Abra against Bolinget and six others colleagues in the CPA, who were accused of being involved in an ambush that happened in Oct. 27, 2022 in Malibcong, Abra.

The seven Cordilleran activists filed a motion to quash the warrant arrest and to exclude them from the information, which was granted by the court on May 11. 

Bolinget said the acts of the accused caused moral and actual damages when he was deprived of liberty and lost the opportunity to take care of his family, seek livelihood, and to provide for his and his family’s daily needs.

The complaint stated Bolinget is entitled to exemplary damages because of the actions of the accused in ruining his reputation as a public figure. – Ofelia C. Empian