URGENT ALERT: CWEARC and Innabuyog condemn AFP attack against staff

October 13, 2015

We the staff and members of Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC) and Innabuyog condemn the recent attack against Alma Sinumlag, the Research and Publications Coordinator of CWEARC.

Around 6:00PM on October 11, a town mate of Alma from Anonang, Rizal, Kalinga called Alma to ask her whereabouts. She was told to call her parents because Solomon Angngao, an intelligence officer of the Philippine Army had informed them that she was killed in a recent clash between the Philippine Army and the New People's Army (NPA) in Uma, Lubuagan, Kalinga.

Alma immediately called her mother and she learned that her relatives and townsfolk were already gathered and were preparing to retrieve her body in Lubuagan. She learned from her mother that Angngao called an uncle of hers who is also with the army deployed in Cagayan who facilitated the information to her mother.

Alma is not dead. She is alive!

Alma is NOT an NPA and has never been. Since 2012, she is the Research and Publication Coordinator of the Cordillera Women's Education Action Research Center (CWEARC). She bravely faced the rigors of research field work even in times of militarization in the provinces of Kalinga, Apayao, Abra, and Ifugao. She used her journalism skills to expose human rights violations against peoples’ organizations and communities committed by the Philippine Army, government agencies, and corporations. She was not cowed by the harassments and intimidations she met on field.

We very much fear for her safety! Because this has become an operations pattern of the State security forces; they vilify their targets before filing fabricated criminal charges, or abduct or even murder them. This is to the highest degree condemnable! The vilification campaign of State security forces targeting journalists, professionals and all other critics of anti-people government programs must stop.

This is not the first time that the family of Alma is intimidated. Since 2013, members of the Philippine Army from the Butbut tribe have been continuously persuading her parents to force her to quit her job. They’ve been telling them that Alma is in the order of battle of the AFP and the only way to erase her from the list is quitting her job specially her fieldworks. They even spread lies that Alma is a courier of NPA supplies.

This modus operandi is criminal and inhuman. We call on the command of the Philippine Army in Kalinga and in the Region to stop this vilification campaign now and assure us that Alma shall be kept safe and free from threats against her person, and be free to pursue her vocation as a good citizen, researcher and a journalist, NOW!

We also ask from our regional and provincial military and police commanding officers for the immediate investigation and appropriate reprimand of this soldier Solomon Angngao for actions unbecoming of a public servant, for threatening Alma, her family and the whole tribe! For spreading rumor and lies that has alarmed not only the family or clan but the whole tribe, and besmirching her professional reputation and credibility as a journalist by rumormongering that she is an NPA killed in battle.

Vernie Yocogan-Diano
CWEARC Executive Director

Mila Singson
Innabuyog Chairperson