On the Rebellion Charge Against Our Ilocos Correspondent Niño Oconer


There is no end to the Philippine government’s attack on media freedom and human rights. After our triumph against the rebellion and libel charges filed against our editorial board members, state authorities are now after our Ilocos correspondent Niño Joseph Oconer.

He is facing possible arrest for rebellion along with six other indigenous peoples rights activists and development workers in the Ilocos and Cordillera. The military implicated them in a New People’s Army ambush on October 27, 2022, in Barangay Gacab, Malibcong, Abra against four personnel of the 24th Infantry Battalion. Two soldiers died in the incident

On January 30, the Baguio City Police seized Jennifer Awingan, one of those named in the arrest warrant issued by a court in Bangued, Abra..

His inclusion in the case hinges not on the testimonies of the two soldiers who survived the ambush, who only identified two alleged rebels.

24th IB’s Bravo Company intelligence officer, Staff Sargent Christopher Druja, dragged his name. However, despite the government’s colossal intelligence budget, their soldiers cannot even get their ‘intelligence’ right. He surmised the involvement of Oconer in the incident for being the chairperson of Anakbayan-Metro Baguio, a position Oconer never had.

Babs, as his friends and colleagues fondly call him, has been contributing images, stories, and opinion pieces to Northern Dispatch since 2011. He became one of our Ilocos correspondents in 2022.

An altar boy from Grade 4 until completing his secondary education in Orani, Bataan, Babs, has always found serving the people a fulfilling work. He continued his passion for service when he entered Saint Louis University in Baguio City, where he became a student leader, leading and organizing campaigns for students’ rights and welfare.

His earlier contributions as a youth leader in Metro-Baguio cover education and other issues concerning his age group. The scope of his reports broadened to peasant and human rights concerns when he decided to move to Ilocos, where he served as the regional coordinator for Anakbayan.

In 2014, Babs and other youth activists in Baguio set up Kumpay Productions, an alternative multimedia group producing educational and campaign materials and music videos of progressive songs. In Ilocos, he helped revive Tignayan Productions in 2017, the alternative media group in the region formed in 2012, and presently serves as its videographer.

Northern Dispatch is proud that our contributors and reporters immerse themselves in people’s issues and daily struggles. As an alternative media outfit that amplifies the voice of the marginalized, it is our responsibility to live and learn with them to give justice to our reportage.

The case against him and the six other activists is an outright lie. A result of the government’s ever-growing red-scare tactics and crackdown against activists and the critical media. An outcome of a problematic justice system that allows outrageous claims and imaginations from state security forces to translate into criminal cases and warrants, threatening the security and lives of activists and community journalists.

Justice and peace will further elude our society if state prosecutors and the courts allow the use of their office to disregard due process and human rights.

We call the court to immediately drop the fabricated charge against Oconer, other activists, and development workers. We urge the prosecutors’ office and the court to be more circumspect of the information presented to them. # nordis.net

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