CHR help sought in finding activists
Militant fisherfolk group Pamalakaya on Wednesday urged the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate the reported abduction of two youth activists involved in an anti-reclamation campaign in Bataan province.
Pamalakaya said it had “strong reason to believe” that state forces were responsible for the abduction of Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro, both members of its affiliate organization, Akap-Ka Manila Bay, an environmental alliance based in Central Luzon.
Pamalakaya noted that the alliance had been “vilified and surveilled” by police and military forces at the height of their campaign against an airport project in Bulacan.
“We urge CHR chairperson Richard Palpal-latoc to direct its regional office in Central Luzon to immediately conduct a probe until the two youth activists are surfaced safe and sound, and ultimately prosecute the responsible,” Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya chair, said in a statement.
The military and police have yet to respond to allegations that their troops were involved in the activists’ disappearance on the night of Sept. 2 in Orion, Bataan.
Citing eyewitnesses’ accounts, Akap-Ka Manila Bay and human rights group Karapatan said Tamano, 22, and Castro, 21, were abducted by four unidentified armed men in front of the Orion Water District office and were taken away using a gray sport utility vehicle.
Tamano is a coordinator for the Community and Church Program for Manila Bay of the Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum, while Castro is a community organizer for Akap-Ka Manila Bay. They were actively involved in their groups’ campaign against the reclamation projects in Manila Bay before their disappearance.
Environmental group Oceana, meanwhile, condemned the abduction as it called on President Marcos to order an immediate investigation and ensure that the rights of Castro and Tamano were protected.
“This is a sad reminder of how environmental activists are constantly at risk in this day and age,” Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana vice president, said in a separate statement.
Ramos pointed out that coastal communities and fisherfolk groups had been forced to suffer the destruction of the marine environment brought about by reclamation, dredging and seabed quarrying projects in Manila Bay, as well as in other parts of the country.
“Now that volunteers and organizers like Castro and Tamano are helping them speak out and stop these destructive projects, it is unfortunate and sad that they are subjected to undue harassment and threats to their life and liberty instead,” she said.
ClamorHicap lamented what he described as the government’s “continued silence over this highly alarming case against democratic activists.”
The Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women joined Pamalakaya and other organizations and individuals in the growing clamor for the immediate surfacing of Tamano and Castro.
“We cannot ignore that they had experienced surveillance before they were taken, especially when there are numerous other rights defenders who were recently taken by state forces,” said Zenaida Soriano, Amihan chair, in a separate statement.
She stressed the urgency of investigating the cases of missing activists, including that of indigenous peoples rights activists Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil “Bazoo” de Jesus, who were reportedly abducted by unidentified men in Rizal province on April 28.