Party-list seeks probe on alleged abduction of 2 activists
As Makabayan condemns plans to file perjury raps

Party-list seeks probe on alleged abduction of 2 environment activists

/ 06:17 PM September 20, 2023

Party-list seeks probe on alleged abduction of 2 environment activists

Batasang Pambansa plenary. —MALACAÑANG FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — A resolution seeking investigation into the alleged abduction of two pro-environment activists who went missing early September — who surfaced in an anti-communist task force’s briefing on Tuesday — has been filed at the House of Representatives.

In a statement on Wednesday, Kabataan party-list, along with other members of the Makabayan bloc, said it has filed House Resolution No. 1311 to investigate, in aid of legislation, the disappearance of Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano.


Castro and Tamano were supposedly seen by witnesses being abducted last September 2, but the two activists surfaced in a briefing called by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), as they are allegedly rebel surrenderees.


However, during the briefing, Castro and Tamano claimed that they were abducted by the military — going against their sworn statements.

“Now therefore, be it resolved […] that the House of Representatives, through its Committee on Human Rights, is hereby called upon to conduct a thorough investigation into the abduction of environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano by the Armed Forces of the Philippines , the Philippine National Police, and the [NTF-Elcac],” the resolution stated.

“Be it finally resolved that the findings and recommendations of the investigation shall be used as basis for legislative action to strengthen the protection of human rights and ensure the safety and well-being of human rights defenders and activists in the country,” it added.

Makabayan bloc in the 19th Congress is composed of Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro.

Perjury raps?

Earlier, during the plenary debates on the Department of National Defense (DND) proposed 2024 budget, it was also revealed that AFP plans to file perjury complaints against Castro and Tamano for recanting their sworn statements.

DND budget sponsor and Negros Occidental 6th District Rep. Mercedes Alvarez said that perjury was committed because there were witnesses — including the Public Attorney’s Office — who saw that the two activists were not forced into signing their sworn statement.


READ: 2 environment activists may face perjury raps for recanting statements 

But according to lawyer and former Bayan Muna lawmaker Carlos Zarate, there can be no perjury when the individuals involved were pressured and under duress to sign an affidavit

“How can there be perjury when consent is manifestly vitiated and the statements or admissions made were clearly obtained under duress?  Indeed, when one’s life is being threatened, any statement made cannot be considered as one that is voluntary, willful and deliberate,” he said.

If any, Zarate said that kidnappers should be the one preparing to face charges.

“Dapat ang mga kidnappers na mga state agents at mga principals nila ang maghanda dahil sa malinaw na paglabag sa karapatan ni Jonila at Jhed.  Those involved can be charged of violating the Anti-Disappearance Law, Anti-Torture Law, violation of International Humanitarian Law,  kidnapping and arbitrary detention,” Zarate said.

(The kidnappers who are state agents and their principals should be the one preparing because there is a clear violation of rights in the abduction of Jonila at Jhed.)

“May this also serve as a precautionary  lesson to local government units (LGUs) and the Public Attorneys Office to be ever judicious and not to be hoodwinked by the NTC-Elcac for its nefarious and anti-people activities of suppressing the rights of our people,” he added.

READ: 2 environmentalists in Central Luzon abducted, says group 

After the two activists went missing last September 2, human rights watchdog Karapatan raised concerns as the two were supposedly abducted.

Tamano and Castro were said to have been rallying against the reclamation projects on Manila Bay.  Tamano, 22, works as coordinator of the Church-Community Partnership for the program Turn the Tide Now, while Castro, 21, serves as a community volunteer for AKAP Ka Manila Bay.

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But National Security Council Assistant Director Jonathan Malaya insisted that the two were not abducted, saying that they surrendered to the government after leaving the communist armed insurgency.

TAGS: Abduction, Activists, House of Representatives, Probe

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