Solon says courts will act on any petition involving abducted activists
MANILA, Philippines — The judiciary has vowed to address any complaint that would stem from the alleged abduction of two activists in Bulacan, whether that be from the side of the military or the progressive groups, lawmaker and judiciary’s budget sponsor said.
Davao de Oro 2nd District Rep. Ruwel Peter Gonzaga, who was sponsoring the judiciary’s proposed 2024 budget on Thursday, was asked by ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro if the writ of habeas corpus or the writ of habeas data could have been used for Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro — the two activists who went missing early September but surfaced last September 15.
Tamano and Castro were presented as communist rebels who surrendered to the government, but the two claimed that they were abducted by the military.
“So our question here, Mr. Speaker, distinguished sponsor, how would we use this for the activists who went missing for several days since September 2 and were found in Plaridel during a press conference by the NTF-Elcac (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict). How can we use the writ of habeas corpus and habeas data for this?” Castro asked.
In response, Gonzaga said that there are two stories developing as of now — one from the military side, which claims that the activists committed perjury since they were not forced to sign their sworn statements. The second, he said, is the activists claiming that the military forcibly took them.
Gonzaga said he believes no case has been filed as the issue is not yet ‘ripe’, but at the same time, he assured that courts — whether that be Regional Trial Courts or the Supreme Court itself — would act on any of the complaints.
“That’s why we have two stories at hand, and these are not yet ripe for the judiciary to entertain because no petition or complaint has been filed — whether that is perjury or abduction,” he said.
“What we can guarantee is that when that case reaches the Supreme Court, reaches the Court of Appeals or reaches the Regional Trial Court, the Judiciary would act on these,” he added.
During the budget deliberations at the plenary on Wednesday, the AFP said through their budget sponsor that they are looking at filing perjury raps against Tamano and Castro; several lawmakers and groups condemned this, noting that the two were abducted and feared for their lives — hence, were forced to sign the affidavit.
According to lawyer and former Bayan Muna lawmaker Carlos Zarate, the individuals behind Tamano and Castro’s abduction should be preparing for cases as the activists’ rights were violated.
“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.)
After the two activists went missing last September 2, human rights watchdog Karapatan raised the alarm, saying that the two were 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.
But National Security Council Assistant Director Jonathan Malaya insisted that the two were not abducted, but surrendered to the government after leaving the communist armed insurgency.