Gov’t releases videos of ‘abducted’ activists
The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) and the Philippine National Police have doubled down on their claims that environmental activists Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro were not kidnapped but had voluntarily yielded to the military for their own protection after leaving the communist movement.
A spokesperson for the task force also called the women’s actions part of a demolition tactic against the government.
On Thursday, the task force presented videos and photos supposedly showing the activists admitting their links to the New People’s Army (NPA) while in government custody.
Castro, in one of the presented videos during an online press briefing hosted by the NTF-Elcac, said in an “interview” that she was part of the NPA’s Lino Blas Command for four years and she was involved in an armed encounter in Bataan province in 2021.
Tamano, on the other hand, said in an affidavit that she was part of the underground mass organization Kabataang Makabayan for three months, where she was a semilegal cadre. She added that in July, she met Castro and they decided to “organize” fishermen in Bataan province.
According to the task force, the two women said in their affidavits dated Sept. 12 that they were surrendering to authorities because they missed their families and wanted to quit the communist movement.
Another short clip showed a sobbing Tamano reunited with her parents after the supposed surrender.
James Clifford Santos, NTF-Elcac legal cooperation cluster spokesperson, called the environmental activists’ actions part of a “demolition tactic.”
“We can see that this is a grand scheme to hoodwink the government whose only concern is the welfare of the returning rebels,” he said. “Their immediate assertions of falsehood clearly has malice to humiliate the government.”
In a press briefing organized by the NTF-Elcac on Tuesday, Castro and Tamano surprised task force officials when they debunked the government’s claim that they had voluntarily yielded to the military.
Instead, they said they were abducted by a group of men in a sport utility vehicle on Sept. 2 in Orion, Bataan. They added that they were forced into signing the affidavits. Hours after the briefing, both women were turned over by the Army’s 70th Infantry Battalion to the Commission on Human Rights which reunited them with their families.
Ernesto Torres Jr., executive director of the task force’s secretariat, said they would review their program protocol although he added that their experience with the women activists would not affect future cases in their initiative to assist communist rebels who want to return to the fold of law.
“These are different cases. This is just one of those hiccups that happen in the program. It’s really unfortunate but we will proceed,” he said
The PNP, meanwhile, said that it would look again into the kidnapping claim of Tamano and Castro although as far as PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. was concerned, both voluntarily yielded to authorities.