CHR notes ‘complexity’of Castro-Tamano ‘abduction’ case
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it has begun its investigation into the alleged abduction of environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano, as it noted the complexity of the case because of the charges hurled between the activists and state forces who they claimed had kidnapped them.
The CHR in a statement on Saturday said it would remain objective and independent in probing the case.
“CHR notes the activists’ concerns on their safety and claim for accountability for any human rights violation committed,” the commission said.
“CHR also recognizes the move of the government to file cases against Castro and Tamano after recanting their statements of voluntary surrender,” it added.
The commission had conducted an earlier probe into the disappearance of Castro, 21, and Tamano, 22, after they went missing on Sept. 2 in Orion, Bataan province.
The CHR said it searched a total of 15 military camps and police detention facilities in the provinces of Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, and Zambales.
On Sept. 15, authorities led by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) said the two activists were “safe and sound” after allegedly yielding to the 70th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan.
National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya said allegations about their disappearance were part of “an elaborate hoax and scam” by the leftist movement.
Four days later, the NTF-Elcac held a press conference in Plaridel, Bulacan, presenting the two activists, who practically disrupted that briefing when they told the media that they had been kidnapped and threatened by the military.
“The truth is we were abducted by the military. We were forced to surrender because we were threatened. It’s not true that we wanted the military to take custody of us” said Castro, a community organizer for Akap-Ka Manila Bay, which is opposed to reclamation activities there.
Possible perjury charges
After that incident, the two women were turned over to the CHR’s regional office and brought that same day to the CHR central office in Quezon City where they were reunited with their families.
The NTF-Elcac stood by its account, noting that it was supported by Castro’s and Tamano’s affidavits.
Because of what the government regarded as the activists’ recantation, Malaya said the government is considering filing perjury charges against them.
Dino de Leon, Castro and Tamano’s lawyer, said they are prepared to face the charges.