Search for 2 activists again leads to camps

Search for 2 activists again leads to camps

Search for 2 activists againleads to camps


The disappearance of another pair of environmental activists has prompted a search by human rights advocates in San Carlos City and other parts of Pangasinan province, where Francisco “Eco” Dangla III and Axielle “Jak” Tiong were seized by armed masked men on Sunday.

The human rights group Karapatan on Tuesday sent a fact-finding mission to military and police camps to look for Dangla, 39, and Tiong, 29, who were last seen in Barangay Polo, San Carlos City, being “severely mauled and dragged” into a waiting pickup truck around 8 p.m.


The rights group saw parallels behind the alleged March 24 abduction and the cases of environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano, who were taken in Orion, Bataan, in September last year. Karapatan said it was “deeply disturbed by the similarities between this abduction and that of” Castro and Tamano, who went missing on Sept. 2, 2023, and reappeared weeks later, on Sept. 19, 2023, at a press conference in Plaridel, Bulacan province, where the two women said they had been abducted, interrogated and tortured by soldiers.


The rights group noted that the manner of the latest pair’s capture also resembled that of development workers April Dyan Gumanao and Armand Dayoha, who were kidnapped at the Port of Cebu on Jan. 10, 2023, before their captors abandoned them five days later, at a resort in Carmen town, after forcing them to sign documents.‘Tulong, tulong!’

According to Karapatan, its team began scouring various military and police camps or units in Pangasinan in hopes of locating Dangla and Tiong.

They went to Camp Lt. Tito B. Abat in Manaoag town on Tuesday morning and were met by Army Brig. Gen. Gulliver Senires, commander of the 702nd Infantry Brigade, who denied that the unit had custody of the two.

The group also visited Camp Andres B. Malong Military Reservation in Binmaley, home to the 104th Community Defense Center, but failed to find the two men.

Citing eyewitness accounts, Karapatan said Dangla and Tiong were riding a tricycle when a gray pickup overtook them.

“Three masked men aboard [the pickup] seized the keys to the tricycle and the tricycle driver’s cell phone. [Dangla and Tiong] were then manhandled and forced into the vehicle,” the group said.


Witnesses also reported that two men on a motorcycle, whose faces were covered by bonnets, were involved in the abduction.

One of the witnesses said Dangla and Tion were heard screaming, “Tulong, tulong (help)!”“Before leaving, the abductors, who were all armed, warned the tricycle driver and the other passenger against reporting what they saw and heard,” Karapatan said.

Dangla is the spokesperson for the progressive Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Pangasinan, while Tiong is the coordinator of the Kabataan party list in the province and a member of the Pangasinan Provincial Youth Development Council.

Both are affiliated with the Pangasinan People’s Strike for the Environment and the People’s Empowered Action on Care for the Environment, or PEACENet.

Antimining advocate

Dangla and Tiong had been leading local environmental campaigns and were active in the church-backed social action networks.

The Surface Environment Defenders (SED), a coalition of green rights advocacy groups, said the two campaigned for the protection of the Lingayen Gulf from black sand mining and opposed the proposed construction of six nuclear plants in Labrador town and other projects, such as coal-fired power plants and the setup of waste-to-energy incinerators.

“Before their disappearance, they were victims of Red-tagging, or the practice of the government of naming individuals and organizations as communists or terrorists, which is often a prelude to further attacks,” SED said.

In 2018, Dangla was wrongly tagged as a “terrorist” and a “threat” by the Regional Peace and Order Council of Ilocos Region, Karapatan recalled.

Upon learning of what happened to Dangla, his family went to the police station at 11 p.m. on Sunday to report the incident, an Inquirer source said.

“But the police initially refused to process the blotter because the family did not have evidence and witnesses,” the source said.

Hours later, the family convinced the police to go to the crime scene and collect evidence for documentation.

READ: Labor group prods gov’t to probe disappearance of 2 activists

“[The investigators] were able to talk with the tricycle driver and his nephew,” the source said.

The antimining group Alyansa Tigil Mina said it was also assisting the families in their search.

“We are looking for them in hospitals, detention cells and other places where the two could be found,” it said in a statement.

‘Disturbing pattern’

Also on Tuesday, the Nagkaisa Labor Coalition and local affiliates of the International Trade Union Confederation joined calls for an investigation into the disappearances.

In a letter to Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, Nagkaisa chair Sonny Matula urged the government to “promptly, thoroughly and transparently investigate” what happened to Dangla and Tiong, ensure their safe return, and hold accountable those responsible for their abduction.

“The abduction of Eco and Jak underscores the perilous environment within which labor activists operate in the Philippines, highlighted by the unresolved killings of trade union leaders and activists in recent years,” Matula said.

Dangla and Tiong were the 22nd and 23rd environmentalists to be victimized by enforced disappearance under the Marcos administration, according to Karapatan.

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The group said it would not be surprised if Dangla and Tiong “are eventually presented by their abductors as alleged [rebel] surrenderees, instead of kidnapping victims,” like Tamano and Castro, who are still battling cases for defying the military’s intention to present them as communist rebel returnees last year. —WITH A REPORT FROM JEROME ANING INQ

TAGS: Activists, disappeared, Search

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