In a stunning turn of events, two environmental activists who went missing earlier this month said they were abducted by the military during a press conference hosted by no less than the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) this morning.
According to reports from human rights organization Karapatan, student activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano were abducted late at night on September 2 in a gray SUV. The two were preparing for relief operations in Orion, Bataan then. They were then asked to sign a so-called affidavit of surrender by the military.
“Naglalakad lang po kami sa kalsada noong merong tumigil na SUV sa harapan namin. Tapos dinukot po kami. Pinilit po kaming pasamahin sa kanila. ‘Yun po ‘yung totoo. Akala po namin sindikato,” Tamano said in the press conference while flanked by state forces in Plaridel town in Bulacan.
Lt. Col. Ronnel B. Dela Cruz, the 70th Infantry Battalion (IB) commanding officer, denied having any knowledge of the abduction, saying that they were just processing the two activists to help them surrender.
“Kaduda-duda naman po na hindi alam ni [Dela Cruz] kung anong tunay na nangyari, kasi mismong mga kumuha sa ‘min, inamin nila na sundalo sila at nakita namin sa interrogation paper ang nakalagay ay 70th IB. Kaya hindi ako naniniwala na hindi alam ni battalion commander na dinukot kami,” Castro countered.
NTF-ELCAC claimed in an earlier press conference that Castro and Jamano allegedly approached a woman to help them surrender. The woman brought them first to a house in Guagua, Pampanga before the two activists formally surrendered to the 70th IB on September 12.
The two activists, however, denied this and said that they were forced to sign an affidavit of surrender by the AFP due to death threats they received.
It is a common tactic by the NTF-ELCAC to use abducted activists as propaganda by maliciously alleging that they were either captured rebels or voluntary surrenderees. But in the case of Castro and Tamano, this publicity stunt backfired instead.
The abduction comes after intensified calls to stop the government’s reclamation projects in Manila Bay, which could displace fisherfolk living in the area. Tamano is the program director of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum, while Castro is a volunteer for Alyansa ng mga Mamamayan para sa Pagtatanggol sa Kabuhayan, Paninirahan at Kalikasan ng Manila Bay, a group of fisherfolk, youth, academe, and church members.
“Ang gusto lang namin mapakita ngayong araw ay ang lantarang pasismo ng estado sa mga aktibistang ang tanging hangarin ay ang ipaglaban ang Manila Bay. Nagagamit ang militar para ipatigil yung mga pagkilos, para masupilan yung kabataan, ‘yung mga mangingisdang nandoon. ‘Yun ang tunay na issue dito,” Castro said. ●
Dec 2, 2023
Night handler hazing allegations, fraternity involvement, and public clamor call into question the UP Fair’s effectiveness as an advocacy platform.
Dec 1, 2023
Despite an increase in public school applicants, their portion of qualifiers decreased in the shift to UPCA, casting doubt on the adherence of the admissions process to providing democratic access.