Armed Forces of the Philippines

AFP wants perjury charges against 2 environmental activists

Bea Cupin

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AFP wants perjury charges against 2 environmental activists

House of Representatives livestream

(3rd UPDATE) Just the day before, environmental activists Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro said – in the presence of government and military officials – they were abducted by the military

MANILA, Philippines – Instead of “admitting” to abducting two environmental advocates who disappeared, then resurfaced under their custody, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) intends to sue them, a lawmaker said on Wednesday, September 20.

It was Kabataan Representative Raoul Manuel who asked the AFP, referring to activists Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro: “Would the AFP admit to abducting the two young women?”

Negros Occidental 6th District Representative Mercedes Alvarez, sponsor of the Department of National Defense (DND) budget, said in response: “No, Mr. Speaker. And the AFP plans to file perjury cases or charges against the two.” During plenary deliberations, it is not the heads of agencies who answer questions from the floor but the department budget’s sponsor.

Manuel asked about the case of environmental activists Tamano and Castro who went missing after being last seen on September 2. In a surprising turn of events on September 19, the two said in a press conference organized by government and military officers that they had indeed been abducted by the military on September 2.

Their statements ran counter to the narrative of the authorities – that the two were safely under government custody.

‘We were hoodwinked’: NTF-ELCAC ‘appalled’ by abduction claim of young activists

‘We were hoodwinked’: NTF-ELCAC ‘appalled’ by abduction claim of young activists

“We are so shocked by that kind of response from the AFP,” said Manuel, who questioned the basis of the planned perjury charges.

Both the DND and AFP, throughout the entire interpellation before plenary, insisted that the two were not abducted and that they had committed perjury by countering sworn affidavits prepared while the two were under military custody.

The three-member Makabayan bloc, which Manuel is part of, filed a proposed House resolution on Wednesday, urging the chamber’s human rights committee to investigate the supposed abduction.

“It is clearer than ever that there is a need to abolish the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) as it has done nothing for the citizens but facilitate the violent attacks on human rights, life, and liberty,” the resolution read.

Despite grilling from Manuel and fellow Makabayan bloc member Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas on the case of the two activists, their allocations to defend the West Philippine Sea, and the bases opened to American boots, the DND and the AFP’s budget hurdled plenary deliberations in the House after hours-long discussions.

Earlier, the NTF-ELCAC issued a statement on the incident. “If their intention was to humiliate the NTF-ELCAC and those who trusted them despite the good faith we have shown, we shall remain unfazed and committed to fulfilling our mandate for the greater good of the people and of the country. We leave to the wisdom of the task force’s legal eagles as to how to proceed from here,” read the statement.

In a briefing with the media on Thursday, September 21, Army Chief Lieutenant General Roy Galido said the army “[has] to use our laws.” 

“We are a country of laws, we have rules of law, we have a court here. We felt betrayed, that’s why we will file the necessary case,” he said, when asked about their plan to sue the two activists for perjury.

However, Galido did not give a clear answer when asked if they had proof that the two were rebel returnees, as the military claimed. The army also declined to give details on the two activists’ supposed surrender, telling media to wait until a case is filed. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.