environmental issues

‘Abducted’ environmental activists now reunited with family, friends

Iya Gozum

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‘Abducted’ environmental activists now reunited with family, friends

MEETING SUPPORTERS. Parents, family members, and supporters greet environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamayo, who went missing last September 2, as they face the media after their turnover to the Commission on Human Rights by local government officials from Bulacan, on September 19, 2023.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

The two women return to their family and friends after a press conference led by the NTF-ELCAC, where they declared they were abducted by the military

MANILA, Philippines – After declaring they were abducted by the military in a press conference led by no less than the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano are now reunited with family and friends on Tuesday, September 19.

From Plaridel, Bulacan, where the NTF-ELCAC’s press conference was held, Mayor Jocell Vistan “transferred custody” of the two environmental activists to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Pia Montalban of human rights group Karapatan Central Luzon told Rappler.

After this, Castro and Tamano were transferred to CHR’s headquarters in Quezon City. Accompanying them were Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay, Castro’s mother Roselie, and Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas.

They had a closed door meeting with CHR officials and lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG). The CHR then transferred custody of the two women to Karapatan, their family, and FLAG lawyers.

Montalban said that according to the two women, the abductors did not inflict physical harm on them but instead employed “mental torture.”

Around 7 pm on Tuesday, Castro and Tamano faced the small crowd that gathered at the CHR office. Castro and Tamano thanked the people who tried to find them.

Since their reported abduction in Orion, Bataan, environmental and human rights groups created an independent fact-finding team to investigate the details of their disappearance.

Meanwhile, the government and the military said that the two activists were not abducted but were instead trying to leave the communist movement.

Tamano said other activists who went missing should be surfaced.

Hindi lang kami ‘yung mga nawawala (We’re not the only ones who disappeared),” said Tamano.

The two declined to comment on the NTF-ELCAC. Palabay also declined to answer questions on their next steps.

National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya said in a press conference last Friday, September 15, that they were speaking with the Department of Justice about the possible cases they could file against individuals from environmental and human rights groups “perpetrating fake news.”

Castro, a psychology major at the Bulacan State University (BSU), is a community volunteer for AKAP KA Manila Bay, an alliance of fisherfolk, youth, and church members. Tamano is the program coordinator for the Ecumenical Bishops Forum. Tamano is a business economics graduate of BSU. – Rappler.com

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.