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

Iya Gozum

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

Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamayo arrive at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) headquarters on Tuesday, September 19.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

The NTF-ELCAC says despite the 'unimaginable outcome' of the press conference that they had organized for Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro, the young activists' 'safety and well-being are of primordial importance'

MANILA, Philippines – The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) said they were “hoodwinked” by environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano, who had declared at a government-organized press conference that they did not surrender but were “abducted” by the military.

“We are appalled as we are deeply saddened by the unfortunate turn of events during this morning’s press conference at the Municipal Hall of Plaridel town in Bulacan where youths Jhed Reiyana Tamano and Jonila Castro parroted the propaganda lines of Leftist groups on their supposed abduction by security forces,” the NTF-ELCAC said in a statement late Tuesday, September 19.

“We felt betrayed. The said press conference was organized with only the best intentions in mind for the said youths,” the NTF-ELCAC said, referring to the press conference that featured Castro and Tamano, held at the Plaridel Municipal Hall in Bulacan on Tuesday.

Despite what it called the “unimaginable outcome” of the press conference, the NTF-ELCAC said the two activists’ “safety and well-being are of primordial importance.”

The NTF-ELCAC said they stood by the reports of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army on the “surrender” of the two activists, as well as the sworn affidavits of Castro and Tamano taken when they were under military custody. The two had said at the Tuesday press conference that they were coerced into signing the affidavits.

“Whatever caused their change of heart is beyond us. Earlier engagements by Task Force officials with the two students regarding the veracity and truthfulness of their affidavits were convincing enough to merit their public appearance. We were hoodwinked,” the NTF-ELCAC said.

“Nevertheless, we remain steadfast in ensuring the safety of the two and committed to upholding their rights as individuals under any circumstances. Their utterances during the LGU-facilitated press conference will definitely be looked into with the support of the other civilian agency members of the Task Force,” it said.

The task force said the press conference was held “imbued with a tremendous amount of good faith, notwithstanding the unimaginable outcome of the same.”

 “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,” it said.

The presser was the first public outing of the two environmental activists since they were reported missing on September 2 in Orion, Bataan. Last week, the government reported to the media that Castro and Tamano “voluntarily surrendered” to the military on September 12.

According to the report from the Bataan provincial police office at the Tuesday press conference, the two activists allegedly sought government help to leave the communist movement.

On Tuesday, after Castro said they were abducted by the military, the environmental activist called attention to the reclamation projects in Manila Bay that are affecting the livelihood of fisherfolk in the area.

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1 comment

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  1. ET

    The NTF-ELCAC claims that it is “hoodwinked” by environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano. Perhaps, out of desperation, the latter had to “hoodwinked” the former just to be alive and set free. Just imagine, dear reader, if you are abducted, and you still want to live – won’t you do whatever your abductors want you to do? In this situation, it is the NTF-ELCAC who is in the position of power and authority over these two ladies and not the other way around. It takes more courage to go against the wishes of one’s abductors than to just go along with them. In terms of probability, there is a greater likelihood that it is the “abducted” environmentalist activists who are telling the truth and not NTF-ELCAC.

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Iya Gozum

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