Supreme Court of the Philippines

‘Same fate still looms’: Surfaced activists seek SC protection from military, gov’t officials

Iya Gozum

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‘Same fate still looms’: Surfaced activists seek SC protection from military, gov’t officials

ACTIVISTS. Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamayo arrive at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) headquarters escorted by local government officials from Bulacan, where they will be officially turnover and released to the custody of the CHR, on September 19, 2023.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

‘Jonila and Jhed’s right to life, liberty, and security were violated and the threats of suffering the same fate still looms,’ the petition reads

MANILA, Philippines – In a petition filed before the Supreme Court, two environmental activists who went missing in Orion, Bataan early September sought writs of amparo and habeas data as protection from members of the Philippine Army, Philippine National Police, National Security Council, and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano recently surfaced after appearing in a government-organized press conference where they divulged they were abducted by members of the 70th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

This is contrary to what the government reported earlier that they “voluntarily surrendered” to the military. National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya and Bataan provincial police chief information officer Carlito Buco were present in that press conference.

Malaya and Buco are respondents in Jonila and Jhed’s petition, along with Lieutenant Colonel Ronnel Dela Cruz and members of the 70th Infantry Battalion.

“Jonila and Jhed’s right to life, liberty, and security were violated and the threats of suffering the same fate still looms,” the petition read.

Their petition includes prayers for temporary protection order, permanent protection order, and production order.

A writ of amparo is a legal remedy for persons whose right to life, liberty, and security were violated or threatened by “an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity.”

Meanwhile, a writ of habeas data compels the government to destroy information that could cause harm. According to the petition, this request is made in relation to Malaya’s statement that the government would “slowly expose all information” they have on the petitioners.

“Defending Jhed and Jonila from such threats is a step towards attaining justice, and holding accountable the perpetrators who enjoy power and might, and access to millions of government funds to sow terror among the people,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of human rights group Karapatan, in a statement.

The petition detailed the timeline of abduction of the two activists. Jonila reported breaking down because of the “psychological torment brought about by the long interrogations and threats.”

The petitioners recounted hearing statements like “Pagtatabihin namin kayo sa isang hukay” (We will put both of you side by side in a grave) or “Puputulin namin ang dila mo kapag hindi pa rin kayo nagsalita” (We will cut your tongue if you don’t speak out).

Jonila and Jhed were represented by lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group.

The protective writs, often employed by those illegally detained or who went missing, are under review. The High Court expects to finish the review early next year. – Rappler.com

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Iya Gozum

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