Philippine judiciary

Activists slapped with defamation case for exposing ‘abduction’ post bail

Jairo Bolledo

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Activists slapped with defamation case for exposing ‘abduction’ post bail

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

(1st UPDATE) The arraignment of Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano has been set on March 15

MANILA, Philippines – Young environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano, who exposed their alleged abduction, posted bail over the grave oral defamation case filed against them by a military officer. 

Activists slapped with defamation case for exposing ‘abduction’ post bail

Castro and Tamano paid P18,000 each for the bail set by Doña Remedios Trinidad Municipal Trial Court Judge Jonna Sorallo Veridiano. The said judge issued a warrant against the young activists in an order dated February 2.

Meanwhile, the arraignment and pre-trial for the case were also set on March 15, at 8:30 am. 

Back in January, the Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors indicted or pushed the grave oral defamation case against the two for “embarrassing and putting [the Armed Forces of the Philippines] in bad light” in the press conference where they accused the military of abducting them. If found guilty, grave oral defamation has a maximum punishment of six-month imprisonment.

The arrest warrant also came shortly after the Supreme Court (SC) granted the protective writs petitioned by the two. On February 15, the High Court said the SC magistrates moved to grant the writs of amparo and habeas data petitions filed by Castro and Tamano, on top of a temporary protection order.

A writ of amparo is a legal remedy, which is usually a protection order in the form of a restraining order. The writ of habeas data, meanwhile, compels the government to destroy information that could cause harm. (READ: Supreme Court to finish review on protective writs by early 2024)

Meanwhile, with the issuance of the protection order, all the respondents in the SC petition – mostly law enforcers – were prohibited “from entering within a radius of one kilometer from the persons, places of residence, school, work, or present locations, of petitioners, as well as those of their immediate families.”

Castro and Tamano, who were doing ground work on a reclamation in Bataan province, were first reported abducted by progressive groups in September last year. Their disappearance prompted the probe of the Commission on Human Rights. Later, security officials announced that Castro and Tamano were already “safe and sound” because they allegedly “voluntarily surrendered” to the military.

But when the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) held a presser to present the two as alleged surrenderees, Castro and Tamano went off-script and belied claims they had surrendered. Because of the two’s revelations that blindsided the NTF-ELCAC, they were slapped with a perjury complaint filed by Lieutenant Colonel Ronnel B. dela Cruz of the Philippine Army.

Although the DOJ prosecutors dismissed the perjury, they moved to indict Castro and Tamano in the slander or grave oral defamation case. –

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  1. ET

    The action of the DOJ prosecutors, which dismissed the perjury but indicted Castro and Tamano in the slander or grave oral defamation case, is a win-win solution. The SC victory did favor Castro and Tamano, but the DOJ prosecutors cannot have complainant Lieutenant Colonel Ronnel B. Dela Cruz of the Philippine Army go empty-handed. The latter did suffer from being defamed for being upended by Castro and Tamano. More than that, it is the image of the Philippine Army that is being tarnished by conducting a “false” and “deceptive” surrender ceremony. Hence, both the officer and the institution that he represents badly need such a win-win solution and a relief to the pain that both suffered.

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.