activist groups in PH

‘Bruised but alive’: Missing environmental activists in Pangasinan found safe

Jairo Bolledo

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‘Bruised but alive’: Missing environmental activists in Pangasinan found safe

SAFE. Environmental activists Eco Dangla and Jak Tiong were found safe on Thursday, March 28, after they went missing for three days.

Kalikasan PNE

Francisco 'Eco' Dangla III and Joxelle 'Jak' Tiong are reported abducted on March 24

MANILA, Philippines – The two missing environmental activists, who were reported abducted in Pangasinan, were found safe, according to a fact-finding team formed by progressive groups.

“After three days, environmental activists-church workers Francisco “Eco” Dangla III and Joxelle “Jak” Tiong are no longer in the hands of their abductors, bruised but alive. While they are still reeling from their harrowing ordeal, we hope that in due time, Eco and Jak will be able to fully recount the details of their abduction and subsequent release,” the fact-finding team said on Thursday, March 28.

Based on reports, Dangla and Tiong were abducted in Pangasinan on March 24. Witnesses said they saw two men who were forced to board an SUV on the evening of March 24 in Barangay Polo, San Carlos City, Pangasinan.

At the time, the two activists were convenors of the Pangasinan People’s Strike for the Environment, “who vocally defended the people and ecosystems of Pangasinan against the harms of coal-fired power plants, nuclear power plants, incinerator plants, and offshore mining in Lingayen Gulf,” the fact-finding team said. Prior to their abduction, Dangla and Tiong were red-tagged, according to the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.

“Their captors should desist from making any attempts to further harass them. We extend our gratitude to all those who supported calls to surface Eco and Jak. Your swift and resolute actions have been invaluable confronting this challenging time. To Eco and Jak and their families, we stand steadfast in solidarity throughout this difficult period,” the fact-finding team added.

‘Bruised but alive’: Missing environmental activists in Pangasinan found safe
Why this matters

Activists in the Philippines are often victims of several attacks, such as red-tagging and abduction.

Before Dangla and Tiong, two young environmental activists were also abducted last year. Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano, who were doing groundwork for a study on a reclamation project in Bataan province, were reported abducted by progressive groups in September 2023, prompting a Commission on Human Rights probe.

Later, security officials announced that Castro and Tamano were already “safe and sound” after they allegedly “voluntarily surrendered” to the military. But when the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) presented 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 by Lieutenant Colonel Ronnel dela Cruz of the Philippine Army.

Although the Department of Justice dismissed the perjury complaint against the two, prosecutors pushed a slander or grave oral defamation case against them for “embarrassing and putting [the Armed Forces of the Philippines] in bad light.” Castro and Tamano were ordered arrested in February, but posted bail. Their case is still being tried.

Castro and Tamano were the 14th documented case of “fake surrenders,” where people are abducted and coerced into executing an affidavit of surrender.

Environmental activists in the Philippines also get killed for their work. For the 10th straight year, the Philippines was named the most dangerous country in Asia for land and environmental defenders, according to nongovernmental organization Global Witness. Of the 16 killings of environmental defenders in Asia, at least 11 were recorded in the Philippines.

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“This pattern of attacks against environmental activists, human rights defenders and whole communities, in the context of the prevalent climate of impunity and socio-economic ills, shows that the rights situation in the Philippines remains dire under the Marcos Jr. administration,” the fact-finding team said. – Rappler.com

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author

Jairo Bolledo

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