A fellow state abduction survivor vows to bring the case of the two surfaced Manila Bay activists to the attention of the international community at the ongoing 54th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Dyan Gumanao, abducted by suspected police and military agents at the Port of Cebu last January, said the case of Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano is another proof state agents are behind the “heinous abductions” of activists throughout the country.
“We salute the fortitude of Jhed and Jonila who, despite the violence and abduction they suffered in the hands of the military, revealed the truth to the public,” Gumanao said.
This morning, Castro and Tamano revealed in a press conference organized by the military, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), and the local government unit (LGU) of Plaridel, Bulacan they were abducted and coerced to sign an affidavit that they are rebel surrenderers.
The environmental activists, also known as the Orion 2, were abducted last September 2, in Orion, Bataan. The victims were held at the headquarters of the 70th Infantry Battalion in Dona Remedios Trinidad in Bulacan province where they said they were threatened and coerced by their abductors.
Gumanao said Castro and Tamano’s revelation is not an isolated incident as it also happened to her and her fellow activist and boyfriend Armand Dayoha last January.
The couple was rescued in another part of Cebu province after six days.
Gumanao is in Geneva as part of the Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch delegation to the UNHRC session.
The Philippine UPR Watch earlier said they are calling on the UNHRC to investigate the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government’s human rights record that is “indistinguishable” from the sordid history of the Rodrigo Duterte government in terms of weaponization of laws and red-tagging of activists and critics.
Meanwhile, various groups demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Castro and Tamano.
Students of Bulacan State University (BSU) where both are alumnae, stormed Plaridel City Hall demanding their freedom.
The Environmental Defenders Congress also said it demands the release of the two victims following the startling revelation of the two environmental activists.
“The irreversible harm inflicted by reclamation projects on our marine environments is a stark reality, and it is precisely this grave concern that Jhed and Jonila were courageously fighting against,” the group said.
“In view of the public and categorical repudiation by activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano of the government narrative in the presence of NTF-ELCAC, the military, LGU officials and the media, there is no legal basis to hold them any second longer and they should be freed and if restrained illegally, can walk away from their custodians,” National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers chairperson Atty. Edre Olalia said.
Earlier, human rights group Karapatan called on Plaridel Mayor Jocell Vistan Casaje to ensure the safe release of the two victims to their families, lawyers of choice, human rights and church groups or their friends.
Kodao sources said the two are not charged with any criminal or civil complaint and are currently at Mayor Casaje’s office awaiting resolution of how they will be released.
The military is reportedly preventing attempts to have the victims released.
Sources also said Makabayan bloc officials are in Plaridel to help ensure the safe and immediate release of the victims.
Outside the municipal hall, the police are dispersing the BSU students and other activists gathered. – with reports from Nuel M. Bacarra
This article was first published by KODAO Productions