Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (PNE) has strongly criticized a recent decision by the Department of Justice (DOJ) concerning the case of abducted anti-reclamation activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano.
In a resolution dated December 12, 2023, the DOJ recommended the dismissal of the perjury complaint against Castro and Tamano while proposing separate charges for grave oral defamation.
“It is outrageous for the DOJ to come out with a decision that essentially legitimizes the continued attacks against environmental defenders Jhed and Jonila,” said Jon Bonifacio, the national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
“Instead of seeing any semblance of justice for Jhed and Jonila after their horrifying ordeal, their military captors are being given additional ammunition,” he added.
The activists went missing in Orion town, Bataan province on September 2. After weeks, the military presented them as rebel surrenderees and admitted that the activists were in government custody.
In a press briefing arranged by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in Plaridel town, Bulacan province on September 19, Castro and Tamano, revealed that they were “forced to sign” an affidavit stating that they were members of the communist party.
Kalikasan PNE characterized the DOJ’s decision as “tantamount to judicial harassment” and part of the “state policy of silencing environmental and human rights defenders under the Marcos Jr. administration.”
Bonifacio stressed that the decision is not just about the two activists but also “about the broader assault on environmental activism”.
“The Marcos Jr. administration seems determined to stifle dissent and undermine those striving to protect our natural resources,” he said.
The group has appealed to Ms. Irene Khan, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, currently conducting an official visit to the Philippines until February 2, to take notice of the DOJ’s decision.