Press Release

September 20, 2023

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) hails Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano for speaking the truth in a press conference hosted and prepared by the National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).  The two environmental activists were abducted last September 2 in the province of Bataan, Philippines but maliciously reported by NTF-ELCAC as NPA surrenderees.

“Jonila and Jhed publicly declared that they were abducted and threatened to sign an affidavit while inside a military camp. This belies the NTC-ELCAC’s narrative that they voluntarily surrendered to authorities,” said Peter Murphy, ICHRP Global Council Chairperson.

In that press conference organized by the NTF-ELCAC in the Municipal Hall of Plaridel, Bulacan, the two testified to being abducted by the military, threatened with their lives and forced to sign an affidavit admitting that they were NPA surrenderees.

“Their revelation exposes the convoluted narrative concocted by the NTF-ELCAC and the military. We hold government authorities involved in the abduction accountable for the mental and possibly physical torture, coercion, intimidation, and illegal arrest and detention of Jonila and Jhed. The involvement of the mayor of Plaridel, Bulacan in the press conference exemplified the ineffectiveness and danger of involving the local government and other civilian agencies as part of the whole of nation approach embodied in the National Security Policy of Bongbong Marcos government, ” continued Murphy.

Jonila Castro said in front of local government officials, military, and media: “Ang totoo po, dinukot kami ng mga militar, sakay ng van. Napilitan din kami na sumurrender dahil pinagbantaan yung buhay namin. Yun po ang totoo. (The truth is we were abducted by the military aboard a van. We were forced to surrender because they threatened to kill us. That is the truth.) 

Abductions and forced disappearances of activists in the Philippines continue to run rampant with the current President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr’s administration. Just recently, on September 15, 2023, peasant organizer Bea Lopez and tricycle driver Peter Agrabante were reportedly abducted in Sipalay City in the province of Negros Occidental. On the morning of September 16, Agrabante’s body was reportedly found near a cliff in Basay, Negros Oriental. Indigenous rights activists Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz “Bazoo” De Jesus who were abducted last April 28 also remain missing.

“We congratulate the Filipino people in their relentless effort to seek the whereabouts of the victims and amplify incidents of enforced disappearances and other human rights and international humanitarian law violations. This led to the surfacing of Jonila and Jhed by the military and NTF-ELCAC, and their subsequent release after the freedom-loving Filipino people trooped to the Plaridel Municipal Hall to demand their release. The truth backed by people’s action set them free,” added Murphy.  

“We urge the international community to amplify the calls to surface and release all victims of enforced disappearances. We demand justice for the abduction of Jonila and Jhed along with all victims of enforced disappearances and other human rights and international humanitarian law violations in the Philippines. We reiterate our call to abolish NTF-ELCAC and junk the Anti-Terror Law,” concluded Murphy.

For comment: Peter Murphy, Chairperson, ICHRP Global Council +61 418 312 301