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International human rights group calls for the surfacing of two abducted women environmental activists in the Philippines

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International human rights group calls for the surfacing of two abducted women environmental activists in the Philippines

Media Statement

September 11, 2023

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) joins the call of progressive and human rights groups to surface Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano. The two women environmental activists were reportedly abducted last September 2 by four armed men aboard a sports utility vehicle in front of the Orion Water District in Brgy. Lati, Orion, Bataan in Central Luzon.

“It has been more than a week and the whereabouts of Castro and Tamano remain unknown. ICHRP condemns the non-cooperation of the Philippine National Police in helping the families of the victims. We also condemn the NTF-ELCAC’s opportunistic red-tagging of the two,” ICHRP Global Council Chairperson Peter Murphy said.

“The Orion PNP’s refusal to accept a police blotter and sign a desaparecido form submitted by Castro’s mother raises questions on their possible involvement in the abduction. They have also refused to show CCTV footage to the victims’ families, citing orders from police higher-ups. We would like to remind the PNP of their legal mandate to serve and protect their constituents,” continued Murphy.

On September 6, around eight (8) police from Plaridel, Bulacan in civilian uniform reportedly visited the home of Castro’s mother. Introducing themselves as intelligence officers, they asked about Castro’s educational background and organizational affiliation, supposedly for verification. Before they left one of the policemen introduced himself as Sgt. De Leon. Less than an hour later, her mother was again visited by a military officer also in civilian uniform.

Castro and Tamano are volunteers of AKAP KA Manila Bay. They were on their way to a consultation to prepare for a relief operation with affected farmers and fisherfolk in a community in Bataan when they were abducted.

AKAP Ka Manila Bay (Alyansa ng mga Mamamayan para sa Pagtatanggol sa Kabuhayan, Paninirahan at Kalikasan ng Manila Bay (Citizens’ Alliance to Defend Livelihood, Settlement and Environment in Manila Bay)) is an alliance of primarily marginalized residents along Manila Bay area convened by church people and fisherfolk organizations to forward issues concerning affected stakeholders.  

Ongoing reclamation projects around Manila Bay have been met with strong opposition from several residents, human rights and environmental groups, citing its disastrous effects to nature and to the affected residents’ livelihood and settlement. Prior to their abduction, Castro and Tamano have previously reported being surveilled. 

“Castro and Tamano’s abduction marks the 9th and 10th victims of enforced disappearance under the Marcos Jr. presidency. These disappearances are part of a broader War on Dissent which are central to the government’s counter-insurgency initiatives. Their case also adds to the long list of attacks on environmental activists, reaffirming the Philippines’ label as the deadliest country in Asia for environmental defenders. The recent days-long flooding in areas around Manila Bay may serve a lesson to the Philippine government to heed the clamor of its citizens to put a stop to the devastating reclamation projects in Manila Bay,“ concluded Murphy.  

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