Tell it to SunStar: Supporting abduction survivors Jonila Castro, Jhed Tamano

By Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general
Tell it to SunStar: Supporting abduction survivors Jonila Castro, Jhed Tamano

We strongly support surfaced environmental defenders Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro as they filed their petition for the writs of amparo and habeas data at the Supreme Court through their lawyers, and urged the high court to grant the petition immediately.

A writ of amparo is urgent and necessary as a legal remedy to protect the life, security, and liberty of Jhed and Jonila. Over the past week since the two were falsely presented to the media as “surrenderees,” we have seen how the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and government officials continued to red-tag, vilify, and threaten them with charges, among others. The writs are but a way to protect them from this shameless cover-up of their abduction.

The need to protect Jhed and Jonila from these threats and reprisals from state security forces, is similar to that of the other rare cases of survivors of abduction and enforced disappearance, like the farmer-brothers Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo.

The Manalo brothers, abducted and held against their will by forces under the command of convicted retired general Jovito Palparan, have experienced continued harassment and threats after they escaped from their captors, and when they, especially Raymond, stood as witness in court in the abduction and disappearance of University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño.

Defending Jhed and Jonila from such threats is a step towards attaining justice, and holding accountable the perpetrators who enjoy power and might, and access to millions of government funds to sow terror among the people. This sends a message against abductors and human rights violators to keep their dirty hands off the two young women human rights defenders.

State agents should stop their retaliatory actions and reprisals against those who seek justice and accountability.

Aside from the Manalo brothers, Karapatan human rights workers have also experienced retaliatory actions, including a perjury case, from the NTF-Elcac when we impleaded many of their top officials in a petition for the writs of amparo and habeas data.

We want to point out the cases of the threats against the family and mother of Ana Mariz Lemita-Evangelista, one of the slain human rights defenders during the 2021 Bloody Sunday police raids in Southern Tagalog, when they pursued the filing of murder complaints against the perpetrators, and Siche Gandinao, daughter-in-law of slain Bayan Muna leader Dalmacio Gandinao, who was shot dead by motorcycle-riding men weeks after she met with former United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Prof. Philip Alston in 2007.

These forms of reprisals when victims and their loved ones exercise their right to redress are acts to cover-up the crimes of those in power. These illegal and dastardly acts should stop.

Continued vigilance and militancy, therefore, is necessary to truly seek protection and defense of the rights not only of Jhed and Jonila, but all those under threat by the state security forces of the Marcos Jr. administration. As these two brave women have showed us, we must speak the truth about these attacks against our rights and dare to challenge the prevailing climate of impunity. It is a matter of survival.


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