Green activists who defied NTF-ELCAC seek writ of amparo before SC


September 29, 2023 | 10:38am

MANILA, Philippines — Two environmental activists and their lawyers have filed a writ of protection before the Supreme Court more than a week after they publicly bared their ordeal from an alleged military abduction.  

Environmental defenders Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro and their counsel from the Free Legal Assistance Group filed a writ of amparo and habeas data with prayer for protection before the High Court on Thursday.

If granted, the two women will be granted protection from members of the 70th Infantry Battalion and members of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) by barring the government officials from approaching them and their families in less than one kilometer.

The petition also seeks to declare the NTF-ELCAC and the military personnel as “responsible and accountable for the enforced disappearance and illegal detention” of Castro and Tamano. 

Tamano and Castro appeared to go off-script during an NTF-ELCAC press conference on September 20 by categorically denying the government’s claims that they surrendered to authorities.

Castro said that they were both abducted by military personnel on board a van and that they were forced to admit to being deserters of the communist movement in their sworn affidavit, which she said was signed inside a military camp.

Videos of the press conference have now been removed from the Facebook pages of the Plaridel municipal office and the NTF-ELCAC.

After several calls from rights groups to surface the activists — who were missing for at least two weeks — the National Security Council and police earlier said that Castro and Tamano were being held in a safe house after they sought help from authorities. 

Human rights group Karapatan said that “the exposé” of Castro and Tamano “speaks volumes for the many victims of abduction and enforced disappearance, the wave of attacks against activists and rights defenders under the current dispensation.”

For the 10th straight year, watchdog Global Witness named the Philippines as the most dangerous country in Asia for environmental defenders.

Castro and Tamano were involved in helping coastal communities affected by development projects around Manila Bay at the time they were abducted.

— Cristina Chi with reports by Gaea Katreen Cabico


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