AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People demands the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to immediately and safely release Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano.

“There is no legal basis to keep them under military custody, especially after it was revealed by Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano themselves that they were abducted by the military, forced to surrender and speak against their organizations under duress,” said Cleng Julve, Campaigns Officer of AGHAM. “The truth will always prevail. Today’s press conference exposes the blatant lies being peddled by the NTF-ELCAC against progressive organizations opposing environmentally destructive development projects and anti-people policies and programs of the government.”

Under the Marcos administration, around 15 activists have been abducted, some of them are yet to be surfaced including Dexter Capuyan and Bazoo de Jesus. “Enforced disappearances and surrenders are not new in the NTF-ELCAC playbook,” continued Julve. “In order to vilify and invalidate the advocacies of different progressive individuals and organizations, the state is actively red-tagging and attacking them. This manifests in the fact that the Philippines remains as the deadliest country in Asia for 10 years and one of the deadliest countries in the world for environmental defenders. Environmental defenders who oppose destructive mining, mega dams, and reclamation projects all over the country experience state surveillance, harassment, enforced disappearances, arrests through trumped up charges, and worst of all, killings.”

AGHAM and other environmental groups continue to assert that Jhed and Jonila are environmental and fisherfolk advocates who are campaigning for the conservation and protection of Manila Bay, working with coastal communities in Bulacan and Bataan affected by reclamation and other coastal development projects, contrary to what the NTF-ELCAC is trying to paint them to be. Currently, these coastal communities are facing displacement due to projects such as the New Manila International Airport (NMIA) and Manila Bay Integrated Flood Control, Coastal Defense and Expressway (MBIFCCDE) of San Miguel Corporation. The blatant lies spun by the NTF-ELCAC against anti-reclamation activists and organizations must be condemned.

“The culture of impunity has to stop as the lies of the State’s whole-of-nation approach are now exposed by the truth of the statement of their latest victim of human rights violation,” added Julve. “There is no space for an institution that sells itself as the arm of democracy when it stands on the oppression of the people. Time and again, the call of the people to abolish NTF-ELCAC is justified as it never functioned in the protection of the rights of the people, rather, their oppression.”AGHAM calls on the Commission of Human Rights to intervene and facilitate the immediate and safe release of Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano. “There should be an impartial and transparent investigation regarding the abduction of the two activists. The NTF-ELCAC including the 7th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and National Security Council must be held accountable for their lies and also for red-tagging and  threatening to sue organizations who are genuinely advocating for the safety of the abducted activists,” ended Julve. ###


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