Jhed and Jonila: Faces of fake forced surrender

This article is available in Pilipino

The National Task Force-Elcac was was cut down to size in its own press conference on September 19 when Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro bravely exposed their abduction, detention, threat and coercion by the military to “surrender.”

Environmental activists Tamano and Castro were abducted in Orion, Bataan on September 2. According to witnesses, the two struggled against armed men forcing them to board a van. One even attempted to climb a nearby house’s gate but failed to escape. Only their slippers were left as hint of their violen abduction. Inside the van, soldiers introduced themselves as surveillance agents of the 70th IB. For 14 days, the military denied having the two in custody.

Shattering the lies

“The truth is we were abducted by the military,” Castro and Tamano fearlessly declared, stupefying the 70th IB commander beside them. “The contents of the affidavit (that we supposedly surrendered) are false as they were prepared and signed inside a military camp.”

Even at the onset of the search by organizations for Tamano and Castro on September 4, police clearly had full knowledge of their whereabouts. PNP Orion blocked Castro’s mother Rose from filing a blotter report and refused to sign the Desaparecidos Form signifying they do not have the two in custody.

According to the elder Castro, authorities knew how to contact her daughter as they frequently visit her introducing themselves as soldiers and NTF-Elcac agents to get her to convince her child to “surrender.” She asserts her child’s innocence and supports her activism which merely helps her fellow people.

Struggle against reclamation

Castro and Tamano were investigating the effects of the Manila Bay reclamation project on the livelihood of fisherfolk and on the environment. Castro decided to be a full-time AKAP Ka Manila Bay volunteer after suffering the difficulties of studying during the lockdown. Tamano is a volunteer of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum who finished business economics but skipped graduation rites because time with the community is more important for her. Both know the community residents’ difficulties brought about by projects like the San Miguel Corporation’s New Manila International Airport in Bulacan.

They were preparing for relief operations in Bataan before their abduction. Rapid flooding in Bataan became more conspicuous during the past two typhoons. Apart from this, fisherfolk in Bataan have long been suffering from low income due to offshore and seabed quarrying.

Last June, the Bataan provincial council approved the 235-hectare Mariveles Bay reclamation. Through the Premium Megastructures, Inc., the largest “transshipment hub” will be constructed.

“We need to focus on people’s issues, the end to reclamation and the defense of fisherfolks’ livelihood in Manila Bay”, Castro asserts after expressing gratitude to the campaigners and supporters for their surfacing and release.

According to the group Kalikasan, the abduction and fake forced surrender of Castro and Tamano aim to cover up the destructive effects of projects by the government and large corporations. But the state failed to crush the dedication of environment defenders to expose this truth.

‘Surface the Desaparecidos’

“We are not the sole desaparecidos. Thus we raise the call for the surfacing of all the victims of forced disappearance because we know the perpetrators of this scheme,” said Castro in the press conference held in the Commission on Human Rights after they were released from military custody. The two were welcomed by other activists, lawyers, human rights defenders and their families.

At present, eight adbucted individuals remain missing and unsurfaced. Those surfaced were also being made to parade as fake surrenderers like Castro and Tamano, and Dyan Gumanao, Armand Dayoha and Steve Tauli.

Jhed and Jonila: Faces of fake forced surrender