Freedom of Bataan activists, won through courage and militance
Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano, are now free from their armed kidnappers—the officers and agents of the 70th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the (AFP). Together with human rights defenders, and the vigilant and determined democratic organizations, they won their freedom by bravely standing up for their rights.
Jonila and Jhed exposed the truth about their suffering in the hands of the fascist criminals who abducted, secretly detained, denied them their rights and subjected them to severe mental and emotional torture and threats to their lives.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) joins the Filipino people in holding Marcos, key officers of the National Task Force (NTF)-Elcac including Sara Duterte, and the top echelon of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) responsible for gross abuses of human rights and grave crimes in connection with the illegal detention and torture of Jonila and Jhed.
The entire world saw how Jonila and Jhed mustered all the courage to reveal their ordeal right in the middle of the press conference organized by their kidnappers and cohorts in the NTF-Elcac. With voices quivering and breaking up, they spoke about how armed agents of the military forcibly abducted them, and how they were forced to sign a sworn statement under duress while inside a military camp. With those words, they broke free from the chains and shackles of their military captivity.
The NTF-Elcac and the AFP are now left weaving tangled-up stories to obscure the facts surrounding the abduction, secret detention and coercion of Jonila and Jhed. In a desperate attempt to avoid criminal culpability and continue fooling the public, they are now issuing threats of legal action and retaliation against the two. In doing so, however, the AFP and its cohorts are only revealing themselves the fascist terrorists that they really are, who rule by injecting fear and terror into the hearts of the people.
The ordeal of Jonila and Jhed reveals the dirty tactics of state terrorism being employed by the AFP and the NTF-Elcac against activists and critics of the anti-people policies of the Marcos regime. Political repression under Marcos is all-out. Alongside extrajudicial killings, massacres, unlawful arrests, torture, forced surrender drive, and other dirty methods of political repression, there have been increasing number of similar cases of abductions carried out by armed state agents against activists. In majority of these cases, the victims remain missing to this day.
Just the other day, while Jonila and Jhed were exposing their sufferings, news broke out that another social activist, Bea Lopez, 26 years old, was abducted together with tricycle driver, Peter Agravante in Sipalay, Negros Occidental, on the morning of September 15. The lifeless body of Agravante was found last Sunday morning in Basay town, Negros Oriental. According to local human rights groups, Lopez remains missing to this day.
Lopez’s names add to the growing list of activists disappeared by Marcos’ fascist henchmen since 2022, which include Elgene Mungcal and Ma. Elena ‘Cha’ Cortez Pampoza who were abducted on July 3 in Tarlac; Elizabeth ‘Loi’ Magbanua and Alipio ‘Ador’ Juat, abducted on May 3, 2022 in Valenzuela, Bulacan; Gene “Bazoo” De Jesus and Dexter Capuyan, abducted last May in Taytay, Rizal; and others.
Earlier this year, Dyan Gumanao and Armand Dayoha were abducted, but released after a week amid intense public condemnation. They revealed how they were pressured to “surrender,” similar to what happened to Jonila and Jhed. In Cagayan, Michael Cedrick Casano and Patricia Nicole Cierva, were abducted, secretly detained and tortured, before they “surrendered” 10 days later.
Despite grave threats to their lives, Jonila and Jhed stood their ground and chose to remain on the side of the people, particularly the fisherfolk, whom they have been fighting together with against land reclamation projects in Manila Bay which have caused destruction to the environment and people’s livelihood.
The courage and militance of Jonila and Jhed to fight for their rights is clearly worthy of praise and emulation. They held on to their principles and stood for their commitment and vocation of serving the Filipino people, especially the downtrodden masses, to defend their rights and fight for their aspirations of justice and freedom.