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Home Statement On the Abduction and Release of Jonila and Jhed

On the Abduction and Release of Jonila and Jhed

On the Abduction and Release of Jonila and Jhed

Migrante Canada Statement

19 September 2023

What was planned by the NTF-ELCAC and the NSC as a press conference to present their human trophies turned sideways and sour when the two young women environmental activists in their custody, JONILA CASTRO and JHED TAMANO, threw away the script given to them by the military and bravely told their simple truths.

These were: That they did not surrender but were kidnapped by the military on Sept 2 in Orion, Bataan province and kept in a safehouse, hidden from the public and the media, whereabouts unknown to their families, lawyers, colleagues and human rights groups. That they were not surrenderees from the CPP-NPA but activists helping fisherfolk and the coastal communities opposed to the government’s reclamation project in Manila Bay. That in the weeks that they were kept by the military, they signed affidavits provided by the NTF-ELCAC under duress, without legal counsel, surely at the pain of prolonged detention, mental and physical torture, even death. Simply put, they did go willingly, they did not give their consent!

The abduction of Jonila and Jhed exposed the systematic, deliberate, malicious work of the National Security Council, the NTF-ELCAC and its officers, the Army’s 70th IB, and the PNP of Bataan and made them, even briefly, the public’s laughingstock. It exposed their captors to be liars, peddlers of false news, and willing tools of the fascist regime, helped by the culture of impunity. But it also shone the spotlight on the collective hope, voices, and actions of the families, lawyers, people’s organizations, including overseas Filipinos, to find them and demand justice.

The release of Jonila and Jhed is not enough. Will Marcos Jr., President, Commander-in-Chief, and the Chairperson of the NTF-ELCAC (also the Sectary of Agriculture!) do the right thing? Speak up, denounce what happened, and command the military to stop these violations, order full investigations, and pay damages for the pain the military inflicted on the families and organizations? Order all agencies, civilian and military, to surface all the people who they have abducted and disappeared, and if they cannot be surfaced, to tell the families and the public where they are buried, regardless of under which regime they were caught and forcibly disappeared? Will Marcos, Jr. do that?

The press conference and the subsequent release of Jonila and Jhed come a couple of days before the 51st anniversary of the declaration of martial law. It is a grim reminder that Marcos Jr. does not need to officially declare martial law to terrorize the people. He does not need this to commit gross violations of human rights against activists, critics, people’s organizations, order the bombings of indigenous lands, sanction the extrajudicial killings, abductions and enforced disappearances, file malicious charges in court against activists, freeze people’s assets, allow development aggression on indigenous lands, continue to hold political detainees behind bars, and many more evil hallmarks of a dictatorship.

Now is the time more than ever to amplify our voices, march boldly on the streets, raise our banners and placards, light the candles to honour those who died and are missing, remember those who continue to be behind bars, and to strike fear into the hearts of those who want to silence us. We call on overseas Filipinos to join the events to mark the 51st anniversary of Martial law in your cities.

Migrante Canada and its membership are happy to see Jonila and Jhed reunited with their families and the communities that they serve. We are inspired by their fighting words when they were released as “This is proof of the correctness of our collective fight against reclamation, alongside the fisherfolk communities— a sign for us to continue our struggle.” ###

Photo credit: Bulatlat