DOJ recommends filing of grave oral defamation vs abducted activists Tamano, Castro

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
DOJ recommends filing of grave oral defamation vs abducted activists Tamano, Castro
Environmental activists Jhed Tamano (L) and Jonila Castro (C) speak with media representatives at the Commission of Human Rights, in Quezon on September 19, 2023.
AFP / Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has recommended the filing of separate criminal charges of grave oral defamation against abducted environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano.

The two could face a maximum of six months imprisonment if found guilty. 

In a 15-page resolution penned by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Arnold Magpantay dated Dec. 12, 2023, it is said that the two activists’ sworn statements are different from their pronouncements during a press conference they held with government authorities after they emerged from their alleged abduction.

The DOJ also said that Castro and Tamano resorted to a press conference to allegedly embarrass the 70 Infantry Battalion (IB) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“Conspicuously, respondents ventilated the alleged abduction in the press conference, betraying their purpose to expose complainant and the AFP as well to greater latitude of public mockery, demonstrating their ill motive to prejudice them,” the resolution read.

“The slanderous words were obviously uttered with evident intent to strike deep into the character, honor and reputation of complainant and the AFP,” it added. 

Meanwhile, the perjury complaint, filed by Lt. Col. Ronnel dela Cruz, commander of the 70th IB, was dismissed.

Castro and Tamano were reportedly abducted on Sept. 2, 2023 in Bataan.

They surfaced on Sept. 19, 2023, after the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict presented them in a press conference supposedly to present them as “returnees” from the communist insurgency.

However, Castro and Tamano retracted their statements and affidavits during the said press conference and claimed that they were abducted by the military and forced to sign an affidavit of surrender.

The actions by the environmental activists during the said press conference resulted in the military’s filing of perjury charges. 

The environmental activists filed a writ of amparo on Sept. 29, 2023 before the Supreme Court, asking the court for a protection order against the respondent Dela Cruz.

Defend Manila Bay Network, meanwhile, slammed this decision of the DOJ saying that the indictment of the Justice department is a “major stumbling block” on the activists' advocacies for Manila Bay. 

“It is unfortunate that after Tamano and Castro survived the abduction and intense pressure of the military, they are now subjected to trumped up charges,” they said in a statement on Monday. — with reports from Gaea Katreena Cabico and Agence France-Presse

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