Groups hail SC’s protection orders on abducted activists Tamano, Castro

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
Groups hail SC�s protection orders on 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 — Environmental groups applauded the issuance of the Supreme Court (SC) of protection writs on abducted environmental activists Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro.

The SC on Thursday said that it granted writs of amparo and habeas data, along with a temporary protection order on the environmental activists as there was an “established violation to the life, liberty or security” against them.

In a statement by Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment on Thursday, the group said that the decision of the high court “sets a precedent for safeguarding environmental defenders and ensuring justice for those who threaten their well-being.”

“We will continue to demand justice for all the desaparecidos and call for accountability from those who violate our rights,” the group said in a statement posted on X (formerly Twitter).

Rep. France Castro (ACT-Teachers) said that the SC’s decision is a “strong message”  that violations against environmental defenders will not be tolerated.

"It is a victory for justice and human rights that the Supreme Court has recognized the need to provide legal protection to these young activists who have been allegedly abducted by the AFP," Castro said in a statement on Thursday.

“We will continue to support and stand in solidarity with these brave activists, ensuring that their voices are heard and that justice is served. The safety and security of those who advocate for environmental protection should always be upheld," she added. 

A writ of amparo protects individuals whose right to life, liberty, or security is violated or threatened by unlawful acts of public officials, employees or private entities.

A writ of habeas data, meanwhile, protects a person’s right to control information against them that was illegally obtained. 

The environmental activists still face a slander charge, after the Department of Justice (DOJ) dismissed the perjury charges which were filed by Lt. Col. Ronnel Dela Cruz, commanding officer of the Philippine Army 70th battalion.

In response, rights group Karapatan and other groups urged the Justice department to dismiss the “trumed-up” charges against Tamano and Castro.

However, DOJ spokesman Mico Clavano said that the agency cannot “abitrarily dismiss” the case despite the high court’s ruling in favor of the environmental activists. 

“We’ve always been evidence based eh, ang proseso naman talaga sa criminal cases ay if the evidence is enough to support the elements of the crime, hindi naman tayo pwede mag-dismiss din. That goes for all cases, including this case,” Clavano said in an interview with Philstar.com.

(We've always been evidence-based, right, and the process in criminal cases is really if the evidence is enough to support the elements of the crime, we can't dismiss it either. That goes for all cases, including this one.)

Tamano and Castro were reportedly abducted by armed men in Bataan on Sept. 2, 2023. They “resurfaced” two weeks later and presented as rebel returnees by the National Task Force to end Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). 

The pair accused the military of abducting them, countering NTF-ELCAC’s claim that they are members of the communist insurgency. 

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