Climate and Environment

CHR probes activist abduction, urges stricter implementation of anti-disappearance law

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
CHR probes activist abduction, urges stricter implementation of anti-disappearance law
Composite photos shows Francisco “Eco” Dangla III and Axielle “Jak” Tiong.
Karapatan Central Luzon

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Wednesday expressed grave alarm over the reported abduction of two environmental defenders in Pangasinan as it called for the strict implementation of the law protecting people from enforced disappearances. 

The CHR said in a statement that it is conducting an investigation into the alleged abduction of Francisco “Eco” Dangla III and Axielle “Jak” Tiong in Brgy. Polo, San Carlos City. It also urged for an exhaustive search for the pair.

According to reports from rights groups, Dangla and Tiong were “severely mauled and dragged” into a waiting vehicle on Sunday evening. 

“Parallel to the State obligation to protect the rights of all Filipinos is the responsibility to resolve the growing susceptibility of human rights defenders to suspected enforced or involuntary disappearances,” the CHR said.

Rights groups say this is the 22nd and 23rd incident of enforced disappearance under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The CHR urged the government to step up its enforcement of the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012, which makes enforced disappearance punishable by life imprisonment. 

The commission stressed a stricter implementation of the law will “address these cases and ensure that solutions on the level of policy-making can be utilized.”

“Alongside the need to search for the whereabouts of missing human rights defenders is the identification of the perpetrators to hold them accountable under the eyes of the law,” it added. 

The CHR also called on the government to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the first universally legally binding human rights instrument concerning enforced disappearance. 

The convention provides that no one shall be subject to enforced disappearance without exception, and requires states to search for missing persons and ensure victims receive justice and reparations.

Dangers faced by green activists

Dangla and Tiong are founders of Pangasinan People’s Strike for the Environment, leading the opposition to waste-to-energy, coal, and coastal mining projects in the province. 

Groups said that Dangla and Tiong had experienced red-tagging, surveillance, intimidation and other forms of harassment prior to their abduction. 

“We take this opportunity to remind everyone that all acts of red-tagging put the welfare of individuals at risk and may endanger their life, liberty and security. It is, therefore, an outright violation of one’s human rights,” the CHR said. 

Filipino environment defenders are frequently targeted with intimidation and violence. They are also vilified and falsely labeled as members or supporters of the communist insurgency. 

The Philippines has been consistently listed the most dangerous country in Asia for land and environmental defenders, based on monitoring by watchdog Global Witness.

Over 700 individuals and organizations have signed a petition calling for the surfacing of Dangla and Tiong. 

Among the signatories were anti-reclamation activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano, who disappeared in Bataan on September 2, 2023 and resurfaced more than two weeks later at a government-organized press conference in Bulacan. During the conference, they accused the military of abducting them.

Rights group Karapatan said it was “deeply disturbed by the similarities” between the abduction of Dangla and Tiong and that of Castro and Tamano.

Human rights advocates on Tuesday began searching for Dangla and Tiong in military and police camps in Pangasinan. 

“[We urge the CHR to] exercise its mandate to conduct unannounced visits to all places of detention, both covert and overt, maintained by the military and police. Such secret detention facilities are illegal under the said law,” Karapatan said. 

vuukle comment




  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with