“Now that the truth is out, we demand that everyone involved in the abduction, enforced disappearance and fake surrender of Castro and Tamano be held accountable, especially NTF-ELCAC whose malicious and baseless accusations, harmful rhetoric and activities against ordinary folks […] have enabled and encouraged the commission of countless human rights violations.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Human rights group Karapatan said that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) should be held accountable for what happened to Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano (also known as the Bataan 2).
“Now that the truth is out, we demand that everyone involved in the abduction, enforced disappearance and fake surrender of Castro and Tamano be held accountable, especially NTF-ELCAC whose malicious and baseless accusations, harmful rhetoric and activities against ordinary folks […] have enabled and encouraged the commission of countless human rights violations,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.
“The perpetrators, including those who conspired to cover up what really happened in Orion, Bataan on the night of Sept. 2, 2023 should be charged, prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law.”
Palabay added that accountability extends to those who played prominent roles “in what would have been an elaborate and sinister cover-up of Jonila and Jhed’s abduction, enforced disappearance and fake or forced surrender had not the victims courageously turned the tables on their abductors.”
She also said that “deeper probes should be conducted by credible and independent bodies to determine the culpability of other personalities in this despicable crime.”
“Following the principle of command responsibility, there is no way that NTF-ELCAC Chairperson, Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., along with co-vice chairpersons Vice Pres. Sara Duterte and National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano, can squirm their way out of accountability for this and many other human rights violations under their watch,” Palabay said.
Palabay said that perpetrators behind Castro and Tamano’s abduction and illegal detention are liable for violating Republic Act No. 10353 (Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act).
This law prohibits solitary confinement, holding persons incommunicado or other similar forms of detention. Those found guilty of it will be punished with life imprisonment.
Palabay demanded that state authorities disclose the location of the safe house in Pampanga where Jonila and Jhed were brought after being abducted in Bataan, as well as identify other secret detention facilities being maintained by the police and the military. “There should be full disclosure and dismantling of such secret detention places.”
During the plenary debates on its proposed 2024 budget, the Department of National Defense (DND) said that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be filing a perjury case against Castro and Tamano, insisting that they “voluntarily surrendered.”
In reaction, Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) lawyer Dino de Leon, counsel of Bataan 2, said that they are prepared to protect Castro and Tamano’s rights. He also called on the DND, the AFP and the anti-communist task force to be “consistent with their mandate to protect civilians.” He stressed that the DND should not peddle lies and should not stick “with contrived stories of its erring members.”
Palabay reiterated the need for NTF-ELCAC to be abolished and defunded. She said that the abduction of Castro and Tamano are more than enough basis for their long-standing demand.
“The ongoing budget deliberations in Congress provide us an opportunity to amplify this demand. Not a single centavo of taxpayers’ money should be used to fund an agency consisting of human rights violators and professional liars,” she said.
She stressed that the people should also demand the junking of all confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) in the national budget. The sole purpose of the said funds, according to her, “is to provide State forces the wherewithal to surveil, profile, harass, red-tag and persecute dissenters and set them up for fake surrender, unjust arrest and detention on trumped-up charges, or for involuntary disappearance and extrajudicial killing.”
“Besides serving as funds for trampling on the people’s constitutional rights, the CIFs, being largely exempt from audit and scrutiny, are a convenient source of what amounts to pork barrel funds for corrupt politicians,” she said.