Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano’s fighting back

Graphics by Venmar Cecille/Bulatlat

MANILA — On Sept. 4, news broke out that two young women environmental activists were abducted by suspected state forces in Orion, Bataan.

Human rights and environmental groups immediately conducted a fact-finding mission (FFM) in the community where the two were abducted. The group interviewed residents who witnessed the abduction and testified that four masked and armed individuals forced Jhed and Jonila into a van. They added that the two screamed for help, tried to escape, and left behind their footwear, indicating that there was a struggle.

Read: ‘State agents may be involved in the abduction of 2 envi defenders,’ probe reveals

Days later, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) said the findings of the FFM are not true and that the two are members of the New People’s Army who surrendered to the authorities.

On Sept. 19, the day the NTF-ELCAC organized the press conference for Jhed and Jonila to purportedly “tell the truth.” And so they did, saying that they were abducted by the military.

On the same day, Jhed and Jonila were turned over to the Commission on Human Rights.

Read: 2 environmental activists defy military, expose abduction
Read: After being released from military custody, 2 activists vow to continue fight vs reclamation

Photo by Bulatlat

The two thanked all those who helped them and those who ensured their safety and assisted them as they continue to face legal battles filed by the state against them.

The two had just begun their work in the coastal communities in Bataan where numerous planned development projects will affect the communities and their livelihood. They are investigating the impacts of the reclamation projects in the communities.

Read: Activists freed from military custody grateful to supporters, say fight is not over
Read: Victims of abduction recount how and why they lived with Bataan coastal communities

Despite the filing of a perjury case against Jhed and Jonila, they continue standing with the poor whose lives would be put in peril with the reclamation of Manila Bay. (

This story is supported by the German Embassy Manila as part of Bulatlat’s project titled, “Advancing human rights reporting in the Philippines as a tool for upholding gender fairness, democracy and accountability.”

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