Audrei Jeremy Mendador and Jillian Marielle Tiraña

Amid the looming threat of perjury cases, the legal counsel representing the recently released environmental activists, Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro, responded to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC)’s statement, affirming their commitment to safeguarding the rights and safety of the two activists. 

Photo Courtesy of Jire Carreon/Rappler / GabrielaWomenPL/X

In an interview with ANC on September 22, Atty. Dino de Leon questioned the sincerity of the NTF-ELCAC.

"If they are really sincere in saying that they are resolute in trying to help Jhed and Jonila, then they shouldn't be threatening them with filing charges," De Leon stressed.

He added that Castro and Tamano are very young activists and “they shouldn’t be ruining the lives of young activists who are just fighting for what they think is right, who are just fighting for their advocacies.”

This statement came after the NTF-ELCAC said that the safety and well-being of the two activists are of “primordial importance” despite being “saddened by the unfortunate turn of events” during the press conference. 

"Nevertheless, we remain steadfast in ensuring the safety of the two and committed to upholding their rights as individuals under any circumstances. Their utterances during the LGU-facilitated press conference will definitely be looked into with the support of the other civilian agency members of the Task Force," the NTF-ELCAC said.

The NTF-ELCAC, on September 20, stated that the two activists may be charged for perjury. On the same day, Negros Occidental Rep. Mercedez Alvarez mentioned during the plenary debates on the Department of National Defense (DND)’s proposed 2024 budget that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) plans to file perjury charges against Castro and Tamano.

On September 19, the two activists confirmed that they were abducted and detained by the AFP’s 70th Infantry Battalion in a press conference held by the NTF-ELCAC at Plaridel Municipal Hall in Bulacan.

"Ang totoo po e dinukot kami ng mga militar sakay ng van. Napilitan din kami na sumurrender dahil pinagbantaan ‘yung buhay namin. 'Yon po ang totoo,” Castro revealed.

She reaffirmed that they did not willingly submit themselves to custody, disclosing that a false affidavit was made by the military.

Authorities, on September 15, reported that the two activists had “voluntarily surrendered” last September 12.

Tamano, 22, and Castro, 21, are community organizers who are assisting communities in Manila Bay in their fight against reclamation projects, which include the New Manila Airport, Manila Bay Integrated Flood Control, Coastal Defense and Expressway, and the Northern Access Link Expressway. Due to these reclamation projects in the area, Castro has reasoned that fisherfolk are losing their primary source of income.

Edited by Khezyll Galvan