January 31, 2024
We are sharing this letter by environmental activists Jhed Reiyanna Tamano and Jonila Castro to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression Irene Khan. Please see attached copy as well as the inline text of the letter below. Thank you very much.
Karapatan Public Information Desk
Dear Ms. Irene Khan,
We are grateful for the opportunity to meet you. After being released from the custody of the military, we have committed ourselves to tell our story to many others. Not too many of victims of abduction and fake surrender are able to do so, as many of them remain missing to this day or were never given the chance to speak for themselves.
At the same time, we owe it to fellow environmental and human rights defenders, the church workers, and the people in the communities especially the fisherfolks and farmers, who provided information and bravely searched for us since the day we were taken away up to the moment we were presented to the public. They did not back down from the call for us to be surfaced and be brought back to our families and communities, despite attempts of the military to make the public believe that we have become “surrenderees.”
The people’s movement and the ordinary folk gave us the courage to remain steadfast in the more than two weeks of captivity. With no news or information on what was happening outside, we strongly believed that somewhere, our families, colleagues, and communities were looking for us. We refused attempts by our captors to use us to put people in danger.
Meeting and being able to talk to the peasants and human rights defenders always offer a glimmer of hope for victims and survivors like us in our search for justice. However, there will always be challenges along the way — like the continuing surveillance and threats to our lives and security as well as the recent issuance of the Department of Justice of a resolution which states that we shall be charged with grave oral defamation or slander.
It is unfortunate that this decision of the prosecutors was made public at the same time that you are in the Philippines, at a time when government agencies are speaking of how the human rights situation here is all too well, and how they are always ready to be of assistance to those who had their rights violated. This has never been the case for us and many others.
We believe that this decision to file charges on us is a reprisal against us for speaking the truth. We earned their ire when their might and power could not cover up their lies that we confronted with our story. We believe they will do anything to silence us because this will cost them their ranks, their privileges, their reputation, their image before the Filipinos and the international community.
The threats continue, not only to our lives and safety but to hundreds, if not thousands more, of people — all of us who have become victims of a government policy of repression and crackdown of protest and dissent.
We will continue, along with the masses fighting for freedom, rights, and justice, despite these. We hope you continue to stand with us.
Jhed Reiyana Tamano (sgd)
Jonila Castro (sgd)