KARAPATAN: Surface 2 environmental defenders abducted in Pangasinan

KARAPATAN condemns the abduction of two environmental human rights defenders in Pangasinan last March 24, 2024, as they joined calls of their families and colleagues for them to be surfaced immediately.

According to witnesses, Francisco “Eco” Dangla III and Joxielle “Jak” Tiong were riding a tricycle in Barangay Polo, San Carlos City, Pangasinan when a 4×4 grey pick-up vehicle overtook them at around 8:00 p.m. Three masked men aboard seized the keys to the tricycle and the tricycle driver’s cellphone. Eco and Jak were then manhandled and forced into the vehicle. Also involved in the abduction were two men riding a motorcycle, and whose faces were covered by bonnets. Before leaving, the abductors, who were all armed, warned the tricycle driver and the other passenger against reporting what they saw and heard (“wala kayong narinig at wala kayong nakita”).

Eco Dangla studied BA Philosophy at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City and is currently the spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) in Pangasinan. Jak Tiong, BS Accountancy graduate of Universidad de Dagupan (formerly Colegio de Dagupan), is the coordinator of Kabataan Partylist in Pangasinan and is likewise a newly appointed member of the Pangasinan Provincial Youth Development Council. Both Eco and Jak are affiliated with the Pangasinan People’s Strike for the Environment and the People’s Empowered Action on Care for the Environment (PEACENet) under Caritas. They led campaigns regarding the proposed black sand mining operations and nuclear power plants, among other environmental concerns, in the province. They actively engaged with social action networks of churches and had served as volunteers for the campaign of Leni Robredo and Kiko Pangilinan.

Prior to their abduction, Eco had been wrongly tagged as a “terrorist” and a “threats” by State security forces. In one report, the Regional Peace and Order Council of Region 1 listed Dangla as among the “threats” in the region in a presentation in 2019.

KARAPATAN is deeply disturbed by the similarities between this abduction and that of environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano, who were both seized in Orion, Bataan last September 2023. Jonila and Jhed, who were working to protect Manila Bay from harmful reclamation projects, were coerced into writing an affidavit stating that they were surrenderees. It will not be surprising at all if Eco and Jak are eventually presented by their abductors as alleged surrenderees instead of kidnapping victims, and forced to denounce and misrepresent their pro-people advocacies and disaffiliate from their organizations.

Worse, Eco and Jak may be slapped with non-bailable trumped-up charges and unjustly detained. Or they may even become victims of extrajudicial killing or may never be surfaced and end up as the 15th and 16th desaparecidos under the Marcos Jr. regime.

Time is therefore of the essence in determining Jak and Eco’s whereabouts and effecting their safe return.

KARAPATAN demands that Jak and Eco’s families and the human rights organizations assisting them be given access to all military and police camps as well as safehouses in and around their place of abduction. We also urge the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to look into this latest violation of Republic Act No. 10353 or the anti-enforced disappearances law, and 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.

Surface Eco Dangla and Joxielle Tiong!
Surface all desaparecidos!