September 9, 2023
Karapatan condemns in the strongest possible terms the abduction and disappearance of Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano, two young environmental defenders who went missing in Barangay Lati, Orion, Bataan on the night of September 2, 2023.
We view with grave concern the growing number of the involuntarily disappeared under the current regime. Jonila and Jhed are the ninth and tenth victims of enforced disappearance under Marcos Jr.
Jonila and Jhed are community volunteers of the Alyansa para sa Pagtatanggol sa Kabuhayan, Paninirahan, at Kalikasan ng Manila Bay (AKAP KA Manila Bay – Alliance for the Defense of Livelihood, Housing, and Environment in Manila Bay), a network of fisherfolk, church people, youth, and members of the academe.
Jonila was assisting Jhed in working with communities along the coastal areas of Bulacan and Bataan. Jhed was a program coordinator of “Turn the Tide, Now!”, a newly launched church-community partnership program of AKAP Ka Manila Bay. The two had already been in the area for three days conducting disaster needs and capacity assessment when armed men forced them into a silver gray Toyota Innova van as they were walking in front of the Orion Water District. The abduction was perpetrated along a busy and well-lit street and was witnessed by several community members.
Since 2022, Jonila had expressed fears of staying in her family home in Plaridel, Bulacan because a man who introduced himself as a soldier had made frequent visits purportedly to help Jonila “clear” her name. He left a number with Jonila’s mother, just in case Jonila would be ready to talk to him in person.
According to the findings of the fact-finding mission conducted on September 4-5, 2023, there is possible involvement of State actors in the abduction of Jonila and Jhed, as they have the motives, means and opportunity to do so and especially considering previous reported threats of a soldier against Jonila. The two young women environmental defenders were abducted in a violent manner, as witnessed by those in the community. A sandal and a pair of slippers left behind show that Jonila and Jhed had tried to resist their abductors.
On September 4, the members of the fact-finding mission accompanied Jonila’s family to the PNP Orion Municipal Police Station, where they intended to file a police blotter report, inquire on the updates on the police investigation, and to have them receive and accomplish the form entitled “Inquiry into a Reported Disappeared Person’s Whereabouts” as required by Republic Act No. 10353 or the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law. The PNP Orion at that time refused to make the police blotter report and did not share any update on their own investigation on the manner of abduction, dwelling only on the background of the victims and their organization. It is as if they believe that Jonila and Jhed deserved or should’ve expected such a fate because of their activist backgrounds.
Karapatan demands an immediate, independent and thorough investigation into the abduction of Jonila and Jhed as well as on the issues we have raised. We call for the safe return of Jonila and Jhed and stand in solidarity with their families and colleagues in these trying times.
We support the recommendations of the fact-finding mission members. We will continue to fight for justice for Jonila and Jhed, and all victims of human rights violations. We will not be silenced.
Karapatan Secretary General
You can read the FFM report here: