Young women abduction survivors: NTF-ELCAC violates rights, freedom of expression and opinion in PH

“Our abduction and disappearance, as well as the experiences of the many victims of fake surrender, are testament to the policy and practice of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in stifling freedoms and violating the rights of the people. To advocate for freedom of expression and opinion is to call for its abolition.”

Young women environmental activists Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro, survivors of abduction and enforced disappearance, reacted to statements made by the NTF-ELCAC that UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion Irene Khan’s visit to the Philippines is an “opportunity” for them to highlight their “efforts in protecting and promoting the rights of every human being in the country.”

The two young women recommended the NTF-ELCAC’s abolition to Khan in a meeting with her yesterday, January 23, 2024, as they also emphasized the need to end to fake surrenders, torture, and military operations in fishing communities that are affected by the Manila Bay reclamation project of the Marcos Jr. administration.

Both Tamano and Castro said that the NTF ELCAC are “true liars,” after saying, according to Undersecretary Ernesto Torres, Jr., that they are “committed to the rule of law” and they “strongly condemn all forms of abuse or violence against women and children.”

”These are all lies. State security forces and the Marcos Jr. government have incorrigibly justified our abduction, torture, and the threats they committed against us, and they continue to do so to others. They held us for days, coercing us to lie and make false claims that we have surrendered, then they attacked us and called us liars when we spoke the truth. They are hypocrites who have no real concern for people’s rights and are only quick to protect those who serve their fascist agenda,” said Tamano.

Tamano and Castro continue to face charges of perjury before the Department of Justice filed by officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which they believe is in retaliation for speaking on the truth about their abduction.

“They continue to violate our rights to this day. Even after our release, the threats continued. They slapped us with baseless charges for speaking of the truth and they continued with their repeated terrorist-tagging against us. This is not just our story, this is the story of many victims of fake surrenders. This has got to stop,” said Castro.

Both Castro and Tamano said that the continuing existence of the NTF-ELCAC, as the main machinery of the government that implements its widespread terror-tagging and vilification of individuals and persons, under the Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. administration, have resulted to a long list of right violations that have endangered the lives and security of people.

“Constructive dialogue is possible, when the government is willing to be accountable for its actions. The NTF-ELCAC has remained untouched, after more than five years of notoriously violating human rights, and its claims of protecting rights are empty, if not laughable. It has to be abolished now,” said Castro.