Philippine govt asks Supreme Court to withdraw protection order for green activists

Jojo Riñoza and Gerard Carreon
Philippine govt asks Supreme Court to withdraw protection order for green activists Environmental activists Jhed Tamano (left) and Jonila Castro (right) arrive at the Commission on Human Rights headquarters 17 days after they were allegedly kidnapped by the military, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Sept. 19, 2023.
Gerard Carreon/BenarNews

The Philippine government’s top lawyer has requested the Supreme Court to withdraw a protection order it granted two environmentalists who last year accused the military of abducting them.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) told the court that the protection order prevented the police from serving arrest warrants for alleged oral defamation on the green activists, Jhed Tamano, 21, and Jonila Castro, 22, according to a motion dated Feb. 20 and released Wednesday.

The court last week had granted the activists’ request for two protective writs and the subsequent temporary protection order, saying the duo had successfully showed there were threats to their life and security

“A literal interpretation of the TPO [the protection order] ostensibly restricts all Philippine National Police personnel from accessing areas within a one-kilometer radius of the Petitioners and their families,” according to the OSG’s motion.

“This place[s] the law enforcers in the precarious situation of defying one judicial order in deference to another judicial order,” it added, referring to a municipal court order to issue arrest warrants against the activists.

These developments relate to a case from last September, when the activists Tamano and Castro claimed that troops in Bataan province had kidnapped them and accused them of being linked to leftist insurgents. 

The two, who are university students, had been protesting China-backed reclamation projects in Manila Bay, but went missing in the first week of September. They also accused the military of forcing them to sign statements saying they were communist rebels.

The army had immediately denied these accusations, saying the two had voluntarily sought the military’s protection and signed affidavits claiming they wanted to leave the communist movement.

The duo spoke out at a press meet organized by the anti-communist task force, whose members were taken by surprise at the accusations. 

The government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) had expected that the activists would disprove leftist groups’ accusations that they had been abducted. The task force said it stood by the military’s report that Castro and Tamano surrendered.

The military then filed oral defamation charges against the activists for showing the Philippine military in a bad light.

‘Our just fight‘

On Wednesday, Tamano and Castro alleged that they were being persecuted by the government for causing embarrassment to the security forces.

“The only criminals here are the AFP and the NTF-ELCAC,” the two said in a statement, referring to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The NTF-ELCAC is an inter-agency body meant to encourage communist guerrillas to surrender but has been accused in recent years of falsely accusing government critics of being insurgents.

“The crime here is the suppression of the public’s rights,” the activists said. “We should continue to assert our rights while advocating for our just fight.”

The women had earlier explained that they were part of a consortium opposing reclamation projects because fishermen could lose their livelihoods.


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