MANILA, Philippines — Environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Reiyana Tamano questioned the impartiality of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in handling the perjury case filed against them.
Tamano and Castro disappeared last September 2 in Orion, Bataan.
A fact-finding team was created by human rights and cause-oriented group advocates to determine what happened to the two. They have learned from witnesses that Tamano and Castro were dragged into an SUV by men wearing ski masks last September 2.
On September 15, Assistant Director General of the National Security Adviser Jonathan Malaya and Capt. Carlito Buco, the Chief Public Information Officer of the Bataan-PNP, announced at a press conference that the two environmental defenders surrendered to the military because they wanted to live a normal civilian life.
After four days, or on September 19, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) had another press conference and presented Castro and Tamano. During the press conference, the two maintained that they did not surrender but were abducted by the military.
The public declaration prompted the military to file a perjury complaint against the two before the Manila City Prosecutors Office.
On Tuesday, the filed a joint counter-affidavit ad cautelam (with caution) as they question the impartiality of the DOJ, whose head, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla issued statements against them.
They mentioned Remulla’s September 20 statement saying: “It looks like a new playbook of the CPP-NPA para i-discredit ang gobyerno. Pero I don’t think na we should bit into this bail na kanila sinet up para magmukhang masama ang gobyerno.”
(It looks like a new playbook of the CPP-NPA to discredit the government. But I don’t think we should buy into this narrative they’ve set up to make the government look bad.)
“As such, and with all due respect to this Honorable Office, it is difficult to believe that it will be in the best position to conduct an independent and credible Preliminary Investigation,” read their counter affidavit where they were assisted by their lawyer from the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) Atty. Dino De Leon.
The Manila Prosecutors Office is under the National Prosecution Service (NPS), which is one of the attached agencies under the DOJ.
“Malinaw naman na ang sinabi sa counter-affidavit ay totoo naman iyong abduction na nangyari sa Orion, Bataan,” De Leon said.
(The counter-affidavit clearly stated that what really happened was they got abducted in Orion, Bataan)
De Leon lamented that instead of conducting an investigation if the two were really abducted and check their own ranks for erring members, they filed a case against the two.
“Nakakalungkot din na imbes na magkaroon ng imbestigasyon ang AFP to check whether there was really an abduction and to check their own ranks especially their own erring officials, officers, ang knee jerk reaction ay kasuhan ang nagsasabi ng katotohan,” he said.
(It’s also sad that instead of the AFP conducting an investigation to check whether there was really an abduction and to examine their own ranks, especially their own erring officials and officers, their knee-jerk reaction is to file charges against those who are telling the truth.)
The next hearing is set on November 14.
De Leon said they do not expect that the military or the NTF-Elcac will respond to their counter affidavit.