Orion 2 case to reach United Nations, abduction survivor vows

A fellow state abduction survivor vows to bring the case of the two surfaced Manila Bay activists to the attention of the international community at the ongoing 54th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Dyan Gumanao, abducted by suspected police and military agents at the Port of Cebu last January, said the case of Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano is another proof state agents are behind the “heinous abductions” of activists throughout the country.

 “We salute the fortitude of Jhed and Jonila who, despite the violence and abduction they suffered in the hands of the military, revealed the truth to the public,” Gumanao said.

This morning, Castro and Tamano revealed in a press conference organized by the military, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), and the local government unit (LGU) of Plaridel, Bulacan they were abducted and were coerced to sign an affidavit that they are rebel surrenderers.

The environmental activists, also known as the Orion 2, were abducted last September 2, in Orion, Bataan. The victims were held at the headquarters of the 70th Infantry Battalion in Dona Remedios Trinidad in Bulacan province where they said they were threatened and coerced by their abductors.

Gumanao said Castro and Tamano’s revelation is not an isolated incident as it also happened to her and her fellow activist and boyfriend Armand Dayoha last January.

The couple was rescued in another part of Cebu province after six days.

Gumanao is in Geneva as part of the Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch delegation to the UNHRC session.

The Philippine UPR Watch earlier said they are calling on the UNHRC to investigate the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government’s human rights record that is “indistinguishable” from the sordid history of the Rodrigo Duterte government in terms of weaponization of laws and red-tagging of activists and critics.

Meanwhile, various groups demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Castro and Tamano.

Students of Bulacan State University (BSU) where both are alumnae, stormed Plaridel City Hall demanding their freedom.

The Environmental Defenders Congress also said it demands the release of the two victims following the startling revelation of the two environmental activists.

“The irreversible harm inflicted by reclamation projects on our marine environments is a stark reality, and it is precisely this grave concern that Jhed and Jonila were courageously fighting against,” the group said.

“In view of the public and categorical repudiation by activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano of the government narrative in the presence of NTF-ELCAC, the military, LGU officials and the media, there is no legal basis to hold them any second longer and they should be freed and if restrained illegally, can walk away from their custodians,” National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers chairperson Atty. Edre Olalia said.

Earlier, human rights group Karapatan called on Plaridel Mayor Jocell Vistan Casaje to ensure the safe release of the two victims to their families, lawyers of choice, human rights and church groups or their friends.

Kodao sources said the two are not charged with any criminal or civil complaint and are currently at Mayor Casaje’s office awaiting resolution of how they will be released.

The military is reportedly preventing attempts to have the victims released.

Sources also said Makabayan bloc officials are in Plaridel to help ensure the safe and immediate release of the victims.

Outside the municipal hall, the police are dispersing the BSU students and other activists gathered. # (Raymund B. Villanueva, with reports from Nuel M. Bacarra)

Parents of abducted activists say they are proud of their children

‘We are grateful they are activists’

The parents of abducted Cebu activists said they are proud of their children and have come to understand their activism better after their six day ordeal in the hands of kidnappers.

Armand Jake Dayoha’s mother Sarah told a press conference in Quezon City on Tuesday they learned more about their children’s advocacies and fully support their work despite fears of continuing harassments against them.

“We are very proud of our children…We are grateful they are activists,” Sarah said.

“What is wrong in being activists? The prices of basic commodities have gone way up, but are the workers’ wages enough? We have learned so much from them,” Mrs. Dayoha added.

Armand Jake, a capacity building coordinator of the non-government Visayas Human Development Agency, and fiancée Dyan April Gumanao, union organizer and Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Region 7 coordinator, were abducted by men in plainclothes last January 10 as they disembarked from a 2Go ferry boat at Cebu Port’s Pier 6.

Both Dayoha and Gumanao said their kidnappers introduced themselves as police officers as men in uniform as well as Cebu Pier security personnel witnessed their abduction but did nothing.

They were recovered at a resort in Carmen town north of Cebu City last January 16 after they were abandoned by their kidnappers.

Danilo Gumanao, Dyan April’s father told the same press conference their children’s abduction was “inhuman, barbaric and uncivilized.”

He said Dyan April is well-known in their hometown in Mindanao as a kind and principled person.

“They don’t deserve such treatment. This practice must stop,” Danilo said.

Abducted activists Dyan Gumanao and Armand Dayoha at a press conference in Quezon City after their rescue from kidnappers they described as government security forces. (Photo by Mark Saludes/Altermidya)

‘State forces did it’

The victims pointed to state security forces as their kidnappers, saying no other group has the motive, capacity and history of kidnapping activists.

“Who else but them has the ability and motive to bring a private vehicle to the pier, drive us around, bring us out of Cebu (City), take us on a boat but those who angry at activists, organizers and development workers?” Dyan April asked.

She added their ordeal is not an isolated case nor was the response of the Philippine National Police (PNP) when their parents reported their abduction.

“They told our parents that we just probably eloped. Is that the way they conduct investigations?”

Dyan April said that the PNP also alleged that they refuse to cooperate in the investigations, instead blaming them by sowing intrigue and gossip.

“Something is off in all these,” she said.

Armand Jake revealed that while he was being interrogated, one of their abductors admitted that they were abducted because they were activists.

“State forces yan. Documented naman (na gawain nila iyan),” he said. (They were state forces. They are known for doing such things.)

He added that they were tied down and blindfolded in the duration of their ordeal even when they had to go to the toilet.

Armand Jake said he and Dyan April have become more convinced that security forces under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government are the real terrorists and not activists they accuse.

“There is nothing wrong in being an activist. I draw strength from this affirmation. What we are saying are true. The workers need living wages and benefits. The freedom to join and form unions must be respected,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)