Home News Ecumenical youth group decries arrest warrants against 2 Filipino environmental defenders 

Ecumenical youth group decries arrest warrants against 2 Filipino environmental defenders 

The Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) on Feb. 20 condemned the issuance of arrest warrants against environmental activists Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro.

Kej Andres, chairperson of SCMP, claimed that the justice system in the country “is not working” because the government is targeting the environmental activists instead of the security forces “who abducted them.”

Recently, the Doña Remedios Trinidad Municipal Trial Court (MTC) in Bulacan has issued arrest warrants for the two environmental activists.

The warrants, dated February 2, 2024, are in connection with charges of oral defamation filed by the Department of Justice in December 2023, supplanting previous perjury charges against the duo.

The court has set bail at P18,000 for each activist. If convicted, Tamano and Castro could face imprisonment of up to six months. 

This legal action came after the Supreme Court awarded the activists writs of amparo and habeas data, along with a temporary protection order against threats to their “life, liberty, or security”.

Lawyer Dino De Leon, representing Tamano and Castro, explained that the arrest warrant and the Supreme Court’s protection order are unrelated. 

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“The warrant is not connected with the protection order. They are independent from each other. As of the moment, we have not officially received a copy of the warrant yet,” said De Leon in an interview with the Altermidya Network.

Castro and Tamano went missing in Orion town, Bataan province on September 2. After 17 days, the military presented them as rebel surrenderees and admitted that the activists were in government custody.

In a press briefing arranged by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in Plaridel town, Bulacan province on September 19, Castro and Tamano revealed that they were “forced to sign” an affidavit stating that they were members of the communist party.

In December 2023, the justice department dropped the perjury cases but issued a resolution to press charges of oral grave defamation against the young activists.

Andres lamented that instead of addressing the issues of displacement and environmental destruction because of development projects, “the government shows its anti-poor and anti-environment orientation by pursuing youth environmental activists”. 

The Hands Off Jhed and Jonila Network, a group advocating for the activists’ rights, has criticized the attempt to incarcerate Tamano and Castro on defamation charges. “It is ironic that the victims of abduction are now the ones facing possible arrest.” 

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