Groups claim state forces behind abduction of 2 women activists; PNP, AFP belie claim

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 6) — Progressive groups said they believe authorities are involved in the abduction of female environmental activists Jhed Tamano and Jhonila Castro, who were reportedly forcibly taken in the evening of Sept. 2 in Orion, Bataan.

In a press conference at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Wednesday, members of different groups led by Anakbayan and Karapatan recalled the abduction of the two activists.

"Armado po yung mga kumuha…kaya naniniwala po kami na ang mga nasa likod ng pandurukot sa kanila ay ang NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict), ang mga pulis at militar," said Kate Almenzo, national spokesperson of Anakbayan.

[Translation: Those who took them were we believe that those behind their abduction are the NTF-ELCAC, the police and the military.]

Anakbayan said Tamano and Castro previously reported about armed individuals following them wherever they went.

"Bago po mawala sila Jhonila at Jed, sunud-sunod din po yung mga naging report nila hinggil sa paniniktik sa kanila, pagsunod ng hindi kilalang armadong tao kung saan sila pumupunta," Almenzo noted.

[Translation: Before Jhonila and Jed disappeared, they had been reporting about unknown armed people spying on them, following them wherever they went.]

The Central Luzon group of rights watchdog Karapatan also holds the AFP, NTF-ELCAC, and the Philippine National Police (PNP) accountable for the "enforced disappearance" of Tamano and Castro as the group condemned the attacks on activists in the country.

According to Karapatan Central Luzon, several concerned citizens posted online, claiming to have witnessed the "violent abductions of then unidentified two young women by armed men, riding away in a gray SUV, just in front of the office of Orion Water District at Brgy. Lati, Orion, Bataan."

The two activists' last known correspondence was a text message to a friend at around 7:02 pm on Sept. 2, the group said.

PNP responds

The PNP denied the allegations, saying the parents of the two activists already have an idea on the whereabouts of their children.

"We categorically deny any knowledge doon po sa sinasabing abduction ng dalawang bata," said PCol. Jean Fajardo, PNP acting chief of Public Information Office and spokesperson.

"We have an idea -- mga magulang mismo may idea kung nasan ang mga anak nila," she also said, "but I'm not at liberty to reveal this information as to not pre-empt the efforts ng mga magulang to recover their children.".

[Translation: We categorically deny any knowledge of the alleged abduction of the two children. We have an idea, the parents themselves have an idea, where their children are, but I'm not at liberty to reveal this information so as to not pre-empt the efforts of parents to recover their children.]

Prior to the alleged abduction, Tamano and Castro were said to be in Orion to consult with communities that were affected by the new coastal road and reclamation project planned for the expansion of the free port of Bataan.

Meanwhile, AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar called the accusations "baseless and malicious" and nothing but propaganda against the government.

"Such accusation therefore needs no response from us," Medel told CNN Philippines in a message. "We would rather work with fair-minded people and organizations to protect and save lives than to be engaged in useless verbal tussle with individuals or groups whose minds are poisoned by lies and deceits of CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) cadres."

"But I must admit that they too need our help to be enlightened and to be led to the right path," he added.

— With reports from CNN Philippines' correspondent Crissy Dimatulac.