Press Statement
19 September 2023

Together with the Filipino people, we at Migrante-International watched the press conference of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) this morning featuring activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano. 

The activists, who have been missing for days, clearly stated: the military abducted them, they were forced to declare themselves as rebel surrenderees because their lives were threatened, and they were forced to sign an affidavit under duress in a military camp.

Castro and Tamano’s statements show that they have been abducted and are currently under illegal detention by the military. Their statements during the press conference have surely angered their captors who have already taken liberty with their lives and liberty, and with the truth. They risk being harmed or worse.

Jonila and Jhed should be freed now! We are calling on the Commission on Human Rights, the Department of Justice, and all government agencies concerned with due process and justice, to intervene into their case and ensure their swift release from illegal detention. They should be granted all forms of protection available under the law. 

Castro and Tamano’s statements are resounding proof of what activists have been claiming all along: that the NTF-ELCAC has been abducting, even disappearing, activists and revolutionaries and forcing them to claim that they are rebels who surrendered and to give testimonies against their fellow activists and revolutionaries.

Jonila and Jed’s statements show what a diabolical agency NTF-ELCAC is. It brings together so many government agencies to violate the rights of activists, revolutionaries and even ordinary Filipinos in the guise of fighting the armed insurgency in the country. The NTF-ELCAC is guilty of illegal arrests, abductions and other violations of human rights. It is a bane to Filipino society and should be abolished immediately!

The NTF-ELCAC is of course the product of the Rodrigo Duterte and Bongbong Marcos governments’ militaristic approach to the armed conflict in the country. The root causes of said conflict are also the root causes of labor migration in the country: joblessness, landlessness, poverty, hunger, lack of government services. These root causes should be addressed, and the government should shun its current militarist approach.

We Filipino migrants call on the government to reallocate the funds for the NTF-ELCAC and other confidential purposes to services for OFWs and Filipino migrants who are the lifesavers of the country’s economy. We reject all repressive measures being implemented by the government, including the placing of the Philippine National Police of attaches in many countries to repress migrant activism.###