Those responsible for the abduction of activists and human rights advocates must be held accountable, a Catholic bishop said.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos claimed that the “systematic abductions” of activists across the country “point to state forces as the culprits”.
“Perpetrators, including military and police officers, as well as officials of state institutions such as NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist) and DND (Department of National Defense), involved in abductions and kidnappings, must be held accountable,” Alminaza said in a statement.
The bishop made the call after the release of two women environmental activists allegedly abducted by the military more than two weeks ago.
Jonila Castro, 21, and Jhed Tamano, 22, were working with coastal communities opposed to reclamation projects in Manila Bay on Sept. 2 in Bataan province.
They were freed on Sept. 19, hours after appearing at a press conference organized by none other than the NTF-ELCAC, where they went off script and accused the military of abduction.
The press event was held to show that Tamano and Castro “voluntarily surrendered” to the military.
“The existence of a ‘fake surrender’ scheme, promoted by military institutions and NTF-ELCAC, must come to an end,” Alminaza said.
The bishop also said the abduction of the activists “serves as a distressing reminder of the challenge we face”.