A fundraising call for donations to detained filmmaker Jade Castro was launched after he and his friends were arrested without a warrant for alleged arson while vacationing in Quezon province.
The award-winning director was arrested and has been in custody for several days. The arrest took place at a resort in Mulanay on February 1, following accusations of allegedly setting fire to a modern jeepney in Catanauan.
Castro was with his friends, civil engineers Noel Mariano and Dominic Ramos, and sales manager Ernesto Orcine.
According to reports, two officials of the Mulanay town in Quezon said that they were with the group in a food establishment when the crime supposedly happened.
The local government employees said the director and his companions were asking for help on where they could stay as tourists.
The Mulanay officials added that Catanauan was far from where Castro and his friends were at the period of the crime.
A CCTV footage also showed their car passing through a Mulanay road at around 7 p.m. when the arson happened.
Another footage showed that around 7:25 p.m., the director was seen recording a rehearsal of a local pageant in Mulanay town plaza.
Despite the statements of the Mulanay LGU officials and the CCTV, the police remain unconvinced of Castro and his friends’ innocence.
Police Col. Jean Fajardo, spokesperson of the Philippine National Police, said that the witnesses positively identified the four as the supposed perpetrators.
“Pinakita po ‘yung picture at pinakita po mismo sa kanila ‘yung mga suspect, although hindi face-to-face,” she said.
Fajardo added that they will create a task force to investigate the incident.
Lawyer Blachie Baticulon, Castro’s legal counsel, said that the witnesses have claimed the perpetrators who burned the modern jeep have guns.
“Actually, wala namang nakuhang baril kina Jade and the company,” she said.
Baticulon also said they were in the process of completing her client’s counter-affidavit to the accusations.
Meanwhile, a group of artist-activists on February 6 announced that those who wanted to help the filmmaker and his friends could donate “as their legal fees continue to mount.”
“His family and friends are raising funds to help him fight this injustice,” DAKILA Philippines said.
“Jade is many things: A respected filmmaker, a beloved teacher, a cherished son, brother, and a true friend. He is not a criminal. And his community stands by his character, and believes in his innocence without question,” the organization added.
“His legal fees are mounting. We are now raising the money he needs to fight this,” DAKILA continued.
Fellow filmmaker Erik Matti and writers Yvette Tan and Ian Rosales Casocot also shared the fundraising call on their respective social media accounts.
“Please help our friend and colleague @jadefranciscastro,” Matti said on Facebook.
“Free Jade Castro now!” Tan wrote on the X (formerly Twitter) platform.
Casocot also shared the infographic in his own X account with the same caption.
Meanwhile, the families of the director and his friends have released a statement demanding a “transparent and fair investigation,” insisting that the group had only attended the Cocolunay festival.
“No evidence was found on them. No motive either to connect them to the jeep burning incident. And yet the four continue to be detained. This is unbelievable, to say the least,” they added.
“We ask all the concerned government agencies to look into this matter, assess the facts, and act accordingly and immediately. We ask the media to be more critical and fair. We ask everyone to be vigilant in following this case. We refuse to give up hope that the truth will prevail, and set Jade, Noel, Ernesto, and Dominic free. Help us bring them home,” the families said.
Castro is known for writing and directing the romantic indie film “Endo” which won the Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival and Best Screenplay at the 2007 Gawad Urian.
He also directed the movies “Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington,” “My Big Love,” “My Lady Boss,” “My Kontrabida Girl” and “Beki Boxer.”