Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. vowed to look into who was behind what he called the manipulation of two environmental activists to embarrass the military.
“Normally, I won’t tolerate this, even [with] speculations [of official misconduct], I order an investigation, But in this case, the evidence is clear – the allegation against the military is unfair,” Teodoro said.
“I want to know the mastermind behind this so we can file subornation of perjury and other charges,” he added.
The two environmentalists embarrassed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) after they told a government-organized press conference that they were abducted and interrogated by the military and coerced into signing sworn statements saying they surrendered.
The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) denied the allegations of the activists.
In an online conference, the task force showed media videos and copies of the sworn statements hand-written by the activists, signed in the presence of a lawyer from the Public Attorney’s Office and the parents of Jhed Tamano, one of the activists.
In a video released by the task force, the other activist, Jonila Castro, said they surrendered to the government because they feared they would be silenced by the “RHB” or the ‘Rebolusyonaryong Hukbong Bayan’.
RHB is a breakaway group of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
Castro also admitted that she was a member of the armed guerrilla unit of the CPP-NPA-NDF and said she was part of the “Lino Blas Command.”
Joel Egco, spokesperson for the NTF-ELCAC, said in a text message to Manila Standard that they will assist the family of Jhed Tamano if they want to have their daughter in protective custody “away from the manipulative acts of Jonila Castro and her company.” Enrique Manalastas, stepfather of Jhed Tamano, said in an interview with Teleradyo Serbisyo 630 that Jonila Castro seems to be manipulating his daughter to support her and the cause of the group.
“Jhed was only influenced by this Jonila because her mother talked to her earlier, she said that she was also afraid that if she changed herstatement, what would the other group do to her,” Manalastas said in an interview.
Egco also said that they will support the decision of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to file perjury charges against the two activists.
Meanwhile, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas castigated Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla for accusing the two activists of following a “new playbook” of communist rebels, supposedly in a bid to gain public sympathy.
“We wish the Justice Department had been more prudent and discerning in its statements on these issues. This is a matter of life and death,and they shouldn’t do this,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“I have so many questions for the DOJ. I move to defer the budget,” Brosas said at a hearing on the spending plan for the department.
When the department’s budget sponsor, Negros Oriental 6th District Rep. Mercedes Alvarez, defended Remulla’s remark, Brosas gave a tearful response.
“How can you ensure the impartiality of the Department of Justice given that the statements of Secretary Remulla seem to be very biased against Jed and Jonila, and seem to have already painted the two environmental activists as part of the CPP-NPA?” Brosas said.