The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is launching an independent investigation on the alleged enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention of Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano.
Castro and Tamano, both environmental activists, allegedly went missing on Sept. 2, 2023 in Orion, Bataan.
The CHR tried to locate the two in 15 military camps and police detention facilities in Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac and Zambalez.
The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) hosted a press briefing 13 days later claiming that the two were “safe and sound” after they allegedly "voluntarily" surrendered to the 70th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army in Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan on Sept. 12.
They also claimed that the two signed affidavits and that they voluntarily left "the communist movement".
It was only the following Tuesday, when Castro and Tamano were presented in another press briefing organized by NTF ELCAC at the Municipal Hall of Plaridel, Bulacan.
The two belied the claim that they allegedly voluntarily surrendered. Castro also disavowed the affidavits.
"Hindi rin namin ginusto na mapunta kami sa kustodiya ng mga militar. Hindi rin totoo yung laman ng affidavit dahil ginawa yun, pinirmahan yun sa loob ng kampo ng militar. Wala na kaming magagawa sa mga pagkakataon na yun," she said.
The CHR said the case remains open and subject to a continuing investigation given the "complexity of the issue."
The commission also noted the activists' concerns on their safety and claim for accountability for any human rights violation committed.
The CHR also recognizes the move of the government to file cases
against Castro and Tamano after recanting their statements of voluntary surrender.