2 Pangasinan activists’ abduction merits widespread condemnation

March 26, 2024

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) vehemently condemns the abduction of Pangasinan activists Francisco “Eco” Dangla III and Axielle “Jak” Tiong last March 24 in San Carlos City, Pangasinan province.

The two activists, founders of the Pangasinan People’s Strike for the Environment and leaders of progressive organizations in the province. have been victims of red-tagging, death threats, surveillance and other forms of harassment that could only be the work of the military.

The abduction of Eco and Jak brings to mind the military’s abduction of environment activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano who were coerced to claim that they are members of the Communist rebel group New People’s Army. Fortunately, they were surfaced and they valiantly defied and exposed the script that was imposed on them.

The abduction of the two Pangasinan activists also brings to mind the disappearance of many Filipino activists, especially under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr government: Loi Magbanua in May 2022, Ma. Elena “Cha” Pampoza and Elgene Mungcal in July 2022, Lloyd Descallar in March 2023, Bazoo de Jesus and Dexter Capuyan in April 2023, Job David in September 2023, Lee Sudario and Norman Ortiz in September 2023, as well as Steve Abua in November 2021.

These numerous cases of abduction and disappearance show that these are being carried out systematically, and that there is a government policy behind these. We therefore hold the military, the security apparatus, the government, and ultimately President Marcos Jr himself as responsible for these abductions and disappearances. Despite Marcos Jr’s statements welcoming United Nations special rapporteurs on various human rights fields, his government continues to carry out extreme forms of human rights violations — seemingly imitating his father’s dictatorship.

No Filipino, not even an activist, should be targeted for enforced disappearance, which violates so many fundamental human rights. Democracy by nature allows and even demands dissent, and activists are important for both. Instead of attacking the rights of activists, the government should be protecting these, in the interest of the rule of law and democracy. For any society to develop, it needs to allow differenes and debates and address the issues being raised by its activists.

We therefore call for the immediate surfacing and release of Eco and Jak, as well as the numerous victims of the Marcos Jr regime’s policy of enforced disappearance. We call for the immediate prosecution of the military and police officers responsible for the cases of abduction and disappearance.

We call on President Marcos Jr himself to make a clear and unequivocal major statement against abductions and disappearances and to order his government, its security apparatus, and the military to stop all abductions and disappearances. He should warn offenders of severe punishment, and see to it that this warning is carried out. Now is the right time for the Philippines to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2010.###