SolGen asks SC to lift protection order on 2 environmentalists

By Benjamin Pulta

February 21, 2024, 5:11 pm

<p><em>(File photo)</em></p>

(File photo)

MANILA – State lawyers asked the Supreme Court (SC) to lift the temporary protection order (TPO) issued in favor of the two environmental activists charged with grave oral defamation.

In a 26-page motion dated Feb. 20 and made public Wednesday, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) said the TPO is hindering the implementation of the warrant of arrest against Jonila Fababer Castro and Jhed Reiyana Tamano.

On Tuesday, the Doña Remedios Trinidad Municipal Trial Court in Bulacan province ordered the arrest of Castro and Tamano for grave oral defamation.

The OSG also questioned the issuance of writs of amparo and habeas data by the high court, which it said preempts the proceedings by the Court of Appeals (CA) on evidence against the two accused.

The OSG also lamented the perceived imbalance in the attention given to the due process rights of government officials compared to the rights of the activists.

On Sept. 17, 2023, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict organized a press conference for the surrender of the two activists when they expressed wanting to surrender and executed affidavits of surrender before lawyer Joefer Bagga.

However, during the press conference, the two retracted their stories and claimed they were abducted by plainclothes soldiers and interrogated for several days. They also denied being members of any armed group.

The Department of Justice earlier indicted Castro and Tamano after it found sufficient evidence to charge them under Article 358 of the Revised Penal Code.

The resolution follows a complaint filed by Lt. Col. Ronnel dela Cruz, commander of the 70th Infantry Battalion (70IB) of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army in Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan.

Also on Wednesday, the Bulacan court granted temporary liberty to the two activists after they posted a bail of PHP18,000 each.

The arraignment of the case is set on March 15. (PNA)