Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the alleged abduction of environmental rights defenders in San Carlos, Pangasinan

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the alleged abduction of environmental rights defenders in San Carlos, Pangasinan

The Commission on Human RIghts is gravely alarmed upon receiving reports on the abduction of environmental rights defenders and church workers Francisco “Eco” Dangla III, 39 and Axielle “Jak” Tiong, 29 on 24 March 2024 at Barangay Polo, San Carlos, Pangasinan. Pursuant to its mandate, CHR has prompted an investigation to immediately look into the incident.

According to the reports of independent human rights groups, still-unidentified suspects onboard a vehicle and accompanied by a motorcycle confronted Dangla and Tiong while they were riding a tricycle on their way out of Barangay Polo at around 8:00 PM. Both activists were seen to have been tackled by the suspects and were then forced into the vehicle. Witnesses also report that Tiong was heard shouting for help and that torn pieces of Dangla’s shirt were left in the area.

The CHR also notes that the victims have already been targets of red-tagging prior to the incident. We take this opportunity to remind everyone that all acts of red-tagging put the welfare of individuals at risk and may endanger their life, liberty and security. It is, therefore, an outright violation of one’s human rights.

We stress the need for a stricter implementation of Republic Act No. 10535, or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act, to address these cases and ensure that solutions on the level of policy-making can be utilised. Alongside the need to search for the whereabouts of missing human rights defenders is the identification of the perpetrators to hold them accountable under the eyes of the law.

CHR urges for the exhaustive search of Dangla and Tiong. This can only be made possible through the immediate efforts of all relevant government and law enforcement agencies to act on this incident. Parallel to the State obligation to protect the rights of all Filipinos is the responsibility to resolve the growing susceptibility of human rights defenders to suspected enforced or involuntary disappearances.

To further express the country’s commitment to safeguard the rights of all Filipinos, including the rights defenders, we also prompt the need for the Philippines to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. We all have the inherent right to not be subjected to enforced disappearances, and no circumstance shall ever justify this crime.

The Commission remains undeterred in its call for a collective action to resolve all cases of disappearances in the country. We all hold the responsibility to foster a country that is conducive to the promotion and protection of the rights of all, and a large proportion of this lies on the need to put an end to the culture of impunity and to reinforce the wheels of justice.###