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Jonila Castro, a hardcore NPA member – NTF ELCAC

LE September 21, 2023

Jonila Castro, one of the two young women deployed by communist terrorist groups (CTGs) in fisherfolk communities in Orion, Bataan under the guise of being “environmental activists”, is a hardcore member of the New People’s Army (NPA) “in different capacities”, Undersecretary Jun Torres Jr., National Secretariat Executive Director of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), confirmed to the media Thursday (September 21, 2023). After an audio-visual presentation ran by NTF-ELCAC’s Integrated Communications Operations Center (ICOC) at the beginning of the virtual press conference, Torres pointed out that Castro herself admitted in her handwritten affidavit that she is a member of the NPA for four years until her formal surrender on Sep. 12 to the Army’s 70th Infantry Battalion based in Bulacan. “She (Castro) said she was an organizer then became a “hukbo”, which means an NPA combatant, then later went back again to the white area to organize. So, she performs in different capacities, notably as a semi-legal cadre,” Torres said. In the video, Castro said she belonged to the NPA Lino Blas Command and was among a group of terrorists figured in an encounter against government forces in 2021 in Pampanga. She admitted there were casualties on the NPA side in that firefight. Meanwhile, Torres pointed out that Castro also served as the recruiter, handler and schemer of Jhed Tamano who was only barely three months as a community organizer when they decided to leave the communist movement that led to their surrender to the said Army unit. Despite Castro and Tamano’s recantations, Torres believes the two women are “victims of terrorism” and that the government will not rest until they will be rescued from the clutches of the CTGs. He stood firm with the military and police that Castro and Tamano were not abducted. Speaking to the media, Atty. James Clifford Santos, Associate Solicitor of the Office of the Solicitor General and Spokesperson for NTF-ELCAC’ Legal Cooperation Cluster, labelled the recantations made by Tamano and Castro a “mockery of state policy,” as their sworn statements before a Public Attorney’s Office lawyer is a regularity under the 1987 Constitution. Santos said the two could face perjury charges. “(Their) immediate assertions of falsehood clearly has malice to humiliate the government, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the NTF-ELCAC,” Santos said. He viewed the scheme, allegedly orchestrated by Castro, as a “demolition tactic”, “to undermine efforts of the government’s Task Force Balik-Loob”, and “impair the public trust”. Counsels from the CTGs averred that the two women were allegedly “coerced” or “under duress” when they executed their affidavits. But Santos said to the contrary as evidence shown in the videos and photos when the two women gave their statements, wrote it down, and took their oath before Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) representative Atty. Joper Bagay, also in the presence of Tamano’s parents. Earlier, in a separate media interview, Tamano’s stepfather revealed he even asked thrice the two surrenderees if they want to have a private counsel to take and administer their sworn statements but the two said the PAO lawyer was “OK with them”. Also, PAO chief Presida Acosta expressed her dismay to the recantations of the two women and lambasted groups who only used PAO for their self-serving interests. Despite the setback, Torres commended PAO and the Commission on Human Rights-Region 3 for helping the NTF-ELCAC process the surrender of Castro and Tamano. “The mother and step dad of Tamano were also there and a witness Reynante Bautista who if I am not mistaken is the mayor of Angat, Bulacan,” Torres said. “What happened during the press conference on Sept.19, is unusual. With tremendous amount of good faith (on the part of government) to help these two young ladies (have new opportunities). We were betrayed. Even our legal system and the truth,” Torres added. ###


Ref: Joel M. Sy Egco 09155506969 September 21, 2023


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