Caritas Philippines decries ‘abduction’ of ecology ministry members in Pangasinan

March 27, 2024

The social action arm of the Philippine Catholic Church on Monday called on the government to “direct all available resources” to locate and surface two environmental defenders. 

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, vice president of Caritas Philippines, said the attacks against environmental defenders “who selflessly dedicate their lives to protecting our environment is a flagrant assault on us all”.

On March 24, Francisco “Eco” Dangla III and Axielle “Jak” Tiong, leaders of the Pangasinan People Strike for the Environment Inc. (PPSEI) and members of the Ecology Ministry of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, were reportedly abducted in Polo village, San Carlos City in Pangasinan province.

Bishop Alminaza emphasized that the well-being of the two missing activists is of utmost importance. He demanded a rapid and comprehensive investigation to ensure the culprits are held accountable.

According to the rights group Karapatan, the activists visited victims of demolitions in Polo village when they were intercepted and taken by unidentified individuals onboard a 4×4 pickup truck and a motorcycle.

Dangla, a BA Philosophy alumnus of the University of the Philippines Diliman, currently serves as the spokesperson for BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) Pangasinan, while Tiong, who earned a BS in Accountancy from Universidad de Dagupan (previously known as Colegio de Dagupan), is the Kabataan Partylist coordinator in the province. 

Both are taking active parts in initiatives against the proposed black sand mining and nuclear power plant projects among other environmental issues in the region.

Bishop Alminaza expressed support for the passage of the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act, a legislation that he described as a “necessity”.

“Environmental defenders and human rights advocates, like these leaders from PPSEI, deserve the shield of law from threats, harassment, and violence,” he said. 

The bishop of San Carlos also condemned the “abhorrent practice of red-tagging, which demonizes and endangers activists,” and called on authorities “to cease this malicious tactic”.

“Let us foster a climate of respect and dialogue, not fear and repression,” he said. “Caritas Philippines will remain a relentless voice for those who fight to protect our environment and secure a just and sustainable future for all.”

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