Statement on the Forced Disappearance of Two Environmental Activists in Pangasinan

by Dr Walden Bello, Amnesty International Philippines’ Most Distinguished Defender of Human Rights Awardee 2023

On March 24, two Filipino environmental activists have gone missing in what witnesses have described as a violent abduction, putting on full display the strength of extractivist capitalism in the face of state neglect and abetment. Francisco “Eco” Dangla III and Axielle “Jak” Tiong, as reported by Karapatan-Central Luzon, were “severely mauled and dragged to a waiting SUV.”

The two activists, based in Pangasinan, were actively fighting against coal-fired power plants and offshore mining. Karapatan recounted that Eco and Axielle’s case brings up the tally of enforced disappearances of activists under the Marcos Jr administration to 8 in Central Luzon alone. Nationwide, there have been 23 disappearances. The case of the two follows the familiar pattern of advocates being the victims of harassment and red-tagging before their eventual violent repression.

Eco and Axielle have recently been surfaced, but still bear the physical and emotional scars of their captivity. I am glad that they have been freed, but they should not have been abducted in the first place. There must be an immediate and thorough investigation into their abduction, and the perpetrators must be held to account. The government must ensure that this does not happen again. Marcos Jr cannot claim that the human rights situation in the country is improving while ignoring the intensifying relentless assault on activists. More broadly, the violence that activists face when they challenge large corporations and complicit state institutions should give us all pause. The record of history draws a clear line in the sand between those who fight for the welfare of all and those who would resort to anything to hold onto their power and wealth.#