By Benjamin Pulta

(File photo)

MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has recommended separate charges of grave oral defamation against two environmentalists who flip-flopped on their statements after initially claiming that they escaped from the communist movement.

The recommendation to sue Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas members Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano was contained in a 14-page resolution shared with the media on Monday.

In ordering charges for slanderous remarks against the military, the resolution dated Dec. 14 stated that “based on the fact and evidence on record, (it) finds probable cause to indict [Castro and Tamano] for grave oral defamation.”

“We consider the statement of respondents to be serious slander because the circumstances of the case show that they consciously, intentionally and on purpose waited and chose the press conference which would be held in public to air their grievance and plight,” the DOJ added.

The DOJ said the respondents “employed machinations and took advantage of the benevolence of the 70th IB (Infantry Battalion) and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) to embarrass and put them in bad light. There was a deep-rooted motive on the part of respondents to select a public forum that would express their sentiment.”

“The slanderous words were obviously uttered with evident intent to strike deep into the character, honor and reputation of (the) complainant and the AFP,” the resolution read.

The complaint was filed by Lt. Col. Ronnel dela Cruz, commander of the 70IB of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division based in Doña Trinidad, Bulacan and with operations in Pampanga, Bulacan and areas of Nueva Ecija.

The two were brought before Dela Cruz on Sept. 12 after they voluntarily surrendered in Guagua, Pampanga to the team of 2Lt. Junrey Caballeda, the 70IB’s acting civil military operations officer and in-charge of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program for former rebels.

The two claimed that they wanted to surrender and executed affidavits of surrender before lawyer Joefer Baggay.

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict then organized a press conference for the surrender on Sept. 17.

However, during the press conference, the two retracted their stories, claimed they were abducted by plainclothes soldiers and interrogated for a number of days.

They also denied being members of any armed group.

The complaint said the two did not have a bona fide intention to surrender, aimed to put the military in a bad light and executed the affidavits to mislead the military.

The DOJ, however, dismissed the perjury charges originally filed by the military. (PNA)