Calls for release of filmmaker Jade Castro mount after arrest for alleged arson

Jade Castro
Jade Castro in this photo taken by Sanriel Ajero and posted on his Facebook on Feb. 28, 2021 (jade.castro.355/Facebook)

Five organizations called on the police to release award-winning filmmaker Jade Castro after he and his companions were arrested without warrant while vacationing in Quezon province.

Reports said the “Endo” director was apprehended while staying in Mi Casa Resort at Barangay Butanyog, Mulanay on Thursday after being accused by a driver, conductor and passengers of a modern jeepney of supposed arson.

Castro’s friends, namely sales manager Ernesto Orcine, civil engineer Noel Mariano and civil engineer Dominic Ramos were also arrested.

Last Wednesday, a modern jeepney owned by the Gumaca Transport Service Cooperative was burned to the ground in Catanauan.

The police and witnesses said that the perpetrators had worn bonnets and were armed.

Driver Carl Villanueva said that they were told by the suspects to alight the vehicle and then set the vehicle on fire.

The management of the cooperative claimed the perpetrators were rival operators of traditional jeepneys who had issues against the cooperative, which filed for franchise consolidation under the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program.

Authorities said Castro and his companions were arrested after backtracking and conducting a thorough investigation by the Catanauan police that led them to the resort.

Police said the perpetrators seemed to be professionals and outsiders in Quezon.

Despite the accusations against Castro’s group, film producer and playwriter Moira Lang shared that according to witnesses, Castro and his friends were taking part in a revelry at the public plaza of Mulanay on the night the vehicle was burned in Catanauan.

Reports also said the director and his friends did not possess firearms when they were apprehended at the resort.

Castro likewise insisted that they are “innocent” since they were only enjoying their vacation when they got involved in a “warrantless arrest” for supposed arson.

Five organizations have since denounced the arrest and asked the police to release the “Zombadings” director who they said was “innocent” of the accusations against him.

“RELEASE JADE CASTRO NOW!” the UP Film Institute (UPFI) said in a statement on Sunday.

“Known for blending tender comedy with darker social realism, Jade has been a significant influence on emerging filmmakers for films like ‘Endo’ and ‘Zombadings’ through teaching numerous workshops and mentoring individuals over the past 15 years,” the org said.

“Jade continues to make profound contributions to the film industry as both a creator and a teacher and as colleagues, fans, and friends we call for him to be treated fairly. The UPFI ask that the Philippine National Police and the Department of Justice uphold the rule of law and immediately conduct a fair, impartial, and transparent, investigation into these allegations and uncover the truth about this incident in Catanauan,” UPFI added.

The Directors’ Guild of the Philippines Inc (DGPI) also urged the authorities to release Castro from its custody, describing the latter as a “vetted DGPI member and an important voice of the Philippine Independent Cinema.”

“We stand by his innocence and testify to his good character. We urge clarity on the matter from the authorities involved, and the immediate release of Jade Castro from detention,” the DGPI said.

Literary group PEN Philippines also said it expresses “deep concern” over the arrest of Castro.

It likewise called for the Philippine National Police, the Department of Justice and other authorities “to conduct a quick, thorough, and transparent investigation” and “uphold the rule of law.”

DAKILA Philippines, a group of artists-activists, urged for an “immediate, fair, and transparent investigation by Philippine authorities” into the case.

It described Jade as a director who has “influenced the creative sensibilities of emerging filmmakers through numerous workshops and mentorships, making profound contributions to the film industry.”

SAKA or Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo also called for the “immediate release” of Castro in detention, describing him as a “progressive filmmaker whose work in popular media helps spread awareness about the plight of Filipino workers.”

“SAKA fears that the baseless accusation of arson against a critically minded artist can slip easily to red-tagging — a state attack that comes with baseless arrests, judicial harassment, and other actions designed for counter-insurgency, including extra-judicial killing,” the alliance said.

“In expressing solidarity with Jade, SAKA urges the broader public to remain vigilant against further attacks on him, stand with progressive artists whose work takes a class position against systemic abuse, and call for his immediate release from illegal police custody,” it added.

Colonel Ledon Monte, director of PNP-Quezon, said investigators have yet to determine the motive behind the burning of the modern jeepney.

In an interview, Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption President Boy Arsenio Evangelista said the investigation was “hastily done.” It added that the police filed the case without following case build-up process.

Castro is known for writing and directing the romantic indie film “Endo” which won the Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival and Best Screenplay at the 2007 Gawad Urian.

He also directed the movies “Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington,” “My Big Love,” “My Lady Boss,” “My Kontrabida Girl” and “Beki Boxer.”

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