Reference: Mary Guy Portajada, Secretary General
“We hope that through this, justice will come swiftly,” Pamilya ng Desaparecidos para sa Katarungan (Families of Desaparecidos for Justice) or Desaparecidos say as they welcomed the Commission on Human Rights’ investigative report and recommendations on the case of Jonas Burgos.
Jonas Burgos is an agriculturist who taught organic farming among peasants in Bulacan. He was abducted allegedly by the Philippine Army on April 28, 2007 in a mall along Commonwealth Ave. in Quezon City. Jonas is the son of a prominent Martial Late press freedom fighter Joe Burgos.
At the same time the organization of families of victims of enforced disappearances reminds the public that there are still a number of similar cases petitioned for Writ of Amparo pending before the Supreme Court. Portajada cited the cases of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño – the two missing University of the Philippines students, Romulo Robiños and Leo Velasco among others. “We are hoping that the respective courts and government agencies follow suit and come out with favourable responses on the said cases.”
Moreover, Portajada criticized AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr.’s order of creating a technical panel to study the CHR report. “The AFP should immediately comply with the CHR recommendations, instead of creating a technical panel to study the findings. It took four long years for a government agency to come out with favourable findings on the Burgos case, we don’t want to add more and lengthen the process by undue processes that would only delay the serving of justice to victims.”
Portajada also warns the public, that even if the prosecution of 1st Lt. Harry Baliaga of the Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion will proceed, without the Philippine Congress’ passage of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Bill, all will be in vain.
Baliaga was identified by witnesses in their testimonies as the “principal by direct participation” on the abduction of Jonas Burgos.
According to the Desaparecidos, Baliaga can only be liable for Kidnapping and NOT for the crime of enforced disappearance.
Portajada explains the difference between the two crimes, “Kidnapping is illegally seizing a person by force and against his will; it also involves the use of ransom for the surfacing of the illegally detained person. This eliminates the political motive of the state forces to disappear a person. While with enforced disappearance, a person is disappeared for political reasons by state security forces; thus both state security forces and the commander in chief will be held responsible. This would mean that, even former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo can be held liable for Jonas’ disappearance and even that of other victims.”
“The CHR report might be a welcoming development. Yet, until victims remain to be missing, and masterminds of enforced disappearances are still free, we will continue to be vigilant and our cry for justice will remain.”#
KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights