Burgos mother fails to convince CA on Año

The CA's decision came after the Department of Justice (DOJ) cleared Año in the arbitrary detention case filed by Edita Burgos earlier this month

SEARCH CONTINUES. Edita Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos, says the search continues for her son even after the confirmation of Brig Gen Eduardo Ano, who she accuses of involvement in his disappearance. Photo by Ayee Macaraig/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – After two deferments, the Commission on Appointments (CA) confirmed the promotion of a military officer tagged in the enforced disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos.

The CA’s Committee on National Defense recommended the confirmation of Brig Gen Eduardo Año to the CA plenary despite the objection of Burgos’ mother, Edita. Año was promoted chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) in December 2012.

The CA plenary later approved the recommendation.

In the hearing on Wednesday, September 25, Edita Burgos reiterated her objection to Año’s confirmation, calling him a human rights violator. Año was the intelligence chief of the army when Jonas was abducted.

Jonas Burgos was abducted in 2007 at the Hapag Kainan Restaurant in the Ever Gotesco Mall. Then 43, Jonas Burgos is the son of press freedom icon Joe Burgos. He remains missing.

READ: Why would the army abduct Jonas Burgos? 

Edita Burgos told the committee, “For 6 long years I have been painfully searching for my son Jonas… I only got lies from [the military]. PMA 1974 classmates General Hermogenes Esperon CS and General Romeo Tolentino, Philippine Army Commander have conspired to cover up the crime against Jonas. But what is revolting to one who seeks the truth, is that their successors have continued with the cover-up. General Año is a co-conspirator in the cover-up.”

After a deliberation, the committee decided to endorse Año’s confirmation.

“We express our deepest sympathy and commiseration about her feeling. On the other hand, we do not have any concrete evidence against General Año who also has an illustrious career and has even been bypassed in his promotion by younger officers of the AFP,” said committee member Ilocos Norte Rep Rodolfo Fariñas.

Fariñas’ motion was seconded without any objection.

The committee’s decision came after the Department of Justice (DOJ) cleared Año in the arbitrary detention, obstruction of justice and murder case filed by Edita Burgos earlier this month. The committee earlier deferred Año’s confirmation twice because of the objection from Mrs Burgos. 

In an interview after the hearing, Edita Burgos thanked the committee for listening to her objection.

“We submitted to this process. We still hold what I’m saying is what is true but there is nothing we can do. Wala kaming magagawa. As a mother of somebody still missing, I’ll do everything to look for my son.”

Edita Burgos added, “To me, this is like a hump. In our journey looking for Jonas, there are ups and downs but we continue the search. We will continue looking for Jonas until we find him.”

READ: Jonas Burgos: Trapped in a web of lives 

As for Año, he maintained his innocence in the case.

“I vehemently and categorically deny all the accusations of Mrs Edita Burgos against me. I have no participation on the alleged participation of Jonas Burgos. In truth and in fact, I have only learned about Jonas Burgos’ disappearance from the news on TV and news articles,” he said.

“It is unfortunate the alleged disappearance is still unresolved. However, it is an injustice that an innocent person like me will be dragged in this complaint with no basis at all,” he added.

Mrs Burgos said she gave Año a chance to respond to the allegations through the confirmation process.

“This is a clear opportunity for them to come clean instead of in another court after this life, if they have to answer for their crimes there, that is hard. It’s best they do that here. It’s an opportunity for them to come clean to say who abducted Jonas,” she said.

‘Why Año is rights violator’

Edita Burgos read and submitted a letter narrating circumstances, which she said “led me to conclude that Gen Año is a human rights violator and does not deserve to be confirmed the Commission:”

  •     Sometime in May 2007, I went to see Gen Delfin Bangit, then chief of the ISAFP, to ask about Jonas and Gen Bangit denied that ISAFP had anything to do with the enforced disappearance of Jonas but he did not discount the possibility that other intelligence units of the military may be involved;
  •     June 2007, I first heard from a police source of the name Lt Dick Abletes arrested for spying for the NPA as somebody who may lead me to find out who forcibly took my son;
  •     Sometime later, I met with Gen Bangit as ISAFP chief at the Camp Crame office of Police Director then head of Task Force Usig Geary Barrias where Gen Bangit told me “off the record” that the enforced disappearance of Jonas is connected with the arrest of Lt Dick Abletes;
  •     In the December 2007/February 2008 issue of Newsbreak, Glenda Gloria in her article “Trapped in a Web of Lives: Is the disappearance of Jonas Burgos related to the arrest of an Army lieutenant accused of spying for communist rebels?” wrote that it was the “Army’s Intelligence Security Group (ISG) that was privy to the details of Abletes’ arrest… ISG is headed by Col Ed Año, a 1983 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy who incidentally, is a classmate of Senior Supt Ashner Dolina, police chief of Bulacan whose men “arrested” Lipio (rebel returnee who the police presented as their witness that Jonas was abducted by the NPA);
  •     When Gen Año testified at the Court of Appeals on May 6, 2008, he admitted that ISG conducted surveillance operation on Lt Abletes on March 3, 2007 and caught him on video meeting with two NPAs to whom they gave their Working Order of Battle;
  •     Lt Abletes was arrested by joint elements of the 56th IB, MICO 7th ID and 15th ISU/ISG on March 26, 2007 and turned over to the ISG together with the evidence found on Lt Abletes such as two cellphones, email messages, etc.;
  • Lt Abletes testified at the Court of Appeals on February 21, 2012 that he was interrogated by ISG and detained for 4 years, 6 months and 27 days, one year in solitary confinement (“bartolina”) until he was released in September 2011 after trial of violation of the Articles of War – communicating with an aiding the enemy – and acquitted by the court martial
  •     Judge Advocate General Marianne Alledo testified at the Court of Appeals on April 12, 2012 that based on the records it was the ISG who filed the complaint against Lt Abletes for violation of the Articles of War – communicating with and aiding the enemy; that the evidence of ISG were there “After Operation Report, 26 March 2007 by Eduardo L Año, colonel, Philippine Army, Group Commander, ISG,” two cellphones with incriminating messages (cellphones were subjected to forensic examination, contents of his text messages reduced in writing), his emails showing communication with the members of the CPP/NPA; that ISG did not present any of their evidence, Col Año did not testify on his “After Operation Report.”

“Gen Delfin Bangit, former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and former ISAFP chief, predecessor of Gen Año, personally told me that the arrest of Lt Dick Abletes is connected to the enforced disappearance of Jonas on April 28, 2007. Lt Abletes was arrested by ISG (15th ISU) jointly with the 56th IB on March 26, 2007 or a month earlier.”

“ISG interrogated Lt Abletes and detained him in ‘bartolina’ and charged for violation of the Articles of War – communicating with and aiding the enemy. ISG has evidence against Abletes consisting of ‘After Operation Report’ of Gen Año, incriminating text messages and emails, testimony of Melissa Reyes, ISG videotaped meeting between Melissa Reyes and another male companion and Lt Abletes but none of which was presented in the court martial trial resulting to the acquittal of Lt Abletes.”

“After detaining Lt Abletes for more than 4 years and despite strong evidence that he was a traitor, the ISG let him off by not presenting evidence against him and allowed him to be acquitted by the court martial. Why? There must be something in the evidence against Lt Abletes or within the knowledge of Lt Abletes which has a connection with the enforced disappearance of Jonas.” 

“At the very least, as Group Commander of ISG and currently Chief of the ISAFP Gen Año has to account for the evidence against Lt Abletes, produce it and turn it over to us. He has to account for his criminal negligence in intentionally withholding evidence against a traitor and allowing him to be acquitted. He has to account for the disclosure of his predecessor, Gen Bangit, that the arrest of Lt Abletes is connected with the enforced disappearance of Jonas.” 

“Having failed to meet his accountabilities he is not fit to be confirmed by this Commission,” Edita Burgos wrote. – Ayee Macaraig/Rappler.com

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