Jonas Burgos mom to PNoy: Is there hope for justice?
MANILA, Philippines – On the eve of the 7th anniversary of the abduction of activist Jonas Burgos, his mother, Edita, looks back to 4 years ago, when she personally talked to then newly-elected President Benigno Aquino III to ask for help.
Back then, Edita said Aquino had promised to do what he could "on the basis of evidence."
On Sunday, April 27, Edita wrote a letter to Aquino to remind him of the "overwhelming evidence" at hand and asked: "Is there hope that the truth will finally be revealed while you are still in the position to make this happen?"
Aquino ordered authorities to conduct a "focused, dedicated and exhaustive investigation" on the case soon after Edita lodged new evidence showing that the military is accountable for Jonas' disappearance in April 2013.
In February, the Supreme Court ordered the Department of Justice to look into new information on Burgos' case.
Burgos was abducted by suspected members of the military in Hapag Kainan restaurant at Ever Gotesco mall in Quezon City on April 28, 2007. (READ: Why would the Army abduct Jonas Burgos?)
A son of the late press freedom icon Joe Burgos, Jonas studied agriculture before taking up activism work 'full time.' He was caught between society's respect for fundamental human rights and the military institution's view that every rebel, in or out of the battlefield, is fair game. (READ: Jonas Burgos: Trapped in a web of lives)
Open letter of Edita Burgos to President Benigno S. Aquino III
Tomorrow, April 28, 2014, as we sadly commemorate the 7th anniversary of the abduction of Jonas, we recall how a few days before you were sworn in as President of the Republic of the Philippines, we were so full of hope. We, my children and I, thought that it would be just a matter of time before we would find Jonas. Our hope was anchored on your promise to do what you could ‘on the basis of evidence’ when I, accompanied by my son, personally pleaded for your help. This was almost four years ago, May, 2010.
May I refresh your memory Mr. President—just by focusing on the evidence on the Jonas case:
- On March 15, 2011 the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) submitted its report to the Supreme Court (SC) naming Maj. Harry Baliaga Jr. as the principal abductor of Jonas. The CHR findings were upheld by the SC in July 5, 2011, directing the military to produce Jonas.
- In June 2011, I filed a criminal case with the DOJ against Harry Baliaga Jr. and Eduardo Año, et al based on the CHR findings.
- In Dec. 2, 2012 in spite of this pending preliminary investigation, Eduardo Año is appointed chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP). Later Eduardo Año is promoted from Brigadier General to Major General, in spite of my objections filed with the Commission on Appointments.
- March 18, 2013 the Court of Appeals has found that: a) the abduction of Jonas Burgos is a case of Enforced Disappearance; b) Maj. Harry Baliaga Jr. is held responsible for the abduction of Jonas; and c) the Armed Forces of the Philippines and elements of the AFP, particularly the Philippine Army, are accountable for the abduction of Jonas Burgos. The same findings were later upheld by the Supreme Court in its ruling dated February 2, 2014.
- In the light of the new evidence I have submitted to the SC on April 1, 2013, on April 4, 2013 you issued a directive to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to order the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a ‘focused, dedicated and exhaustive investigation on the Jonas Burgos case … to ferret out the truth…’. Mr. President, more than a year has passed since this order was given, may I know if this order elicited any result?
- On April 12, 2013, the SC has ordered the chief of the AFP to locate the officers who abducted Jonas, and has issued a Temporary Protection Order to me and members of my family in cognizance of the critical value of the new evidence I submitted to the SC.
- On February 2, 2014, the same CA resolution was upheld by the Supreme Court, to wit:
- Jonas was forcibly disappeared
- Maj. Harry Baliaga Jr. of the Philippine Army is held responsible for the disappearance.
- The AFP-Philippine Army is accountable for the disappearance of Jonas.
May we highlight the following facts:
- In spite of the unfulfilled SC order to produce Jonas, no one has been penalized or found accountable;
- In spite of the overwhelming evidence that the military is accountable for Jonas’ disappearance, you have not acted on the case as you promised;
- In spite of your Order to the DOJ-NBI, there has been no ‘dedicated and exhaustive investigation’ on the case.
- Meanwhile, those we believe were responsible for giving the orders to abduct Jonas, were promoted and even appointed to crucial positions which could enhance and encourage the climate of impunity, now prevalent in our country.
It has been 4 years that you have been Commander-in-Chief, yet we do not know the truth about Jonas. Mr. President, is there hope that the truth will finally be revealed while you are still in the position to make this happen?
As we immerse ourselves in God’s Mercy today, April 27, 2014, Divine Mercy Sunday, I bring to His most Compassionate Heart the victims of enforced disappearance and other human rights violations, the perpetrators of these inhumanity, all mankind, and you Mr. President, that the Lord of Mercy would touch our hearts and provide the grace that we need most at the moment. Enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus, may you cast a glance at us victims, especially Jonas and his family.
God have mercy on us not only because we have sinned but because we have failed to do the good that we could have done.
I pray that compassion, courage and determination to resolve our cases would embrace your whole being as you glance at us.
Dasal namin na mayroon pa ring puwang sa puso n’yo na nakikita ang patuloy na pagdurusa ng maraming biktima – pamilya at minamahal – ng sapilitang pagkawala. (We pray that you still have the space in your heart to see the continue suffering of victims – families and loved ones – of the disappeared.)
In the love of the God of Mercy,
Edita Tronque-Burgos, OCDS
Mother of Jonas