MANILA – Karapatan, or the alliance for the advancement of people's rights, called on Pres. Beningno Simeon C. Aquino III to use his power to make the military abide by the high court’s order to surfaceBurgos as it welcomes the Supreme Court decision ordering the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to produce the missing activist.
The high tribunal specifically ordered Maj. Harry Baliaga Jr. and the incumbent Chief of Staff, to surface Burgos who has been missing since 2007, after civilian-clothed men dragged him into a waiting vehicle in front of a mall in Quezon City.
In a report to the SC last March 15, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) identified Baliaga., then an Army lieutenant, as among the supposed gunmen that snatched Burgos inside the Ever Gotesco Mall on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City in April 2007.
Karapatan also strongly urged Aquino to go after then president, now Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was dropped by the courts as a respondent to the case.
“ One year is more than enough time for President Noynoy to act on serving justice to all the victims of human rights violations of the past regime. It is hard to believe that GMA is ignorant of these heinous cases of human rights violations that happened when she was the commander-in-chief of the AFP,” said Karapatan of the president’s alleged inaction on the country’s human rights situation.
“The decision affirms what Karapatan has long found out: that state security forces are responsible for the disappearance of Jonas Burgos,” the media statement said.
This is the case of Burgos, along with the many other cases of enforced disappearances that happened under the GMA regime and are still happening until the present, according to Karapatan, adding that it is high time the AFP stopped denying responsibility over the disappearance of Burgos, who disappeared in the same manner as Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño and many others.
The AFP keeps denying desaparecidos Cadapan and Empeño are in its custody when the Supreme Court came up with a produce order last May, Karapatan furthered.
“We reiterate that Jonas, Sherlyn, Karen and thousands like them became victims of human rights violations because of the counter-insurgency program implemented by the Arroyo administration – the Oplan Bantay Laya I and II - that targeted activists and other human rights defenders. We urge the Aquino government to learn the lesson of the past regime and immediately rethink implementing the same policies of the past government and his brand of the counter insurgency program – Oplan Bayanihan - which engenders unreported displacement of communities in areas pinpointed by the military as allegedly under the strong influence of rebels,” the Karapatan statement further read.
Karapatan challenged Aquino to use his power as AFP Commander-in-chief to cause the military to abide by the Supreme Court order to surface Burgos. It also asked the president to put to justice those responsible for his abduction and disappearance.
“Only then can decisions of the courts have teeth and effect the lessening of, if not totally ending, impunity,” said Karapatan.
As this developed, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) also came up with a press statement saying it is high time Aquino intervened and compelled the AFP to produce Burgos.
Bayan Secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. said the president's silence on the issue would imply that the enforced disappearances of activists and those perceived as enemy of the State would continue.
It would be a disservice to the country if justice is not served and impunity continues to reign, Reyes added. # Lyn V. Ramo