Edith Burgos asks Robredo to include disappeared in electoral agenda

It’s been 15 years since Jonas was abducted

The mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos appealed to Vice President Leni Robredo to be the voice of the forcibly disappeared who are the “poorest among the poor because they are voiceless.”

On the 15th anniversary of the abduction of Jonas today, Mrs. Edita Burgos published an open letter asking the presidential candidate to put the issue of the forcibly disappeared in her electoral agenda.

“[A]nd most of all knowing that above all you are a caring and loving mother to your children, I take courage in asking you to please be the voice of the voiceless. The victims of enforced disappearance were taken away from the protection of the law, their whereabouts are kept unknown to their families,” Mrs. Burgos wrote.

 “At this critical point of history in our country, the Philippines, I believe that each Filipino parent has that God-given opportunity to act concretely to secure a better future for their children,” Mrs. Burgos added.

Mrs. Burgos said she chose to write to Robredo based on what she has heard about the Vice President’s track record, her values from her speeches and interviews and seeing how she is drawn to the least served people in the country.

Mrs. Burgos said that she is confident Robredo will open her mother’s heart to a fellow mother and all relatives of victims of enforced disappearance, giving her confidence to ask the candidate to put the issue of enforced disappearance and their search for justice.

A video commemorating the 15th anniversary of Jonas Burgos’ abduction.

Jonas, a peasant rights activist, was abducted while having lunch at a Quezon City mall on April 28, 2007 his family believes were Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel under the command of Gen. Jovito Palparan.

The Burgoses filed arbitrary detention charges against then Philippine Army Major Harry Baliaga Jr. but was acquitted by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 216 in October 2017.

Baliaga was an officer assigned to the 5th Infantry Battalion based in Norzagaray, Bulacan were the vehicle used in Jonas’ abduction was reported to have been seen.

The Court said testimonies of the witnesses were “hearsay.”

Mrs. Burgos has repeatedly said she is confident they will still find Jonas.

In this interview immediately after the promulgation of the case, Burgos’ prosecuting attorney Edre Olalia said the setback is not end of their quest for justice.

“We commemorate his 15th anniversary of abduction with the same vigor and determination. Yet, though with sadness, in the spirit of joining our will to God’s will and accepting reality as it is, we look at this year’s commemoration in the context of the present socio-political situation in our country and endeavor to open new doors,” Mrs. Burgos wrote to Robredo.

“This perspective has given us hope,” she added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Walang puntod

ni JL Burgos

Nais ko ring maglinis ng puntod katulad ninyo.
Makihalubilo sa mga kamag anak
habang inaalala ang mga panahong magkasama
ng nasa puntod na binisita.

Nais ko ring magalay ng bulaklak sa nitso.
alam kong kakaiba ang hiling ko
di katulad ng karamihan na hangga’t maari
ay walang nitsong pupuntahan.

Nais ko ring magtirik ng kandila
habang tumutulo ang luha sa lupa.
Pero wala ako/kaming puntod,
pinagkakait ang panahong magluksa.

Kadalasan ang puntod
ang sinasabing katapusan.
Pero minsan sa aming walang puntod
ang nitso ang simula ng katarungan.

Kami ay walang puntod.

-November 1

(Pasintabi kay Ipe Soco na may kahintulad na pamagat na tula. Dinukot ng mga militar ang nanay ni Ipe. Katulad ng kapatid kong dinukot na hanggang sa kasaluluyan ay di pa rin natatagpuan)

Arroyo’s rehabilitation an insult to victims–groups

Families of victims of human rights violations under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo government slammed the newly-installed House of Representatives Speaker, saying she is still accountable for the many atrocities from 2001 to 2009.

Angered at the complete rehabilitation of Arroyo’s political career, the families said her comeback is an insult to the victims and to the Filipino people who were also victims to the massive electoral fraud she befitted from in 2004.

“[Arroyo’s rise to the Speakership] illustrates the grave impunity under [President Rodrigo] Duterte who coddles a fraud, plunderer and rights violator,” the families said.

In a press conference, JL Burgos, brother of the disappeared peasant rights activist Jonas abducted in April 28, 2007, said, “Birds of a feather flock together,” adding he is not surprised the Arroyo’s political rehabilitation happened under a regime such as Duterte’s.

Roneo Clamor, Karapatan deputy secretary general, said the spectacle at the House of Representatives Monday, boils down to impunity, noting that both Arroyo and Duterte are accused of implementing policies that cause human rights violations in the country.

Karapatan said more than 1,600 were victims of extrajudicial killings while more than 200 remain missing as a result of Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya counter-insurgency program.

Also present in the press conference Tuesday were Evan Hernandez, mother of human rights worker Beng Hernandez who was among the first victims of extrajudicial killings under Arroyo, as well as Linda Cadapan, mother of missing University of the Philippines student  Sherlyn.

Cadapan said she had been in tears since Monday afternoon after learning Arroyo has benefitted from a dramatic coup d’etat that ousted former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

“It is hard to believe that the worst violator of human rights like Arroyo can escape justice and can still be rehabilitated as one of the highest officials of the land once more,” Cadapan told Kodao in Filipino.

Worst annual death rate of journalists

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines for its part said it vows to persevere even more to exact accountability from Arroyo under whose term a total of 103 journalists were killed.

“It was under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo presidency that the worst attack against journalists in history happened,” NUJP said, recalling 32 reporters were killed in November 23, 2009 in the incident called the Ampatuan Massacre.

“The family believed to be behind this gruesome act has been abetted by the corrupt and bloody government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo through political, financial, military and other forms of support, emboldening them to commit unprecendeted forms of atrocities,” NUJP said.

The group added that Arroyo’s nine years still has the worst average annual death rate of any president.

NUJP recalled that during Arroyo’s state of national emergency, the newspaper The Daily Tribune was raided and troops deployed around the premises of ABS-CBN.

During a live interview, then Arroyo Cabinet Secretary Ric Saludo said they could take over station for airing statement of mutinous military officers.

Kodao Production’s daily radio program was also taken off air due to orders from Malacañang.

The NUJP, as well as Kodao Productions and were tagged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines as “enemies of the state” under Arroyo.

Kodao was also charged with rebellion, along with 60 other activists under Arroyo’s state of national emergency in 2016.

The case was dismissed, however, when the government witnessed wrongly claimed he had been working as a spy under Kodao since 1989.

Kodao was only established in 2000. #

Saan? (Where?)

Video by JL Burgos/Red Ants

“During these times, we would be together and have some fun, playing the guitar while we drink bottles of beers. We let the laughter, alcohol, memories drown us until the wee hours of the morning. Almost 11 years ago, they took those moments away from us.

“We miss him so much. I miss you Kuya Jay.”

March 29 was the 48th birthday of Jonas Burgos. He remains missing to date.

[Music by Jess Santiago / Lyrics by Rene Villanueva and Jess Santiago / Voice by Cooky Chua]

‘This is not the end’ Jonas’ lawyer vows

Philippine Army Major Harry Ballaga Jr. was acquitted by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 216 of arbitrary detention charges in connection with the disappearance of farmers’ rights activist Jonas Burgos thursday, October 12.

In this interview immediately after the promulgation of the case, Burgos’ prosecuting attorney Edre Olalia said the setback is not end of their quest for justice.

Burgos’ mother Editha for her part said she believes she still can find her son Jonas.

Court acquits Army officer on Jonas Burgos case

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC RTC) acquitted an army officer of arbitrarily detaining disappeared activist Jonas Burgos Thursday, October 12, saying the prosecution failed to prove he participated in the actual abduction.

Philippine Army Major Harry Ballaga Jr. was cleared of the charge after QC RTC Branch Judge Alfonso Ruiz II found the testimonies of at least three Commission on Human Rights (CHR) witnesses lacking in probative value.

“The first duty of the prosecution is to identify the accused as malefactor of the alleged crime…The prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the identify of Harry Ballaga Jr. as the person who abducted and arbitrarily detained Jonas Burgos,” part of the Court’s promulgation said.

“This kind (CHR’s) of testimony is hearsay in nature and, the Court is constrained to say, has little to no probative value enough to sustain the accused’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” it added.

Burgos, a farmers’ rights and welfare activist and son of Philippine press freedom and democracy icons Jose and Editha, was abducted on April 28, 2007 while having lunch at a restaurant inside the Ever Gotesco Mall along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.

Both Ballaga and Burgos’ mother Editha calmly listened to the 15-minute promulgation.

Ballaga approached Mrs. Burgos after the reading of the judgement and offered his hand.  Mrs. Burgos graciously took it and nodded in acknowledgement of Ballaga’s gesture.

“We respect the decision of the Court. But this is just a delay. We continue the search; we continue the fight. And maybe this is God’s way of walking the crooked lines so that we can find him [Jonas],” Mrs. Burgos said.

“Even as we disagree with the Judge, we also know the institutions are imperfect because they are made up of imperfect people. And the Lord said, ‘Revenge is mine. I will repay.’ So they will have a bigger thing to contend with,” she added.

The National Union of People’s Lawyers, private prosecutors to the case, said their difficulty was the disappearance of eyewitnesses that could have made their case stronger.

“We ask the eyewitnesses to come forward. Because after the Court of Appeals hearings, they could not be found for reasons we could not divine, except they were probably harassed, threatened or for any other reason that did not work for [the quest for] justice for Jonas,” NUPL’s Atty Edre Olalia said.

“It’s not the end. There are still people out there who should be made accountable, including General [Armed Forces Chief of Staff Eduardo] Año, General [National Security Adviser Hermogenes] Esperon and a lot of other military officers,” Olalia said.

“I still believe that I will find Jonas,” Mrs. Burgos added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)


Peace advocates hound AFP chief of staff Eduardo Año

Peace advocates and human rights defenders hounded Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Eduardo Año at the Ateneo de Manila University this morning, recalling his record of human rights violations.

Año delivered a lecture at the Jesuit university on protecting the people and the State, which the rally participants said is ironic as the general is at the forefront of implementing the Duterte government’s ongoing all-out war that victimizes civilian communities throughout the country.

Año had been charged with masterminding the abduction and enforced disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos, among other human rights violations. Read more