Truth cannot be hidden forever…
AFAD Statement on the 6th Anniversary of Jonas Burgos’ Disappearance
28 April, 2013
Exactly six years ago, Jonas Burgos, peasant leader and son of the late press freedom icon, Joe Burgos, was allegedly seized and made to disappear by the military at the Ever Gotesco Mall in Quezon City. For six long years, the Burgos family has indefatigably searched for him, used of every possible step available to know the truth behind Jonas’ enforced disappearance and bring those responsible to justice.
But after six years, no one has yet been put on trial despite the government’s repeated pledges of making Jonas’ disappearance case its top priority. So far, the Aquino government has done nothing concrete to shed light on the number of enforced disappearance cases and other forms of human rights violations committed during the Arroyo administration. Far worse is that enforced disappearances continue, albeit in lesser number compared to the previous administration. Under the present political dispensation, 18 cases have been documented by the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND). Yet, one case is worse enough…
But truth cannot be hidden forever. The relentless efforts of the Burgos family particularly of Jonas’ mother, Mrs. Edita Burgos and the support of the human rights community have gradually led them in getting close to the truth.
A huge step forward in this quest for truth is the recent decision of the Supreme Court ordering the re-investigation of Jonas’ disappearance case.. The High Court’s decision was based on new pieces of evidence submitted by Burgos family in a petition. This newly discovered documentary evidence includes confidential military reports such as the “After Apprehension Report,” the “Psycho Social Processing Report,” and the “Autobiography of Jonas Burgos”, which fell into the lap of the Burgos family from a source not completely part of the military.
Not only that these new pieces of evidence give weight to the Burgos family’s court petition but it further proves the already established fact that state actors are the ones involved in this case.
Many people in many parts of the world who advocated change have suffered the same fate like Jonas Burgos. Who would imagine a human rights lawyer like Mr. Somchai Neelaphaijit of Thailand, a journalist like Prageeth Ekneligoda of Sri Lanka and a Development worker and a Ramon Magsaysay awardee like Mr. Sombath Somphone of Laos to be victimized by enforced disappearance? How could we imagine democratic governments to commit such an act?
This clearly shows that enforced disappearance particularly in Asia, a continent which has the highest number of cases of enforced disappearances reported to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance, remains a state’s instrument of repression that spares no one.
The Philippines has recently made history being the first in Asia to criminalize and penalize enforced disappearances with the enactment of Republic Act No. 10353 or the “Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012” on 21 December 2012 and the promulgation of the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) on 12 February 2013. But a law is as good as its implementation. It requires strong political will on the part of Aquino government to ensure the law’s full implementation. The disappearance case of Jonas Burgos is a litmus test of the government’s commitment not only to ensure accountability but to combat impunity and guarantee that it will never happen again.
Those responsible for the disappearance of Jonas Burgos and all Desaparecidos should bear in mind that their time will surely come, for truth will come out eventually despite desperate efforts to hide it.
On the occasion of the 6th anniversary of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance, AFAD calls on the Philippine government to prove its adherence to the spirit and letter of the Anti-Disappearance Act of 2012. The Aquino government has to leave no stone unturned to ferret out the truth, to punish the perpetrators to the full extent of this new law and indeed, to be a good example to Asian and other governments that in word and in deed, it is, indeed, against enforced disappearance.
Finally, as the Aquino government must prove to be an exemplary government in Asia, it has to ensure that all mechanisms be made in place against enforced disappearance by abiding to international human rights standards concretely to be shown among other things, by its immediate signing and acceding to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
MUGIYANTO MARY AILEEN BACALSO
Philippine Project Coordinator
Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances
Mobile no. 0917.8968459
Office No. 490.7862
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