Manila: The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) remembers Jonas Burgos who was forcibly disappeared on the 28th of April 2007 while he was having his lunch at the Hapag Kainan restaurant in Ever Gotesco Mall, Quezon City. The perpetrators are personnel of the Armed Forces of Philippines (AFP).
Jonas was a farmer and activist who worked tirelessly for upholding the rights of the farmers. He was a dedicated father, husband and son. He was targeted for supporting the rights of the farmers. It has been 12 years since Jonas Burgos was disappeared. During those years, all legal and parallel remedies were availed of and the petition for the writs of habeas corpus and amparo were filed and were granted by the Supreme Court of the Philippines (SC). After 6 long years of waiting, the SC affirmed the March 27, 2013 resolution of the Court of Appeals, which ruled that military officers of the AFP took Jonas Joseph Burgos on April 28, 2007. The case has also established that Jonas is a victim of enforced disappearance and noted the serious gaps in the police investigations. Thus, the Court ordered the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to reinvestigate the case, taking it away from the police investigation agencies.
Although the case was won, Jonas has not yet returned and his family continues to suffer the pain and injustice. AFP has not complied as ordered and to date, no one has been cited in contempt. At this point, the Court has gone silent and justice has once again been denied from Jonas and his family. This case highlights the problem of impunity that the country is facing.
In this light, AFAD urges the Armed Forces of the Philippines, its guilty officers, and the suspects in the abduction, to comply with the Court’s order and to be accountable for the socio-economic and psychological damages that they have caused to the family of Jonas Burgos. It is a fact that those suspected officers involved have been promoted to higher ranks, given choice positions in the government and are now enjoying additional benefits from the government. Some have even been assigned in regions where cases of enforced disappearance proliferate. These government actions should not be tolerated.
In the light of the case of Jonas Burgos and many other unresolved cases of enforce disappearances, AFAD strongly calls for the full implementation of the Republic Act 10353 or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012. Moreover, it reiterates its call on the Philippine Government to accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and to recognize the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances.
For 12 agonizing years, Jonas’ family has been enduring the consequences of a disappeared loved one – a son, brother, father, protector, and breadwinner. Impunity continues in the Philippines because no one is held accountable for enforced disappearances. AFAD calls for justice to be served in due process. AFAD, together with the Burgos family, will continue to seek for truth and justice. Justice will be served and will prevail in the end!
MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO
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