Appeals court holds military accountable for disappearance of Jonas Burgos

“I earnestly pray that this decision would lead us to Jonas and to the names of those involved so that justice may (finally) be served…The ultimate measure of success is our recovery of Jonas.” – Edita Burgos, Jonas’s mother

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – After four years of intermittent hearings on the petition filed by the family of Jonas Burgos, the Court of Appeals (CA) ruled that the military should be held accountable for the disappearance of the activist.

In its decision on the writ of habeas corpus and the writ of amparo, the appellate court recognized that the abduction of Jonas almost six years ago is a case of enforced disappearance and declared that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is accountable for the crime. A copy of portions of the decision was sent to Bulatlat.com by the Burgos family.

The CA further said Major Harry A. Baliaga Jr. is responsible for the enforced disappearance of Jonas.

In a statement, Jonas’s mother, Edita Burgos, said: “… I earnestly pray that this decision would lead us to Jonas and to the names of those involved so that justice may (finally) be served…The ultimate measure of success is our recovery of Jonas.”


Mrs Burgos in a picket marking the 5th year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance (Bulatlat File Photo / bulatlat.com)

The decision, penned by Associate Justice Rosalinda Asuncion-Vicente of the CA 7th Special Division, came two days before Jonas’ 43rd birthday.

Mrs. Burgos appealed to Baliaga to cooperate with the courts. “He has the opportunity to make things right by saying the whole truth. Here is a singular chance, perhaps from the Lord, to have the courage to reveal the details related to my son’s disappearance. The courage to say the truth is my prayer for all this Lent,” Mrs. Burgos said.

Baliaga, who appeared in court hearings, was positively identified by a key witness as one of those who abducted Jonas on April 28, 2007. In June 2011, Mrs. Burgos filed charges of arbitrary detention and possibly murder against Baliaga, Lt. Co. Melquiades Feliciano, former commander of the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA); Col. Eduardo Ano of the Intelligence Service Group of the Philippine Army and several John Does and Mary Does.

Mrs. Burgos also expressed hope that all concerned authorities would make available to them all documents they have on Jonas, make accessible all the officers who had anything to do with the abduction, or who had knowledge of the abduction. She also hoped that they be granted access to camps and safe houses that could give leads to the whereabouts of Jonas.

The appellate court directed the incumbent chief of staff of the AFP and the director general of the Philippine National Police to continue with their respective investigations and coordination on the disappearance of Jonas until those responsible are brought to justice.

The CA also directed the Commission on Human Rights to continue with its own independent investigation. All three offices are ordered by the CA to submit quarterly reports on the progress of their respective investigation.

The Burgos family thanked the CA “for its thorough and comprehensive appreciation of all the facts, testimonies and documents submitted to them in the course of the more than four years hearing.” ()

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