“He promised us, that he would have this case resolved before his administration ends. But where is Jonas now?”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Ten-year-old Yumi walked past the phalanx of policemen holding a placard, “Fulfill your promise.” She would like to bring the letter written by her grandmother to the doorstep of President Benigno Aquino III’s ancestral home at Times street, Quezon City. The police did not allow her.
Police officer Benjie Mayor, commanding officer of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD), said they would have the letter received by Presidential Security Guards (PSG) personnel assigned to Aquino’s home. Yumi reluctantly handed over the letter to one of the 40 QCPD men blocking 15 family members and supporters a few meters away from the President’s house.
Yumi was two years old when state agents abducted his father, Jonas Burgos, on April 28, 2007. Today is the eighth year of Jonas’s disappearance.
The letter, written by Mrs. Edita Burgos, called on President Aquino to “return Jonas to the family, at whatever state he is in.” Mrs. Burgos wrote the letter from Europe where she is gathering international support for the campaign to surface Jonas and other victims of enforced disappearances.
Jonas’s wife Mhean told policemen, “He promised us, that he would have this case resolved before his administration ends. But where is Jonas now?”
Mhean and Jonas’s siblings Peachy, Sonny and JL were all wearing shirts with Jonas’s face already fading.
Mrs. Burgos pleaded Aquino, as commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), to order his subordinates to follow the Supreme Court order.
The high court has affirmed the Court of Appeals decision declaring Jonas’s abduction as a case of enforced disappearance, holding the military accountable for the abduction and holding Army Major Harry Baliaga Jr. /?s=Harry+Baliaga and others responsible for the crime.
The family filed criminal charges against Baliaga. In October 2013, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 216 issued a warrant of arrest against Baliaga for kidnapping. Baliaga, however, was allowed to post bail amounting to P40,000 ($930).
“We have won the battle and yet we are losing the war… Jonas has not been returned to his family and nobody has been held responsible for this noncompliance of the Supreme Court order,” Mrs. Burgos said.
“As a mother, I personally appeal to you to end this suffering of the family of not knowing the truth about what happened to Jonas,” Mrs. Burgos said.
Lorena Santos, secretary general of Desaparecidos, said Aquino is accountable for the continued disappearance of Jonas.
“We are enraged of the negligence that President Aquino has shown in the past five years on the lives of our people, while perpetuating a culture of impunity and implementing the same policy of repression including abductions and enforced disappearances,” Santos said.
Desaparecidos has documented 24 victims of enforced disappearances under the Aquino administration.
Mrs. Burgos also called on Aquino to sign the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, People from being Disappeared.
In December 2012, Aquino enacted Republic Act No. 10350 or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012. The law makes enforced disappearance a distinct crime, separate from kidnapping, serious illegal detention, or murder. To date, no one has been punished for violation of the said law.