Bukas na Liham kay Pang. Noynoy Aquino sa kanyang Ikalimang SONA

FILE PHOTO: Simbolikong inaresto nina Connie Empeno at Linda Cadapan si Jovito Palparan, ang dating heneral ng militar na itinuturong dumukot sa dalawang aktibista noong Hunyo 26, 2006. (Macky Macaspac)

FILE PHOTO: Simbolikong inaresto nina Connie Empeno at Linda Cadapan si Jovito Palparan, ang dating heneral ng militar na itinuturong dumukot sa dalawang aktibista noong Hunyo 26, 2006. (Macky Macaspac)

​OPEN LETTER
July 24, 2014
 

KAMI, sina Erlinda Cadapan at Concepcion Empeño, mga ina nina Sherlyn Cadapan at Karen Empeño na mga estudyante ng Unibersidad ng Pilipinas na sapilitang iwinala kasama ang magsasakang si Manuel Merino noong  Hunyo 26, 2006 sa Hagonoy, Bulacan.

Kaming mga ina, kasama ang iba pang kaanak ng mga biktima ng sapilitang pagkawala, ay muling nananawagan at naggigiit ng katarungan para sa mga mahal naming hanggang sa kasalukuyan ay hindi pa nakikita.

Walong taon na kaming walang tigil sa paghahanap sa kanila sa tama o legal na pamamaraan. Kami ay nananawagan sa inyo sa pamamagitan ng media para sa agarang pagpapalitaw sa kanila.  Ayon sa Court of Appeals, Korte Suprema, at Department of Justice, sila ay kinidnap at iligal na idinitine ng yunit ng 24th Infantry Batallion ng AFP sa pamumuno ni Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan.

Alam naming hindi lingid sa inyong kaalaman ang kasong ito. Sa aming pananaw, tila mailap ang hustisya at hindi pinagtutuunan ng pansin ang aming mga panawagan. Kami ay nagdaranas ng hirap sa paghahanap ng aming mga mahal sa buhay. Dagdag pa rito ang hindi pag-aresto sa mga tinukoy na ng korte na mga opisyal ng militar na nanguna sa pagdukot kina Karen at Sherlyn.

Samantalang nananatiling malaya si Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan at M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario na utak ng pagkawala nina Karen at Sherlyn, pinatatagal naman ng mga kapwa nila akusado na sina Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado at Staff Sgt. Edgar Osorio ang pagtakbo ng kasong Kidnapping at Illegal Serious Detention na dinidinig sa Malolos Regional Trial Court. Sa halip na magpresinta ng kanilang mga sinasabing saksi ang mga akusado mula pa noong Nobyembre 2013, kung ano-anong mga dahilan ang parating inihahapag sa tuwing may pagdinig: naka-deploy sa malayo, hindi pinapayagang dumalo sa pagdinig, walang budget para sa pamasahe. Pagpapakita ito ng kawalang respeto sa karapatang pantao at sa mismong korte.

Sa tulong ng mga tagasuporta at sariling rekurso, naghanap kami sa mga ospital, presinto’t kampo ng militar na ang aming pinuntahan na umaasang mayakap muli ang aming mga anak; ilang morge na ang pinagtanungan at maging paghuhukay sa mga libingan upang kilalanin ang mga bangkay na walang umaako ay nagawa na namin sa pagbabakasakaling mabigyan ng marangal na burol at libing ang kanilang katawan pero kahit sa mga ito, walang mga Sherlyn o Karen o kahit sinong desaparecido.

Kahit ang kasong kriminal na isinampa laban kay Maj. Harry Baliaga na isa sa mga dumukot kay Jonas Burgos ay napakupad ng pag-usad. Malalayo ang pagitan ng mga petsa ng pagdinig at pinahintulutan pang makapagpiyansa si Baliaga. Sa dinami-rami ng mga opisyal na sinampahan ng kaso ng pamilya ni Jonas, lahat naabswelto maliban kay Baliaga kahit ang mga nakalap na ebidensya sa sariling pag-iimbestiga ay nakaturo at nagsasabing militar ang dumukot kay Jonas.

Ginoong Aquino, hindi lingid sa amin na naglaan kayo ng mahigit 400 milyong pisong pabuya sa mga kumakalaban sa pamahalaan. Bukod pa rito, nitong ngang huli, sumambulat sa amin ang pagkakamal ng inyong administrasyon ng bilyon-bilyong pisong pondo ng bayan sa pamamagitan ng DAP. Sa kabila ng pagdedeklara ng Korte Suprema na labag sa ating konstitusyon ang DAP, ipinagtanggol pa ninyo ito at ipinagmalaki ang mga pinaglaanang proyekto ng iligal na DAP.

Magkano ang inilaang pondo ng gobyerno para dukutin ang aming mga anak? Ilang porsyento ng DAP ang inilaan ninyo para makapagbigay katarungan sa mga biktima ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao? Sapat na ba ang dalawang milyong pisong pabuya sa ikakaaresto ni Palparan? Kailangang makita ang aksyon sa pagtugis kina Hilario at Palparan.

Nadidismaya kami sa inyong pagkanlong at pagbibigay ng espesyal na pagtrato sa mga nakinabang sa kriminal na DAP. Malaking insulto ito sa tinamo naming sugat na idinulot ng pagkawala ng aming mga kaanak. Ipinapaalala ng inyong pagkanlong sa mga magnanakaw sa kaban ng bayan ang pagtataas ng posisyon at pagbibigay karangalan sa mga opisyal ng militar na pangunahing may pananagutan sa mga paglabag ng karapatang pantao.

Nananatiling nasa papel lamang ang Anti-Torture at Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law na magpaparusa sana sa mga dumukot at nag-torture sa aming mga anak. Subalit umabot na sa dalawampu (20) ang nagiging biktima ng sapilitang pagkawala sa ilalim ng inyong administrasyon sa kabila ng pagkakapasa ng mga batas na ito. Ginoong Aquino, kahit ilang batas ang inyong pirmahan, hindi matitigil ang pagdami ng mga desaparecidos kung hindi naman ito ipapatupad at kung sa halip ay patuloy ninyong ipapatupad ang kontra-insurhensyang programang Oplan Bayanihan na nagnanakaw ng buhay sa maraming biktima.

Ginoong Aquino, ninakaw ng pamahalaan ang aming mga anak.  Ang iginigiit naming hustisya para sa aming mga anak at iba pang mga biktima ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao ay alingawngaw ng aming isinisigaw na katarungan mula pa noong dukutin ang aming mga anak. Nagawa na namin ang lahat na dapat naming magawa. Panahon na para gawin mo naman ang iyong bahagi na agarang ilitaw sina Karen at Sherlyn at maaresto sina Rizal Hilario at Jovito Palparan para panagutin sa kanilang paglabag sa aming karapatan.

Iminumungkahi namin ang inyong pagbibitiw sa pwesto kung hindi ninyo ito kayang tugunan.

 

Naghahanap ng Katarungan,

(sgd) Erlinda Cadapan

(sgd) Concepcion Empeño

 

Reference:       Concepcion Empeño, Chairperson (0928-2884623)
                 Erlinda Cadapan (0908-7136291)

Why didn’t gov’t see the disappeared?

President Aquino: ‘You would be judged.’ Inset Desaparecido Jonas Burgos, whose case remains unresolved. INQUIRER PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/622438/why-didnt-govt-see-the-disappeared#ixzz38G903r4B  Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

President Aquino: ‘You would be judged.’ Inset Desaparecido Jonas Burgos, whose case remains unresolved. INQUIRER PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

Kate Pedroso, Marielle Medina | Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines–It has been seven years since Edita Burgos’ son, farmer-activist Jonas Burgos, was abducted in Quezon City, and despite losing hope that she will find justice under the Aquino administration, she continues to draw strength from family and friends.

“One can never underestimate the strength of a united family,” Burgos told the Inquirer in an e-mail interview, adding that she also finds emotional and spiritual support from members of the group “Desaparecidos, Families of the Disappeared,” as well as relatives and friends of Jonas who make up the “Free Jonas Burgos Movement.”

“I am in touch with some members [of Desaparecidos], especially mothers, and we try to provide support to each other. Yes, I find comfort in these fellow victims. Yes, I can see how blessed I am when I am with them,” she added.

“The strength to continue the search comes from grace. Grace in accepting reality and grace in knowing that there is something we can still do to continue the search, to help other victims and to work for peace,” Burgos said.

She recalled how her family coped, especially during the first few months of her son’s disappearance.

“Living in the hands of God made us live from day to day especially during the early days. Whatever came, we accepted as grace. No clue was rejected, no person was ignored. Yet at the back of our minds we knew that it was possible [that] the clue was floated just to confuse us. We simply pursued the clue and if we hit a blank wall, which always happened, then we looked at other means,” she said.

Not on Aquino’s watch

Photo of Jonas taken right after his abduction on April 27, 2007. An informant sent a copy to his family on 2013.

Photo of Jonas taken right after his abduction on April 27, 2007. An informant sent a this to Burgos family on 2013.

“I don’t think that this administration will be the deciding factor on whether I will find Jonas or not. I do not believe either that justice will be served [on] Mr. Aquino’s watch. Our family has experienced how slow the wheels of justice move in our country,” she said.

In April, in time for the seventh anniversary of her son’s abduction, Burgos wrote an open letter to President Aquino and reminded him of his promise of a “dedicated and exhaustive investigation” into the incident.

“Our hope was anchored on your promise to do what you could ‘on the basis of evidence’ when I, accompanied by my son, personally pleaded for your help. This was almost four years ago, May 2010,” Burgos wrote.

“There has been no action since I wrote the open letter,” Burgos said. “The executive, judicial and military branches of government have been [silent]. This makes me wonder: What must a victim of the continued torture of not finding a disappeared do to get the attention of [the] government?”

Rights violations continue

Burgos lamented that human rights violations continued to happen under the Aquino administration.

“What is dangerous is that the government seems to be oblivious of these violations,” she said.

“Whereas before I was truly hopeful that [I would find] closure, that I would obtain justice during this administration, now, I know that [the] lost and stolen lives of victims of disappearances and all human rights violations as well have never been a priority of this administration.”

“It took more than six years for the courts to conclude that Jonas’ case was indeed an enforced disappearance and that he was abducted by the military,” Burgos said.

Frustrations shared

“Yet even after finding Harry Baliaga Jr., a military officer, as accountable and the Philippine Army as responsible for Jonas’ disappearance, nothing came out of the Supreme Court’s order for the military to surface my son. To this date, no one has been punished for the crime,” she said.

Burgos’s frustration is shared by various groups that have criticized the Aquino administration for inaction.

Human rights group Karapatan, which recorded close to 200 cases of extrajudicial killings from July 2010 to March 2014, said the President’s inaction on human rights violations committed during his administration was comparable to his reaction to the controversy involving the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), an economic stimulus plan that the Supreme Court struck down on July 1.

“[The President’s] tactic of sweeping under the rug human rights violations committed [on] his watch is the same scheme he is now using to cover up his accountability for carting away billions of [pesos in] people’s money under the Disbursement Acceleration Program. If the use of [the] DAP is unconstitutional and an impeachable offense, so are human rights violations committed during his four years in office,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.

Journalist killings

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Philippines is among the top three countries where the murder of journalists is most likely to go unpunished, ranking third after Iraq and Somalia.

In its latest Global Impunity Index, released in May, CPJ said: “Fresh violence and a failure to prosecute old cases kept Iraq, Somalia and the Philippines in the three worst slots on the index.”

According to the CPJ report, “more than 50 journalist murders that took place from 2004 to 2013 remain unsolved, belying the claim made in November 2013 by Malacañang that ‘there is no more impunity’ in the Philippines.”

On June 9, veteran radio commentator Nilo Baculo Sr. became the latest journalist to be killed under the Aquino administration.

Baculo was shot dead near his home in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro province, by motorcycle-riding gunmen.

He became the 24th journalist to be killed on President Aquino’s watch.

Five years ago, Baculo, who hosted the hard-hitting program “Isumbong Mo kay Ka Nilo” on dwIM radio in Calapan, was denied by a court a protection order following alleged threats from elected officials in the province. He was no longer a practicing journalist at the time of his assassination.

More than 160 journalists have been killed since 1986, including the 32 who were killed in election violence in Maguindanao province in November 2009. That atrocity is now known as the Maguindanao massacre.

Families of Desaparecidos and Karapatan gather at the gate of Department of Justice in Manila to oppose DOJ decosion to drop Brig. Gen.Eduardo Ano and other military officials from the list of respondents of the criminal case on the diappearance of Jonas Burgos. INQUIRER PHOTO / NIÑO JESUS ORBETA Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/622438/why-didnt-govt-see-the-disappeared#ixzz38G8p3Njq  Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Families of Desaparecidos and Karapatan gather at the gate of Department of Justice in Manila to oppose DOJ decosion to drop Brig. Gen.Eduardo Ano and other military officials from the list of respondents of the criminal case on the diappearance of Jonas Burgos. INQUIRER PHOTO / NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

US rights report

Earlier in March, the US state department’s 2014 Human Rights Report also noted that human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances by government security forces, have continued unabated in the Philippines for the past year.

The report, which documents human rights conditions in the Philippines and more than 200 other countries, also cited widespread corruption and abuse of power among government officials and a “dysfunctional criminal justice system” as some of the most significant problems abetting human rights violations in the country.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) agreed with the state department’s findings, saying extrajudicial killings have persisted in the Philippines, and that the country’s criminal justice system has remained problematic.

“While there are efforts [by] the Armed Forces of the Philippines to try and improve, it’s true that there are still extrajudicial killings. [Though] they have been reduced, they’re still around and not yet eradicated,” CHR Chair Etta Rosales said.

Rights violations continued to hound President Aquino even during US President Barack Obama’s visit to the Philippines in late April. A foreign correspondent raised the issue during their joint press conference with Obama.

Aquino told Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry: “As far as journalists are concerned, perhaps the track record speaks for itself. The Maguindanao massacre involved something like 32 journalists. There are presently something like over a hundred people who are indicted for this crime and are undergoing trial.”

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines criticized President Aquino’s response. “[President Aquino’s] reply to an American reporter during his joint press conference with US President Barack Obama clearly illustrates how much our illustrious leader really cares about media murders and extrajudicial killings in general—zilch,” the NUJP said in a statement released after the press conference.

Last year, international human rights watchdog Human Rights Watch urged the Aquino administration to declare deadly attacks on Filipino journalists a “national catastrophe,” while two other groups—Reporters Without Borders and the European Union delegation to the Philippines—condemned attacks on journalists and urged the government to take “decisive action.”

‘Higher court’

In the absence of action from the Aquino administration, Burgos said she just pinned her hope on a “higher court.”

“Prayer and belief in a higher court has been the family’s source of hope, not this administration’s actions. We pray that they—those in power (who could have made a difference but haven’t done anything)—would remember that they, too, [would] be judged,” she said.

Defense in the Cadapan-Empeño case purposely delays court proceedings

“If the defense is delaying the court proceedings so the families of Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan will eventually grow tired of seeking justice, the defense will fail,” said Aya Santos, Pamilya ng Desaparecidospara sa Katarungan (Desaparecidos) secretary general after the May 12 hearing at the Malolos Regional Trial Court of the criminal case of kidnapping and serious illegal detention against Retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan,  Col. Felipe Anotado, Staff Sgt. Edgar Osorio and M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario.

“The defense, headed by Attys. Joey Cruz and Abner Torres have been repeatedly disregarding court processes by failing to submit judicial affidavits five days before the scheduled hearing as required under the law,” said Santos. The two lawyers were already fined by the Court on February 10 for the same offense.

Defense claims that it is hard for them to physically produce their witnesses in court because they are deployed or assigned to different areas . “That was the same alibi Atty. Torres came up with last April 7 hearing,” Santos said. The defense have previously manifested in court that their witnesses do not have fare to go to Bulacan and appear in court. The defense presented yesterday Staff Sgt. Edgar Osorio as their witness.

“The military is obviously giving lame reasons to evade the law. Subpoenas have already been served by the court to the witnesses. It is not true they do not have the budget to transport their witnesses. All the AFP has to do is require their officers to be present in court for a day but they delay the proceedings on purpose either because they do not have witnesses to produce or they are still looking for fake witnesses to concoct stories, as what they have always been doing,” added Santos.

The defense started presenting their witnesses on September 2013 and successively postponed the hearings due to the absence of witnesses. They have since presented two witnesses—the accused themselves, Anotado and Osorio.

Atty. Torres said five witnesses are still lined up to testify in court for Osorio and Anotado but the court and the prosecution reminded them that they have until June 23 to produce their witnesses. After June 23, the presentation of witnesses of the defense will be deemed waived and the case is submitted for resolution.

 “Mothers will always be mothers to their children, alive or not. And it means seeking for justice and putting rapists and murderers behind bars even if it takes a lifetime,” Santos said. “The military can come up with the same alibi in the succeeding hearings but we will not be fooled. Mrs. Empeno and Mrs. Cadapan will continue to seek justice,” Santos said.

The case of kidnapping and Illegal detention was filed on December 2011 by Erlinda Cadapan and Concepcion Empeño for the disappearance of their daughters Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan in June 26, 2006 in Bulacan. Anotado and Osorio remain on trial while Jovito Palparan is still at large.###