A Question

Protesters wear Jonas Burgos masks during a protest in Manila, August 2007. Photo by Candice Reyes

Candice Reyes | Facebook Note

President Benigno Aquino III should be more careful about what he says.

Editha Burgos, mother of activist Jonas Burgos who was abducted on April 2007 asks, “With Malacanang’s tough branding of human rights violations as leftist propaganda, are the authorities now saying that I will never see my son again?”

What does she mean by that question?

In an interview with Radio New Zealand last Tuesday (October 23) President Aquino was asked regarding the administration’s record on human rights abuses and his comment on groups that are critical of the government’s alleged inaction on the cases.

He cited the leftist groups to be “very good at propaganda.”

“Well, we won’t claim that there are no human rights issues within our country. But I think in the past two weeks, for instance, we’ve had a lot of abuses done on state agents. When they were enforcing, for instance, eviction notice on land issues, they were pelted with human waste and a lot of danger has happened to our people. Perhaps I keep saying that human right is for everybody. Not because you’re… a government employee that your rights are any less than any other citizens,” Aquino said in the interview.

That could be true but…

Why was there no mention of  what happened on the morning of October 18 (just last week) in Tampakan South Cotabato, when two-months pregnant Juvy Capion, wife of anti-mining Blaan tribe leader, was killed with their two children who are 8 and 13, whose bodies were dragged out of their hut with bullets on their heads… or was it “propaganda”? because allegedly, Armed Forces of the Philippines 27th Infantry Battalion happened to be at the scene?

What about Jonas Burgos’ case, Maguindanao massacre, and the hundreds of nameless faces who are victims of torture, extrajudicial killings, and enforced disappearances?

In Burgos’ statement, she said, “To call this propaganda and to label it leftist is the height of insensitivity to a mother who continues to search for her missing son. I stand before the Lord, who is truth Himself, in witness of this truth.

Since 2007, together with families of “desaparecidos” (disappeared), the Burgos family has always been upfront with the military to surface Jonas.

“Now, when you are looking for a missing loved one, is it justified to label you as leftist? Unless the definition has been changed, I would not subscribe to what has been officially said by Malacanang. To seek justice and to right a wrong done to families who have been victims of enforced disappearances, will that be considered a leftist act?” Burgos asked.

“Today, I fear that the message relayed in such blatant act by authorities can be a justification for human rights violators to continue their abuses.”

A New Zealand-based group, Philippine Solidarity Network of Aotearoa (PSNA), also reacted on Aquino’s statement. “It’s not only the “extreme left” who are critical of the unabated killings under your watch,”

They cited institutions like the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other organizations here and abroad who’ve also raised their concern on the continuing human rights abuses in the country.

Was the President just misinterpreted with the use of the word “propaganda”?

Or was it a way to deflect a rather confronting question?

Thoughtless words can pierce.

But it can be healed–if the question of the victim’s mother or father, sibling or child finally receives a truthful answer.

“Where is justice?”

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