Six years and still no Jonas, three years of Aquino and still no justice

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Press Release | Karapatan
April 25, 2013

Nearing the 6th year of the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos, his family, friends, and various organizations such as Karapatan and Families of Desaparecidos for Justice held a mass for Jonas at the Quiapo Church this morning. The mass was celebrated by His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, D.D., Archbishop of the Diocese of Manila.  Dubbed as “Mass for Truth and Justice,” the activity was sponsored by the Free Jonas Burgos Movement, End Impunity Alliance and the Promotion for Church People’s Response.

“It is painful that after six years, Jonas is still missing; but it is atrocious that no one was prosecuted among those who abducted and are still hiding him, even as the Court of Appeals already considered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) responsible and Maj. Harry Baliaga accountable,” said Lorena Santos, secretary general of Desaparecidos.

“Worse, after three years in office, the Aquino government had done nothing definite, except to create investigative bodies, to pursue this case; like all other cases of enforced disappearances that happened during the Arroyo administration,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said. “In fact, enforced disappearances continue under this regime, with a total of 14 cases based on our documentation,” Palabay added.

The Court of Appeals last March issued a Writ of Amparo resolution holding the AFP responsible for the disappearance of Burgos. A week later, the Burgos family through Mrs. Edita Burgos, mother of Jonas, filed additional evidence to the Supreme Court including a photo of Jonas allegedly during military captivity. Brig. Gen. Eduardo Año, recently appointed ISAFP Chief, was among the respondents, with Brig. Gen. Romeo Tolentino and Gen. Hermogenes Esperon. Rights groups, with Mrs. Burgos, called for the removal of Gen. Año from his post and make “Arroyo generals” face the courts.

“The Aquino government does not know how it is for the families of desaparecidos to wait for a day, much more to wait for six long years. It does not know how we feel each time a new case of disappearance happens. The government does not only show callousness on our plight, but also continues to hurt and it angers us to see that instead of punishing the perpetrators, they are allowed by their positions to commit the same crime to other people,” Santos said.

“Victims of human rights violations and their kin, human rights organizations and civil libertarians have long called for an end to the culture of impunity. This government can no longer claim to be still cleaning up the mess of the previous regime for it has been in power for three years now,” Palabay said. “In fact, military abuses and human rights violations continue, perpetrators of these acts still enjoy their freedom and they are even promoted to key positions to commit more human rights violations against the people, under Oplan Bayanihan,” Palabay continued.

“We are now watching how the government will uphold the law it signed four months ago – the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act of 2012; and we want to know if military personnel involved in ALL enforced disappearance cases and those who cover these up will be punished,” Santos challenged the Noynoy Aquino administration.

Families of the disappeared who joined the Burgos family in this Eucharistic celebration wore bandanas with slogan “Stop Enforced Disappearances!” The bandanas were inspired by the Madres de Plaza de Mayo in Argentina in the 70’s. The mothers of the disappeared would come to Plaza de Mayo wearing bandanas and carrying the photos of desaparecidos to remind the military government of their missing sons and daughters.

Those who attended the holy mass called to: “Surface Jonas Burgos and all desaparecidos! Stop enforced Disappearances! Punish perpetrators! End impunity!”

Reference:      Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, Secretary General, Karapatan 0917-3162831
                Lorena “Aya” Santos, Secretary General, Desaparecidos 09229392834
                Angge Santos, Media Liaison, 0918-9790580

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