MANILA, Philippines — Human rights groups picketed the Department of Justice Friday to protest the dropping of charges against military officers they said are among those responsible for the enforced disappearance of missing activist Jonas Burgos.
“Niloloko ninyo kami! Puwedeng kasuhan ang kamay ng krimen pero ang utak ay hindi (You are fooling us! You can file a case against the hands that committed the crime but not against the brains)?” said Lorena P. Santos, secretary general of the Families of Desaparecidos for Justice.
Desaparecidos and Karapatan urged Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to trash the September 3 resolution penned by Assistant Prosecutor Gerard Gaerlan and approved by Prosecutor General Claro Arellano recommending charges of arbitrary detention, murder and obstruction of justice only against Army Major Harry Baliaga Jr. while clearing Brig. Gen. Eduardo Año, Lt. Col. Melquiades Feliciano, Lt. Gen. Romeo Tolentino, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano and Dir. Gen. Avelino Razon Jr.
Baliaga has been identified as the commander of the team of military intelligence agents that seized Burgos, the son of press freedom icon Jose Burgos Jr., from a Quezon City mall on April 28, 2007.
“Hindi puwedeng dinukot ni Maj. Baliaga si Jonas nang walang order galing sa superiors niya, (Maj. Baliaga could not have abducted Jonas without orders from his superiors.)” Santos said.
Año was the head of the operating arm of the intelligence group of the Philippine Army when Burgos was abducted.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general said, “the DOJ decision confirms our apprehension about the much publicized creation of the inter-agency committee on extralegal killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave violations on life, liberty and security of persons. It is a shame that after announcing that it will give priority to the Burgos case, the DOJ, as the lead department of the inter-agency committee, exonerated the brains of the crime and then covered up for Año’s responsibility and accountability.”
“If this is how the DOJ acts on its ‘priority cases’, how else should it act on the cases involving lesser known victims of human rights violations?” Palabay asked.
“From the DOJ’s recommendation, we fear that trial on the Burgos case will lead to a circus, but not to where Jonas is,” she added.