Missing activist’s mom: Palace remarks ‘the height of insensitivity’

GIAN C. GERONIMO | GMA NEWS

October 25, 2012

Edita Burgos, the mother of still-missing activist Jonas, lashed out against the remarks of President Benigno Aquino III and Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda calling her family’s pleas for the return of her son “propaganda” for the leftist movement.

In a statement, Burgos said that since her son went missing, her family had become “admittedly vocal” in their plea for the military to produce her child, but the comments made by the Palace regarding their efforts were “the height of insensitivity.”

“With Malacañang’s tough branding of human rights violations as leftist propaganda, are the authorities now saying that I will never see my son again?” Burgos said.

The government has come under fire from progressive groups since Aquino and Lacierda issued statements criticizing the leftist movement.

Aquino, in a radio interview while in New Zealand, attacked the leftist movement while responding to issues of supposedly rampant human rights violations under his administration.

“So they are very good at propaganda but I think the record speaks for itself,” Aquino said.

He also mentioned a senatorial candidate fielded by the leftist community who was not performing well in surveys.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, who felt alluded to by Aquino’s remarks, retorted by saying Aquino won the presidency because of his parents’ legacy.

Lacierda, meanwhile, responded to Casiño by saying Aquino’s statements were about leftist propaganda in general.

“It’s not personal. It’s the propaganda that’s the problem,” he said in a Palace press briefing on Wednesday.

He also pointed out Casiño’s low survey ratings as an indication of leftist propaganda.

“That he hasn’t [performed well in the surveys] was proof that the public do not listen to him,” he said.

Casiño, meanwhile, took to social media in responding to Lacierda, saying Lacierda and Aquino’s statements smack of insensitivity.

“My reply to Sec. Lacierda: It’s nothing personal? Don’t worry about me, I can shrug off [the] President’s insults anytime, but to dismiss [the] plight of human rights victims and their families as mere propaganda IS personal, painful & dangerous,” Casiño said on social networking site Twitter.

Meanwhile, Burgos questioned the Palace’s remarks on human rights violations and the leftist movement, and asked if it will be considered “a leftist act” for the families of victims of enforced disappearances to look for their kin.

“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 Malacañang,” Burgos said.

“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?”

Jonas was abducted on April 28, 2007, allegedly by military personnel, while he was having lunch at a restaurant inside the Ever Gotesco Mall in Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City.

His disappearance was during the term of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose administration was riddled with accusations of furthering enforced disappearances and human rights violations.

Burgos noted Aquino’s approval of the promotion of Col. Eduardo Año to the post of Brigadier General. Año is a respondent in the criminal case Burgos filed in June last year with the Department of Justice.

“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,” Burgos said. — BM, GMA News

Burgos to PNoy: Are you saying I will never see my son?

October 25, 2012 | ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA, Philippines – Edita Burgos, the mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos, said President Benigno Aquino III’s insensitive remarks could further justify human rights violations in the country.

In fact, she now fears she will not see her son again.

In an interview in Auckland, New Zealand yesterday, Aquino slammed leftists and said they are only good in propaganda. Aquino was reacting to a question from a New Zealand-based reporter in connection with groups criticizing his alleged inaction on human rights violations.

“So they are very good at propaganda but I think the record speaks for itself,” he said.

Burgos said, however, “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?

“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,” she said.

She added she and her family are very vocal of their plea for the military to produce Jonas, a stance she has maintained ever since her son went missing.

“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.

She noted that Aquino even recently approved the promotion of several military officials, including Col. Eduardo Año who was made Brigadier General. Año is one of the respondents in the case of Jonas.

“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,” she said.

Not just militants

A group based in New Zealand also slammed Aquino for his statements.

“The United Nations Special Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, World Council of Churches and other reputable institutions and various individuals have raised concern on the continuing human rights abuses under more than two years of the Aquino presidency. It’s not only the ‘extreme left’ who are critical of unabated killings under your watch,” said Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa secretary Murray Horton.

He said these agencies will continue to monitor Aquino’s performance amid the rising cases of human rights violations.

“It better take steps to truly deliver justice for the human rights victims and refrain from red-baiting in vain attempt to cover up its failure to end impunity,” he said.

Aquino urged to sign law on enforced disappearance ASAP

By 

12:17 pm | Thursday, October 18th, 2012

MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker on Thursday urged President Benigno Aquino III to sign the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 which would criminalize the “arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State.”

A co-author of the bill, Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Neri Colmenares said that it would be best if the President would sign the measure into law as soon as possible.

Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Neri Colmenares. INQUIRER.NET FILE PHOTO

“Enforced disappearance is a continuing crime and the abductors of Jonas Burgos, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno as well as other desaparecidos can be arrested and charged under this legislation,” he said.

“This is the reason why it has to be signed immediately,” Colmenares urged.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday ratified the bicameral report on what would become the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012, as agreed upon by conferees from both chambers of Congress.

The measure’s salient features are the following:

1.    The crime of enforced disappearance is generally imprescriptible as an exception to the statute of limitations.

2.    No amnesty can exempt any offender, either convicted or facing prosecution, from liability.

3.    No war or any public emergency can justify the suspension of the enforcement of the anti-disappearance law.

4.    Command responsibility makes a superior officer also culpable for violations of the law by subordinates.

5.    Subordinates are authorized to defy unlawful orders of superiors for the commission of enforced disappearance.

6.    A periodically updated registry of all detained persons is required in all detention centers.

7.    Secret detention facilities are prohibited.

8.    Compensation, restitution and rehabilitation of victims and kin are mandated.

9.    Gradation of penalties is prescribed with reclusion perpetua as the severest penalty.

10.    Human Rights organizations shall participate in the crafting of the necessary Implementing Rules and Regulations.

Human Rights Watch also urged the President to sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

The group said that only Japan and Australia have signed and ratified the Convention in Asia, placing the region behind other regions of the world.

He said that the development was important after years of lobbying for the measure from its introduction during the eighth Congress and refiled in the succeeding Congresses.

“It’s about time that those who committed this heinous crime to come forward and inform the family of their victims where these victims are,” Colmenares said.