The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan welcomed the Commission on Human Rights report pinning liability on an officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos.
“The overdue report from the CHR correctly puts the responsibility of the abduction of Jonas on the AFP. This has been the long-held belief of the family and supporters of Jonas. The AFP should immediately cooperate with the CHR and the Supreme Court in surfacing Jonas and making Lt. Harry Baliaga, Jr. accountable,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“The probe should also go deeper. It is doubtful if Baliaga was acting on his own, without authorization from his superiors. He was also not alone in the abduction of Jonas. Other officers who were involved in the cover up of the case should also be investigated and charges,” Reyes added.
Bayan said that the AFP’s claims of respecting human rights will be put to serious test again with the CHR report. The group called on Department of Justice secretary Leila de Lima to file the appropriate charges against Baliaga and those who aided in the cover-up of the abduction. “The DOJ can use the CHR report to begin a formal investigation against those involved in the abduction of Jonas. This should lead to the filing of cases,” Reyes said.
“The complexity of the Burgos case stemmed from the cover-up of committed by the AFP, PNP and their cohorts. This was the standard practice under the Arroyo regime. At the end of the day, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, then commander-in-chief, failed to protect Jonas and in fact tolerated the abduction and eventual cover-up,” Reyes said.
“In time, Arroyo too must be held accountable because it was under her watch and under her policies that these incidents happened,” Reyes added.
Bayan said that unless individual officers from the lowest to highest levels are made accountable, the culture of impunity in the AFP will persist.
“Jonas must be surfaced and those responsible for his abduction must be charged. Anything less would mean a failure of our justice system and our government institutions,” Reyes said. ###