Commentary Editor's Pick

The terror of the unheard voice

The unheard voiceBYESTERDAY,  April 28, marked the 6th year  that farmer-activist Jonas Burgos disappeared.

The Burgos family observed the day with renewed hope after new information surfaced early this month which strengthen the accusation that the military was behind the abduction of Jonas.

The  information, which apparently came from the files of the military,  included a picture of Jonas looking dazed with a large bandana around his neck, which was probably used to blindfold him.

Other materials that surfaced were confidential military reports consisting of  “After Apprehension Report,” the “Psycho Social Processing Report,” and the “Autobiography of Jonas Burgos.”

How these documents got to the Burgos family is  proof  that truth cannot never be kept hidden forever.  Based on those new  information, the Supreme Court ordered  the re-investigation of Jonas’ disappearance case.

This is what sustains the hopes of the Burgos family.

Jonas, son of press freedom fighter Jose Burgos Jr., was abducted by identified men at the Ever Gotesco mall in Quezon City on April 28, 2007.

Despite repeated denials by the military, a  military officer, Maj Major Harry Baliaga is under investigation for his alleged abduction of Burgos. His superiors, however, have remained untouched. One of them, Brig. Gen.  Eduardo Año   is  now  chief of the AFP Intelligence Service.

Yesterday, the Burgos family released an eight-minute video of the wife of Jonas, Me-Ann, sharing her thoughts, pains and hopes about Jonas.

In the video she recalled her feelings when  Jonas failed to call her  for  several hours. “Parang sasabog ang dibdib ko. Kasi alam ko may problema…(My heart felt like bursting. Because I knew there was a problem.)”

She said the feeling was  difficult to explain.”Hindi mo maintidihan ang pakiramdam kasi para kang mababaliw. (I can’t understand the feeling because it’s like you are going crazy.)

She said she has protected her daughter (who was two years old in 2007) all these years but when the picture of Jonas was flashed on TV two weeks ago, the girl knew it was bad.

Me-Ann said she is still hoping Jonas is alive. “Mahirap paniwalaan ang pakiramdam na  y un. Pero sigurado ako sa pakiramdam. (It’s hard to believe that feeling. But I’m sure of that feeling.)

Edith Burgos, mother of Jonas, who has become the spokesperson for the families of  Philippine desaparecidos, said she is encouraged by the recent order of President Aquino to intensify the investigation on the Jonas Burgos abduction.

Photo that surfaced April 2013Apparently treading lightly on the involvement of the members of the military, Aquino said, “Our system of justice is based on the presumption of innocence, but also guarantees that culpability derived from hard evidence will exact accountability.”

“Our system of justice is based on the presumption of innocence, but also guarantees that culpability derived from hard evidence will exact accountability,” he said.

The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances  con Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances continues to put pressure on the Aquino government

In its statement yesterday, AFAD said  after six years of the Jonas Burgos disappearance, “no one has yet been put on trial despite the government’s repeated pledges of making Jonas’ disappearance case its top priority.  So far, the Aquino government has done nothing concrete to shed light on the number of enforced disappearance cases and other forms of human rights violations committed during the Arroyo administration.  Far worse is that enforced disappearance continue, albeit in lesser number compared to the previous administration.  Under the present political dispensation, 18 cases have been documented by the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance.”

But AFAD also took note that “The Philippines has recently made history being the first in Asia to criminalize and penalize enforced disappearances with the enactment of Republic Act No. 10353 or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 on 21 December 2012 and the promulgation of the law’s  Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) on 12 February 2012.”

The group said, “But a law is as good as its implementation.  It requires strong will on the part of the Aquino government to ensure its implementation.  The disappearance case of Jonas Burgos is a litmus test of the government’s commitment not only to ensure accountability but to combat impunity and guarantee that it will never happen again.”