As new evidence surfaced purportedly implicating the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the 2007 abduction of Jonas Burgos, Malacañang said on Tuesday that courts exacted justice based on evidence and presumed suspects to be innocent until proven guilty.
“If there’s evidence that points to culpability of certain individuals, they will have to face the full force of the law,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a news briefing.
“We can assure you that the mandate, part of the mandate of the President as Commander in Chief, is to ensure justice for all.”
Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, the AFP chief of staff, told reporters in Zamboanga City that the military would cooperate with the courts.
“We also want to have closure that is why we will be following what the courts would tell the military to do in this case,” Bautista said.
Jonas’ mother Edita Burgos on Monday petitioned the Supreme Court to order military officers and men impleaded in her son’s abduction, and refer back the case to the Court of Appeals, claiming she had a new “bomb” of an evidence.
Identities of officers, men
In her urgent petition, Edita Burgos said officers and enlisted personnel of two units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines abducted and interrogated Jonas.
She said documents from an unnamed source would prove that intelligence units of the 7th Infantry Division and 56th Infantry Battalion operating together seized Jonas.
The documents included the identities of officers and men of the two units, who she said should be impleaded in the two resolutions the Supreme Court issued in June 2010 and July 2011.
The appellate court on March 18 ruled that the abduction of the 37-year-old Jonas was an enforced disappearance and held Maj. Harry Baliaga Jr. and the Army responsible. It also tasked the Philippine National Police to conduct an “exhaustive investigation” of his enforced disappearance.
A product of imagination?
PNP Director General Alan Purisima on Tuesday questioned the appellate court ruling, which he said was based on the testimony of a lone witness.
“Was it a product of imagination? If there’s one person making a claim, would that be necessarily correct? There should be corroboration from other witnesses,” Purisima said.
During the Palace briefing, Lacierda was asked about questions raised on the appointment of Brig. Gen. Eduardo Año as chief of the Intelligence Service of the AFP last December.
Año headed the Army’s intelligence operations when Jonas, son of press freedom icon Jose Burgos Jr., was seized on April 28, 2007, from the Ever Gotesco Mall in Quezon City.
“If there’s evidence that points to culpability, they will have to face the full force of the law,” Lacierda said.
Aquino silence slammed
The leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan on Tuesday pressed demands that President Aquino issue “clear and firm instructions” to the military to disclose all relevant information on Jonas’ abduction.
“There is a renewed clamor for the AFP to surface Jonas and to reveal all information related to his abduction. As Commander in Chief, it is the duty of (Mr.) Aquino to ensure that the AFP cooperate fully with the courts and other institutions,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement.
Reyes said that Mr. Aquino’s continued silence, or lack of interest, would be construed as “tolerating the cover-up.”
The statement made by the AFP spokesperson that it would cooperate “sounds more like an April Fool’s joke than a declaration of policy,” Reyes said.
“The AFP cannot feign ignorance. The AFP must reveal the truth. Already, there is new evidence coming to light pointing to the involvement of the military,” he said.
“There is no doubt in the minds of the court, and in the minds of the public that the AFP is involved in the abduction. The big question is, when will the AFP finally reveal the truth about the fate of Jonas? Where is Jonas?” he added.
The AFP spokesperson, Col. Arnulfo Burgos (no relation to Jonas), told reporters that the military’s judge advocate general had received a copy of the Court of Appeals decision.
“Our military lawyers have met with the Solicitor General. They are working for possible legal options, remedies that may be undertaken as a result of the decision,” Burgos said.
Bautista urged the Burgos family to submit the purported new evidence it has in its possession “to appropriate investigative bodies to determine its veracity to be part of documentary evidence.”
“The AFP stands by our commitment to judicial processes within the rule of law,” Bautista said.
The Army spokesperson, Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, said that Baliaga, one of the suspects in the Burgos abduction, remained assigned at the Army headquarters. With reports from Nikko Dizon and Marlon Ramos