The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Friday said it also wanted closure on the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos, the son of the late press freedom icon Jose “Joe” Burgos Jr.
AFP chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said the military would cooperate with the new probe to be conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation as ordered by President Benigno Aquino III.
He said the military would also comply with the recent order of the Court of Appeals for the AFP to coordinate with the Philippine National Police in investigating the case of the missing farmer-activist.
He declined to comment on the statement of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who said the NBI was looking into the possibility that the police and military were involved in a “cover-up” regarding the abduction and disappearance of the young Burgos in 2007.
Edith Burgos, mother of the disappeared activist, recently said she had “leaked documents” and photographs indicating that Jonas was abducted by the military intelligence units of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division and 56th Infantry Battalion.
At the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the US-Philippines Balikatan military exercises in Camp Aguinaldo, Bautista responded:
“We also want to have closure for this case.”
“Respect for human rights, international humanitarian law and the rule of law are very much emphasized in our campaign plan Bayanihan. It is one of the imperatives and that is what we are doing now,” he said.
“The court will evaluate the evidence and accusations. We have faith in the judicial process and rule of law. We will leave it up to the court to decide,” Bautista said.
Unidentified men seized the 36-year-old Burgos at Ever Gotesco Mall in Quezon City on April 28, 2007.
Last month, the Court of Appeals ruled that the case was a case of “enforced disappearance” and noted that some military and police witnesses seemed to be covering up the case.
Speaking to reporters last week, De Lima said NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas had formed a team of lawyers and field investigators to handle the investigation.
Called “Task Force Burgos,” it was announced on Friday that Deputy Director for Regional Services Virgilio Mendez would be on top of the probe.
“Task Force Burgos is a big team headed by Mendez and supported by 12 other head agents,” said Rojas, promising “a speedy, independent and exhaustive probe on the unresolved disappearance of Jonas Burgos.”
He added that part of the investigation was also to determine if Burgos is still alive.
Rojas said no deadline was set on the Burgos investigation.
“However, we will work with as much speed as we can, without sacrificing quality and thoroughness in our investigation,” he said.
He also said the agency intends to write Edita Burgos to provide her a copy of the new evidence she claimed she had in her latest petition before the Supreme Court.
“We have not contacted the family yet but we hope that Mrs Burgos will volunteer to share the evidence she declared she has,” Rojas said.
Human rights advocates have listed more than 800 summary executions and forced disappearances of political dissidents, human rights lawyers and journalists, in the past decade.
First posted 12:31 am | Saturday, April 6th, 2013