The Supreme Court has granted a temporary protection order (TPO) to Edita Burgos and members of her immediate family following her presentation of new evidence linking more soldiers to the 2007 disappearance of her farmer-activist son, Jonas.
In issuing the TPO, the justices took note of Ms Burgos’ claims that she fears for her own personal security because of the sensitive nature of the newly discovered evidence.
In its resolution, the high tribunal also ordered Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista to submit a confidential report on the whereabouts of the military personnel tagged by Ms Burgos and to “ensure that [they] can be located and served processes, if any would be issued by the tribunal.”
The soldiers, whose names the high court did not disclose, were identified by Ms Burgos in her urgent ex parte motion ex abundanti cautela (abundant caution) filed on April 1. The names were mentioned in the “After Apprehension Report” dated April 30, 2007, filed by two military groups identified as “Task Organization-72 MICO” and Task Organization-56IB.”
Ms Burgos has described the report and other documents attached to her ex parte motion as “newly discovered evidence” about her son’s abduction and disappearance.
Bautista said the AFP would cooperate with the court directive.
“The court has directed us to continue the investigation together with the Philippine National Police. And we will abide by the court directive and cooperate in the investigation,” Bautista told reporters at Fort Del Pilar in Baguio City, where he attended the installation of the new superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy on Thursday.
Bautista said he had not seen the original report, which the AFP submitted to the Court of Appeals in the course of a joint investigation of Jonas’ disappearance.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin yesterday said the defense and military establishments will cooperate in finding the truth behind Jonas’ abduction.
“The defense department will cooperate and make sure that the people or personnel needed in the investigation will come out. We will help in coming out with the true story of the Jonas Burgos case,” Gazmin told reporters when asked about his reaction to the high court’s directive to the AFP.
Gazmin said the military was not hiding the soldiers implicated in the Jonas abduction. “They are just there, so we will make them available. We will cooperate with the legal system,” he added.
The court also ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation to provide protection for Ms Burgos and her immediate family, and to furnish a confidential memorandum on such security arrangements within five days after receiving the court resolution.
The court instructed Bautista, Lt. Harry Baliaga Jr. and the incumbent commanding officers of the Army and its 7th Infantry Division, as well as Lt. Col. Melquiades Felicano, commanding officer of the division’s 56th Infantry Battalion at the time of Jonas’ disappearance, to comment on Ms Burgos’ motion within 10 days.
The NBI has already started its probe into the Burgos case, according to Virgilio Mendez, NBI deputy director for regional services.
Mendez, head of the task force investigating the disappearance of Jonas, added that the agency is now reviewing all reports and court documents related to the case.
“We have people in the field doing the job and we hope we can provide results,” Mendez said. “We have people assigned to the family and contact had been established,” he added.
Ms Burgos filed her ex parte motion shortly after her camp released to the media a picture of Jonas, believed to have been taken shortly after his abduction from a Quezon City mall six years ago.
The picture showed the young Burgos staring straight into the camera and looking dazed, with dark marks just below the eyes. A handkerchief tied around his neck was believed to have been used to blindfold or gag him.
Writ of amparo
Jonas’ disappearance is the subject of a writ of amparo case filed by his mother that was granted by the Supreme Court.
Bautista said Jonas’ disappearance took place before the AFP crafted what it described as a more humane rights-oriented counter-insurgency program called “Oplan Bayanihan.”
“Oplan Bayanihan was launched in January 2011 after [Jonas disappeared and was reportedly abducted on April 30, 2007],” Bautista said. “I can assure you that the AFP is very much respectful of human rights and the humanitarian rule of law. It is emphasized in our campaign plan and it is the only plan that is open to the public,” he added.
Military spokesperson Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. (no relation to the missing activist) said the AFP has yet to receive a copy of the Supreme Court directive.
“However, the chief of staff of the AFP has ordered the judge advocate general to coordinate directly with the solicitor general to secure a copy so the AFP would be able to act on it and appropriately comply with the directive,” Burgos said. With reports from Nikko Dizon, Nancy C. Carvajal and Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon
First posted 10:58 am | Friday, April 12th, 2013