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Desaparecidos’ families press demand for accountability

The mother of abducted farmer-activist Jonas Burgos on Friday said the desaparecidos families’ distrust in legal measures would not stop them from demanding accountability and finding the “voice” that would represent their plight.

Edita Burgos attended with other desaparecidos’ families the Friday Mass at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to mark the 12th year since her son was forcefully taken by alleged military intelligence agents on April 28, 2007.

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“What should we do with leaders of a government who are insensitive to the least, the last and the lost? Unless we find a voice that will represent the disappeared … we with small voices will never achieve the justice we are hoping for,” a tearful Edita, now 75, said as cries to act on unresolved cases of enforced disappearances echoed inside the Bulwagang Ka Pepe at the CHR.

The Supreme Court resolved in 2013 that Jonas was a victim of enforced disappearance and that he was abducted by members of the Philippine Army from Hapag Kainan Restaurant of the Ever Gotesco Mall in Quezon City.

Futile court decision

Court documents pointed to Maj. Harry Baliaga Jr., three men and a woman, as Jonas’ abductors.

The court ordered the military to return Jonas to his family, and “for as long as this order is not complied with, [the Court] holds the government accountable for Jonas’ pain.”

The court decision, however, remains futile for Jonas’ family.

“Jonas’ case was won in court, but the battle was lost. Jonas has not been returned to our family as part of the order of the Supreme Court to the military. Worse, the perpetrators identified in open court were acquitted, while others were promoted and remained free,” Edita said.

She said the 12th year of Jonas’ abduction highlighted the past presidents’ failure to find her son despite their promises and the victim’s families’ distrust in the courts because legal relief does not work in the Philippines in the context of weak institutions.

“Under the present dispensation, there is less hope that justice will be obtained for the victims of enforced disappearance,” she said.

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The victims’ families, including Jonas’ wife, Mary Ann, are also protesting against the government’s petition before the United Nations’ Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to delist 625 names of desaparecidos.

‘Height of insensitivity’

“Government’s action to delist 625 names of desaparecidos [from the UN] is like scraping an old wound right to the bone,” said Mary Ann, who also talked about the day-to-day struggle of raising her daughter alone while hoping for Jonas’ return.

For Edita, the government’s move reveals the “height of insensitivity to the plight of the victims’ families” and its desire to erase the memories of the disappeared.

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TAGS: CHR, Desaparecidos, Government, Jonas Burgos, Military
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