Jonas Burgos: The Son Makes the Headlines, Too

Jonas Burgos, the son of the late press freedom fighter Joe Burgos, has kept himself in low profile for all his years spent teaching farmers about natural and self-sustaining farming techniques. But now even his captors may have been caught by surprise at the national and international furor his abduction generated.


Vol. VII, No. 13 May 6- 12, 2007

His abduction immediately made the headlines. And that may be due to his surname. Jonas Burgos, the son of the late press freedom fighter Joe Burgos, has kept himself in low profile for all his years spent teaching farmers about natural and self-sustaining farming techniques. But now even his captors may have been caught by surprise at the national and international furor his abduction generated.

The closest Jonas would get to follow the footsteps of his journalist father was to delve into photojournalism, Jonas’ younger brother, JL, told Bulatlat in an interview during an indignation rally held May 4 at the People Power Monument along the Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA).

More than a hundred friends and supporters marched at least two kilometers along EDSA to demand the safe and immediate release of Jonas who was abducted April 28 in broad daylight, 12 noon, inside the Ever Gotesco Mall along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City. Witnesses testified that the younger Burgos was accosted by two unidentified men and was “held by the hands and feet” and taken to a waiting van outside the mall.

The Burgos family has been searching for him since but his whereabouts remains undetermined.

Human rights groups and old friends of the family since Martial Law accused state security agents of being behind Jonas’ enforced disappearance. The military top brass had denied the accusation while police authorities have vowed to locate the missing Jonas.


Jonas, the third of five children, took up political science at the San Beda College. “Pero hindi nya tinapos,” JL said, “kasi ang hilig nya talaga ay ang pagsasaka.” (But he did not complete his course because he was really interested in agriculture.)

He may have taken the passion for farming from their parents, JL said. Their parents plant organic palay (unhusked rice grain), corn, vegetables and fruit bearing trees in their 12-hectare agricultural lot in Barangay Tartaro, San Miguel town in the province of Bulacan.

The 36-year-old Jonas finished BS Agriculture at the Benguet State University. After which, he helped manage their farm especially when his father got ill. The older Burgos died of stroke in November 2003 and left the farm to his wife, Edith, and their five children.

By then, Jonas had been sharing his knowledge to his barrio mates and introduced organic farming to peasants in their town and other surrounding areas. He had since been a member of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan (AMB or Alliance of Concerned Peasants in Bulacan), the local chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) in the province.

“Nung bata pa kami, nagpakita na si utol ng pagmamalasakit sa kapwa,” (Even when we were still children, my brother had already shown his concern for others.) JL said as he remembers his brother taking the slippers of their father and giving it to an elderly woman knocking at their door for alms. During their younger years, JL said, they also helped in their family’s rice advocacy campaign for high school students who went to their farm for summer exposure.

The difference

Two weeks before Jonas was abducted, JL said, he and Jonas talked about the intensifying political situation that has led to unabated killings, disappearances and harassment of political activists.

“Alam namin delikado lahat ng aktibista pero hindi namin inisip na may mangyayari sa kanya,” (We knew that it is dangerous for activists but we did not think that something would happen to him.) JL said shaking his head. He said his family did not notice any obvious threat against Jonas until he went missing.

“Lumaki kami na hinaharas ang tatay namin at ang buong pamilya,” (We grew up in a situation where our father and the whole family was being harassed.) JL said. Their parents were then publishers of one of the first anti-dictatorship newspaper during Martial Law, the We Forum. The older Burgos, however, was not able to evade Martial Law authorities for long. Their press office was raided by the Metropolitan Command (Metrocom) on December 7, 1982 and Joe Burgos, together with the editors and staff of We Forum, was arrested and stayed in prison for almost a year.

“Pero nung martial law, may warrant of arrest nung kinuha nila ang tatay ko. Ngayong sinasabi na nagbalik na ang demokrasya, ngayon lang may nawala sa pamilya namin at hindi ito panahon ng martial law,” (During Martial Law they had a warrant when they arrested my father. It is ironic that it is now when democracy was supposedly restored that one of our family members was forcibly disappeared. And it is not even Martial Law.) JL said.

Missing in Bulacan

The province of Bulacan counts for the most number ofmissing individuals since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo held power in 2001. Jonas is the 26th victim of enforced disappearance in the province.

Victims of forced disappearances in Bulacan included Bernie Santos, a farmer from the town of San Miguel who was abducted April 24, 2005 allegedly by soldiers of the First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR) based in Camp Tecson; farmer Manuel Merino and University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Emepeño who were roused from sleep and were dragged to a jeepney-type vehicle before dawn of June 26, 2006; Ricardo Valmocina Jr. and Robin Solano who were abducted inside the CV Tamayo Farms in Barangay Pinaod, San Ildefonso town; and jeepney driver and Anakpawis provincial coordinator Emerito Lipio who was abducted July 3, 2006.

Oscar Leuterio, a security guard of the Metal Ore Company in the town of Doña Remedios Trinidad was also abducted April 17, 2006 and was held incommunicado for five months inside a safehouse in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, the headquarters of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (ID PA). He was released on September of the same year when he agreed to work for the military. Leuterio, however, sought the assistance of human rights groups and instead testified in court that he saw several victims of abductions inside the same safehouse. He now serves as witness to the abduction of the two UP students who, Leuterio said, were also seen inside the Fort Magsaysay headquarters.

There are 199 victims of enforced disappearance from Jan. 2001 to May 2007, records from the human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights) show. (

Share This Post