Despite the government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) consistent denial that they have Jonas Burgos in custody, unidentified men, suspected to be military intelligence agents, have been mysteriously tailing the Burgos family ever since the start of the Supreme Court sponsored human rights summit.
BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Vol. VII, No. 25, July 29-Aug. 5, 2007
Since the start of the Supreme Court sponsored human rights summit, unidentified men, suspected to be military intelligence agents, have been mysteriously tailing the Burgos family.
“I can’t get used to it,” said Edith Burgos, widow of the late journalist and freedom fighter Joe Burgos and mother of missing activist Jonas, when asked about the harassment her family is experiencing now especially that the writ of habeas corpus case against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is being heard at the Court of Appeals (CA).
The Burgos widow said a young man wearing shorts and t-shirt and carrying a sling bag tailed her on Sunday, July 15, when she went to a house of prayer somewhere in Quezon City. Upon sensing that the man was tailing her, Burgos said she approached the man and told him, “Baka gusto mo dun ka na lang sa loob ng chapel maghintay.” (You might want to wait inside the chapel.)
Apparently shocked, the unidentified man hurriedly walked away and rode a dark colored car which, Burgos said, looked familiar. “I see that car following me at times,” Burgos said.
Two days after, on July 17, Burgos said two unidentified men riding a motorcycle tailed her daughters to their home in San Miguel town in the province of Bulacan where the family’s 12-hectare organic farm is located. Burgos said the men were wearing helmets while the plate number of their motorcycle was covered with mud.
The Burgos widow participated in the human rights summit held July 16 and 17 at the Manila Hotel. The summit aimed to strengthen the judiciary’s role in putting a stop to the escalating incidences of extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances.
Political harassment is not new to the Burgos family. During martial law, state agents raided the family’s home and press office of the anti-dictatorship paper We Forum on December 7, 1982 and Joe Burgos was arrested and detained for almost a year. .
It was Jonas who followed in his father’s footsteps as a fighter for democracy. Before his abduction on April 28, Jonas volunteered as a farmer-trainor of organic farming in their hometown in San Miguel, Bulacan. He is a member of the activist-farmers’ group Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan (AMB or Alliance of Peasants in Bulacan), the local chapter of the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines).
At the Court of Appeals (CA) hearing July 27, Assistant Solicitor General Amparo Tang and Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) counsel Sermie Ayuyao, appearing for Maj. Gen. Delfin Bangit, ISAFP chief, denied the military had custody of the young Burgos.
“If they are not in custody, the case should be dismissed,” Tang told the media just before the hearing started.
“Maj. Gen. Bangit has nothing to do with the abduction of Jonas. He is not under his custody. He was not arrested nor detained by Bangit,” Ayuyao told the court when he was asked to read the return of the writ.
The case was heard by the appellate court’s Eighth Division chaired by Justice Remedios Salazar Fernando.
However, the Burgos family’s counsel, Ricardo Fernandez, asked the court to cite Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other military officers who are respondents to the case in contempt for failing to appear in court.
The Burgoses will be presenting two vital witnesses during the next hearing scheduled on Aug 3.
The testimony of Larry Marquez, the security guard of Ever Gotesco mall in Commonwealth, Quezon City, who saw Jonas being forced into o a maroon Toyota Revo by six men and a woman, is expected to link the military to the abduction.
Another witness, Elsa Agasang, a waitress of Hapag Kainan Restaurant, is the one who heard Jonas shouting “Aktibista lang ako” (I am only an activist.) while he was being forcefully taken by his abductors from the said restaurant.
AFP Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon announced to media last week that Jonas is a member of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Burgos, however, said this was irrelevant. “Mali pa rin ginawa nila (AFP). When he was abducted, my son was unarmed, he was just eating inside the mall. He should be given his day in court,” (They still did something wrong) she said.
Despite the harassment on the family and the continuous denial of the AFP, Burgos said she is still hopeful to see her son alive. “There is no proof he is dead. There is no proof he is alive. So I choose to believe he is alive.”
And to those trying to frighten their family, she has this to say: “We will continue to find Jonas. We will not go away.”(Bulatlat.com)