Emerito Lipio, a desaperacido, surfaces as a government witness and blames the New People’s Army for the abduction of Jonas Burgos. Burgos’s family and supporters call the move “lies” and a cover-up.
BY ABNER BOLOS
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Gitnang Luzon News Service
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 30, September 2-8, 2007
Mercy Lipio was crying as she sat inside a jeep parked in front of the 174th Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Sto. Domingo, Angeles City in the early morning of July 4, 2006.
Mercy, 38, wife of Emerito Lipio, had just spent the night going from one military camp to another in search of her husband together with other families and friends of the seven transport leaders who were abducted in Angeles City the day before.
When she learned that her husband may have possibly been turned-over to the police, she joined the rest of the search team to a vigil at the police headquarters with the hope of seeing him alive and safe.
Media reported at that time that the military tagged her husband as an intelligence officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), a charge that Mercy denied.
“That is not true. My husband is known in our province as a leader of (the) Anakpawis (Party-List) who, as a transport leader was active in attending rallies and opposing oil price hikes. He also led in opposing the demolition of homes and business establishments because of the [Northrail] railroad project,” Mercy told reporters at that time.
Six of the seven were released on bail on July 5, 2006. Emerito remained under military custody even after a writ of habeas corpus petition has been filed against the police and the Philippine Army’s 56th and 69th Infantry Battalions. (A police report on the incident showed that soldiers of the 56th IB and the 69th IB were part of the raiding team that was led by P/Supt. Policarpio C. Segubre, PNP chief in Angeles City.)
Thirteen months later, Mercy’s husband appeared in public as one of three government witnesses in the celebrated abduction case of Jonas Burgos, son of press freedom hero Jose “Joe” Burgos, Jr..
Last Aug. 28, Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) chief Edgardo Doromal presented Emerito as a “confessed” member of the CPP’s armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA) who was arrested for robbery and extortion on Aug. 20, 2007.
Emerito’s testimony is the main basis for the abduction case filed by the police against four alleged NPA members who were charged with the abduction of Burgos.
Emerito testified that sometime last April, he was ordered by a certain Delfin de Guzman alias “Ka Baste” to surveil Burgos “on suspicion that he was pilfering funds from the movement and serving as an agent of the military.”
He said he saw four men abduct Burgos at the Ever Gotesco mall in Quezon City on April 28, 2007. Emerito identified two of the abductors as Dante and Enso, both known by him as NPA members.
Doromal has also linked the abduction to a “purge” within the communist movement. “That is what they (the CPP) do in cases like this. That is their doctrine,” he told media on the day he presented Lipio and the two other witnesses.
“Lies and cover-up”
The move by the PNP immediately drew harsh reactions from the family and supporters of the missing Jonas Burgos.
Jonas’s mother Edita called the filing of the case against the NPA members an “outright lie” and a cover-up. She accused the PNP of colluding with the Philippine Army whom she believes is responsible for her son’s abduction.
Edita has filed a writ of habeas corpus petition against top AFP officials and officers of the 56th IB, the same military unit accused in the abduction of Emerito Lipio. “Now even the police are allowing themselves to be used in the cover-up,” Edita told media last Aug. 28.
In a statement, Angie Ladera, chairperson of the Workers’ Alliance in Region III (WAR3) said, “For the record, Lipio is a former PISTON [Pinag-isang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide] leader from Bulacan who was illegally arrested, detained and tortured on July 3, 2006 in Angeles City, along with six other transport leaders from Central Luzon at the height of Gen. Palparan’s reign of terror in the region.”
She said, “The police and the military are using Lipio, their prisoner, to cover-up their responsibility in the abduction of Jonas Burgos. They can produce fabricated documents that Lipio was arrested in August for “robbery and extortion” when the truth is he is under military custody.”
“PNP-CIDG chief Edgardo Doromal proves once again that lies, no matter how obvious or crooked, are necessary for a cover-up,” Ladera said.
Ladera said Lipio was under military custody when, as he alleged in his testimony, he was ordered by his “superiors” to surveil Burgos and during the time that he claimed he saw Burgos’s abduction take place. PISTON is an affiliate organization of WAR3.
Ladera said, “The surfacing of Lipio is part of a grand, orchestrated design by the military to shift the blame of Burgos’s abduction from the 56th IB to the NPA. It is also part of the Arroyo government’s notorious scheme to link extra-judicial executions and enforced disappearances to ‘communist purges’ and evade responsibility for abducting Burgos.”
CPP spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal meanwhile said that Delfin de Guzman is not a member of the NPA and was, in fact, “seized by military agents” from his home in Barangay (village) San Mateo, Norzagaray, Bulacan on May 11, 2006 and “paraded before the media by then AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) chief of staff Gen. Generoso Senga.”
“The original purpose of the AFP was to use de Guzman as a ‘witness’ to identify Philip Limjoco before the media as an NPA commander. But the AFP abandoned this gimmick when the top military and security officials decided not to admit having taken Limjoco,” Rosal said.
“De Guzman was also used as a ‘witness’ to claim that the ‘Erap 5’ – supporters of former President Joseph Estrada who were abducted and tortured by AFP intelligence agents – were connected with the NPA,” he said.
Rosal also called for a “thorough investigation of Lipio’s and de Guzman’s situation.” Describing Lipio and de Guzman as “victims as well,” Rosal said “all means must be exerted to ferret out the truth behind their abduction and incommunicado detention since more than a year ago.”
Search goes on
The desperate search for Burgos and, inevitably, his abductors goes on. The search is also gradually revealing other truths not less important: the fate of other victims of enforced disappearances and who really is to blame.
The government, through the PNP has filed a case against the NPA to buttress its theory of a “purge” within the communist movement. The victims’ families and their supporters are firm in the belief that government security forces are the culprits and that the government is shifting the blame on the NPA to cover-up its tracks. Gitnang Luson News Service / Posted by Bulatlat