MANILA — The family and friends of missing activist Jonas Burgos said they have been insulted by the Philippine government’s motion to remove from official international records 625 cases of enforced disappearances.
On Feb. 14, the Presidential Human Rights Committee formally moved for the delisting of the cases during a meeting with the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances in Sarajevo, according to a press release by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The list includes the disappearance of Jonas Burgos, who was abducted by suspected state security forces on April 28, 2007 in Quezon City.
In a statement, Free Jonas Burgos Movement said, “This proposed delisting is an insult. It is disrespectful: totally disregarding and dismissing the suffering of the families of all the missing. It is an attack against all of us who continue to be uncertain about the fate and whereabouts of our relatives.”
The family has this message for the Philippine government, “You took Jonas away from us. Now, you want the history of Jonas’ own abduction and disappearance erased from history. Stop abducting your own citizens. The ones who should be made to pay for the violations are the very criminals within your ranks.”
Secretariat of the PHRC Undersecretary Severo Catura reasoned out that domestic mechanisms are being implemented to resolve the cases, citing the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Law of 2012 (R.A. 10353) and Administrative Order 35, or the creation of Inter-agency Committee on Extra-legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, torture and other grave violations of the right to life, liberty and security of persons.
In reaction, Free Jonas Burgos Movement said, “These are total lies. If these mechanisms indeed work, why has the Duterte regime promoted General Eduardo Año – one of the suspects in Jonas’ abduction—to a prominent Cabinet position as the current Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government? Are the so-called mechanisms designed to reward, exalt, and promote the abductors and masterminds instead of bringing them to justice?”
The Jonas Burgos case, one of the high-profile cases of enforced disappearances, resulted in the acquittal of all the military suspects named in the complaint. On Oct. 12, 2017, the Army major identified by witnesses in the abduction was absolved by the court.
Jonas’s family is asking the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to visit the country and investigate the cases.
“We went to your office because all legal remedies inside the country have failed. We want you to intervene in the search for justice for these crimes against the Filipino people. Heed our plea: listen to the agony of the victims’ call for justice,” they said.
They added that enforced disappearances and other cases of human rights violations continue to happen under the Duterte administration.
The Burgos family vowed not to stop until justice is served and Jonas is brought back home.