MANILA – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) lauds a Court of Appeals (CA) ruling that found the military "accountable for the enforced disappearance" of activist Jonas Burgos.
In a statement, CHR chairperson Etta Rosales said she was happy about the ruling which she described as "concrete positive steps on the part of the Judiciary to address the climate of impunity that claimed the lives of hundreds of human rights activists" during the Arroyo administration.
Rosales said the CA ruled as follows in the case of Edita Burgos v. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, et al., promulgated on March 18:
1. Recognized the abduction of Jonas Burgos as an enforced disappearance case covered by the Rule on the Writ of Amparo;
2. Declared Maj. Harry A. Baliaga, Jr. responsible for the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos;
3. Declared the Armed Forces of the Philippines, particularly the Philippine Army, accountable for the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos;
4. Declared the Philippine National Police accountable for its failure to conduct an exhaustive investigation of the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos;
5. Directed the PNP-CIDG to exercise extraordinary diligence to identify and locate the abductors of Jonas Burgos who are still at large, and to establish the link between the abductors of Jonas Burgos and those involved in the ERAP 5 incident.
6. Directed the Chief of Staff of the AFP and the Director-General of the PNP to continue their respective investigations/coordination on the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos, until the persons responsible are brought to justice;
7. Directed the Commission on Human Rights to continue with its own independent investigation on the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos with the same degree of diligence required under the Rule on the Writ of Amparo;
8. Directed the AFP and the PNP to extend full assistance to the CHR independent investigation;
9. Directed the Chief of Staff of the AFP, the Director-General of the PNP and the Chairperson of CHR to submit a quarterly report to the Court on the results of their respective investigation.
"Aside from holding Maj. Baliaga personally responsible, the decision is noteworthy because it also categorically declares the AFP, as an institution, directly accountable for the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos," Rosales said.
Burgos was abducted at a restaurant at a mall in Quezon City in April 2007. He was dragged into a van, the license plate of which was later traced to a vehicle impounded by the military in the province of Bulacan.
Ruling on a petition for writ of habeas corpus also filed by Edita, Burgos' mother, the Supreme Court (SC) ordered the AFP in 2011 to produce Burgos. The writ was issued based on the evidence contained in the Investigation Report submitted by the CHR.
Edita filed a separate complaint against ranking military and police officers before the Dept. of Justice (DOJ).
Burgos remains missing to date.