Mayo 2, 2007

Phil - Armed men seen taking Burgos' son in QC mall

May 2nd, 2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Finally, a lead in the disappearance of Jonas Joseph Burgos.

Two days after the son of the late press freedom icon Joe Burgos mysteriously vanished in Quezon City, his family received word from eyewitnesses that he had been abducted by "military-looking" men.

But Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, denied the AFP was involved and said it was "unfair" for militant groups to implicate the military in the incident without evidence and to issue statements "filled with malice."

"We have checked it and there are no reports that Jonas is under the custody of the AFP," Bacarro said.

Burgos' widow Edith said witnesses reported that they saw eight armed men accost her 36-year-old son on Saturday inside the Ever Gotesco mall on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City, cover his face with a sack and beat him before dragging him into a maroon-colored van.

Edith said some of the men were "clean-shaven" and "appeared like members of the military."

Two others -- a woman identified as Melissa Reyes and an unidentified man -- were earlier reported to have disappeared with Jonas but the witnesses gave no account of the two and Edith had no further details about them.

Edith said the witnesses identified Jonas after his photograph was shown on television newscasts on Monday following her news conference. She said she was grateful that clues regarding her son's possible whereabouts had surfaced.

"But having heard that he may have possibly been abducted by these people scares me," Edith said.

Jonas is one of five children of Joe Burgos, the late publisher of We Forum and Malaya newspapers that challenged press restrictions during the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos. For his efforts, the International Press Institute named Joe Burgos one of the world's 50 Press Freedom Heroes of the Century.

Appeal to Arroyo: 'Do your job'

In an interview over dzBB radio Tuesday, Edith was asked to react to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Labor Day message in 2006 for "destabilizers" to stop their campaign and allow her to do her job.

Edith said she was taking the President's word for it and asked Ms Arroyo to "please just do your job" as Commander in Chief and "send word to the field that whoever is holding Jonas should free him immediately."

She said she and other supporters were planning to go to different military camps to look for Jonas.

"Any other information regarding my son would be greatly appreciated," she said.

Edith said at Monday's press conference that she last heard from her son on Saturday when he replied to a relative's text message, saying he was on his way home from SM North Edsa mall. She explained that the family was meeting regarding the future of We Forum that night.

Is training a crime?

Jonas, an agriculture graduate of Benguet State University, had conducted an organic farming training earlier on Saturday in San Miguel, Bulacan, for the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan (AMB), a chapter of the militant peasant organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).

AMB and KMP are both militant peasant organizations that advance agrarian issues and the struggle of farmers in Central Luzon. Some KMP members were among the more than 800 victims of extrajudicial executions since 2001 (the Philippine Daily Inquirer count is 301).

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo, who authored a bill seeking a ban on enforced disappearances now pending in the Senate, expressed grave concern that the younger Burgos had become the latest "desaparecido" (disappeared).

"If the Armed Forces of the Philippines has a case against him, the AFP should go to court and not resort to extrajudicial measures," Ocampo said in a text message to the Inquirer.

"But what is his crime? Is it now a crime to provide agro training to organized farmers?" Ocampo added.


As of March 2007, the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND), an organization founded in 1985 by relatives, friends and colleagues of desaparecidos, had listed 188 cases of disappearances in the country since 2001.

Last year, 77 people were reported missing, an almost 200-percent jump from the 26 recorded in 2005.

Reelectionist Sen. Ralph Recto Tuesday said the government should put in as much effort in looking for the missing son of Joe Burgos as it did in its search for US Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell who was found murdered last month.

"The country owes the Burgos family a great deal of gratitude for the freedom it enjoys today that it should repay their valor by finding a missing kin," said Recto.

"During dangerous times, his father did not disappear for teaching us about freedom so why should his son go missing for simply teaching some folks about farming in these supposedly normal times?"

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Posted by marga at Mayo 2, 2007 11:39 PM | TrackBack
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