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Special NBI team formed to probe Jonas Burgos case

April 3, 2013 8:57pm

Jonas Burgos photo surfaces; family hopes to find missing activist
Jonas Burgos photo surfaces; family hopes to find missing activist. Five years and 338 days of search and only a photo of Jonas Burgos surfaces. The photo, allegedly taken days after he was abducted, was delivered to the Burgos family by an unidentified source. It shows Burgos with the handkerchief used as blindfold. His family is hoping that this photo and other newly found evidence will finally bring them closer to finding him. GMA News/Free Jonas Movement/HO
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe the "enforced disappearance" of political activist Jonas Burgos, who was allegedly abducted by the military in 2007.

In an interview Wednesday, De Lima said she has issued an urgent memorandum to the NBI, which is under the Department of Justice (DOJ), to form a special team for the investigation.

“The special team is directed to conduct a thorough and independent evaluation of all available information and evidence gathered by various officers, including the Commission on Human Rights, Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police,” said De Lima in the memo.

The new probe came at the heels of President Benigno Aquino III's directive to the DOJ to get to the bottom of Burgos' disappearance.

“The President, as chief executor of laws, deems it best to assign the NBI to undertake a speedy, exhaustive and independent probe, so as to obviate any suspicion of partiality or whitewash," De Lima said. "The clear objective is to ferret out the truth and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

The military, who had long probed the incident, insisted Burgos was a victim of "internal purging" within the communist New People's Army.

De Lima also instructed the NBI to pursue other possible leads, collect further evidence, and take all other necessary steps to pinpoint the individuals who should be held criminally liable for Burgos' disappearance.

“We don’t have yet the whole truth about the disappearance of Jonas. This is why the Court of Appeals in its recently promulgated decision precisely directs pursuit of investigation and nothing in the said decision precludes a probe by the NBI,” De Lima said.

She was reffering to a recent CA ruling that held the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police "accountable" for Burgos' disappearance. The court pointed to Maj. Harry A. Baliaga Jr., an Army First Lieutenant at the time of the incident, as being "responsible" for the disappearance. Baliaga belongs to the Bulacan-based 56th Infantry Battalion.

Burgos, a political activist and son of the late press freedom fighter Jose Burgos, was abducted in a restaurant at the Ever Gotesco Mall along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on April 28, 2007. The license plate number of the vehicle used in his abduction was traced to a vehicle impounded at the camp of the 56th Infantry Battalion in Bulacan.

In March 2011, the CHR, with a directive from the Supreme Court to reinvestigate the case, concluded that the military had a hand in the disappearance and pointed to Baliaga as Burgos' principal abductor.

In July 2011, the Supreme Court upheld the CHR findings and directed the military to produce the missing activist.

In its latest ruling, the CA 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."
 
The appellate court also directed the CHR to carry on with its ongoing investigation on the Burgos case, even as the court ordered both the military and police to "extend full assistance" to the CHR's independent probe.
 
The three bodies—the AFP, PNP, and CHR—were all required to submit quarterly report on the progress and results of their respective investigations.

On Monday, Burgos' mother, Edita, went up to the Supreme Court, bringing with her supposedly new evidence that would pin the military as being the brains behind her son's disappearance, to ask the tribunal to order the CA to reopen the case.

The new evidence included an "After Apprehension Report," a "Psycho Social Processing Report," and an "Autobiography of Jonas Burgos," Mrs. Burgos said, adding these documents were copies of confidential records on file with the Philippine Army.

Another new evidence was a photograph obtained by the family showing a disheveled Jonas, wearing a white shirt with a black handkerchief wrapped around his neck and believed to have been used as a blindfold. — KBK, GMA News
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