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Govt panel identifies Jonas Burgos case as among 'priority' cases for investigation

April 18, 2013 3:15pm
The alleged abduction of activist Jonas Burgos was among the 101 “priorities” for investigation identified by an interagency committee tasked by President Benigno Aquino III to monitor cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the country.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who chairs the committee, said Burgos' case will be among those to be first investigated and monitored by the panel.

“Pinresent na rin sa amin sa interagency 'yung listahan from the technical working group noong priority cases na dapat tutukan o unahin ang pagtutok sa pag-iimbestiga. Meron na po kaming initial list of priority cases for both extralegal killings and enforced disappearance,” De Lima said at a press briefing Thursday at the military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The justice secretary, however, refused to identify other priority cases, saying the list still has yet to be finalized.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, both members of the interagency panel created through Administrative Order 35, were also among those who approved the initial list of priority cases during the committee's meeting on Thursday morning.

The Court of Appeals recently implicated a Philippine Army officer, Maj. Harry Baliaga, as responsible for the kidnapping of Burgos. Last Friday, the Supreme Court ordered the military leadership to disclose the whereabouts of the military personnel linked to the case.

Burgos, a political activist and son of the late press freedom advocate 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 Army's 56th Infantry Battalion in Bulacan.

Operational guidelines

During its meeting, the panel also approved operational guidelines for the performance of its tasks.

De Lima said the guidelines prescribe the formation of various teams which will be in-charge of probing and monitoring the priority cases.

“Importante po 'yung operational guidelines dahil 'yun po ang magpapasimula doon sa pinakamandato ng interagency committee. Sa operational guidelines po, nilagay doon 'yung mga definitions, 'yung elements ng extralegal killings, ng torture, ng enforced disappearances and other grave human rights violations,” she said.

Commission on Human Rights chair Loretta Ann Rosales, meanwhile, said she was satisfied with the outcome of the meeting of the committee.

“Maganda, maayos 'yung pinag-usapan nila. Mahalaga. Observers kami so we will come up with our position and some questions doon sa pinag-usapan,” Rosales said in a separate interview.

According to human rights group Karapatan, 137 cases of extrajudicial killings have already been recorded from when Aquino assumed the presidency in 2010 up to December last year. The group also said that 14 cases of enforced disappearance and 72 instances of torture took place under Aquino's watch. — KBK, GMA News
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