AFP on Burgos: We want closure
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - April 6, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  The military wants closure on the case of missing activist Jonas Burgos, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said yesterday.

“These are all past cases. We also want to have closure on this case,” Bautista said.

“Looking forward, the respect for human rights, IHL (International Humanitarian Law) and rule of law are very much emphasized in our campaign plan,” he told reporters.

Bautista was asked to react to reports that the justice department is determining whether there was a cover-up in the case of Burgos.

“We got a directive from the Court of Appeals that we continue the investigation. We will do that. We will cooperate with the investigation,” he said.

Bautista said it would be up to the court to decide on the case, which has tainted the image of the military as protectors of the people.

“We have faith in the judicial process and rule of law,” he said.

When asked whether they would look into how past Army leaders handled the search for Burgos, Bautista said: “I guess that’s part of the investigation. I don’t want to preempt what the team will investigate. Besides, there is a court handling the case.”

A special team of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) formed to dig deeper into the disappearance of Burgos in 2007 is now evaluating all documents in relation to the case.

NBI Director Nonnatus Caesar Rojas said the team would seek assistance from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the AFP to secure documents, reports, information and additional evidence that will help in its investigation.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima directed the NBI on Wednesday to form the special team that would conduct a thorough and independent evaluation of all available information and evidence gathered by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the AFP and the PNP.

The new probe came after President Aquino ordered the DOJ to get to the bottom of Burgos’ disappearance.

Bautista assured the public of full cooperation into the probe.

“We want to settle the case once and for all. We want to move on,” Bautista said

Bautista said the military is committed to upholding human rights.

“There is a transformation process happening in the Armed Forces of the Philippines precisely to address those issues,” Bautista said.

“With the help of our people, we will achieve our vision of being professional not only in terms of competence in our job but adhering to human rights, IHL and the rule of law,” he added.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin also expressed support for the investigation of the NBI into the case.

“The NBI, being a neutral agency, has our full backing in their investigation. We are willing to cooperate,”  he said.

Jonas was reportedly snatched by armed men in 2007 and was dragged to a Toyota Revo van whose license plates were traced to another vehicle earlier impounded by the military in Bulacan.

The CHR earlier said the military should be held liable for Burgos’ disappearance.

Last week, the Court of Appeals (CA) ruled that the military, particularly the Army, is accountable for the enforced disappearance of Jonas.

The appellate court also held Army Maj. Harry Baliaga Jr. responsible for the activist’s disappearance.

The ruling, which stemmed from petitions for habeas corpus by Jonas’ mother Edita, also ordered the military and police to continue their investigations 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.

On Monday, Edita asked the Supreme Court to order the CA to reopen the case of her son, saying there are new pieces of evidence that can pin down those responsible.

A photo of Burgos, believed to have been taken shortly after his being snatched, has surfaced, prompting his family to file an urgent motion before the Supreme Court to order the CA to accept new evidence on the case.  â€“Rey Galupo, Danny Dangcalan, Jaime Laude


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