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Opinion

EDITORIAL - Justice for the ‘disappeared’

The Philippine Star

Among the hardest cases to solve are those of the “disappeared.” When there is no corpus delicti, it’s tough to establish a crime. Occasionally, there are witnesses who can attest that a victim was kidnapped and detained before the person went missing.

In the case of University of the Philippines coeds Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, a witness said they were detained and tortured by Army soldiers under the command of Jovito Palparan. The two students remain missing. Palparan, who became a party-list congressman after retiring from the military, is in hiding.

In the case of political activist Jonas Burgos, witnesses managed to take down the license plates of the vehicle used by the men who snatched him from a restaurant along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on April 28, 2007. The plates were later traced to another vehicle impounded in 2006 at the camp of the Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion in Bulacan. This, along with certain other details, led the Commission on Human Rights and, recently, the Court of Appeals to conclude that the military was responsible for Burgos’ disappearance. A first lieutenant in the 56th IB at the time, Harry Baliaga Jr., has been identified by the CA in connection with the case, but Burgos’ mother Edita believes more Army officers were involved.

There are many other cases of enforced disappearances attributed to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, but it is unusual for such cases to reach as far as those of Burgos and the UP students. The President and commander-in-chief must ensure that the AFP will fully cooperate in the investigation of the two cases. Only a few cases of the disappeared have come this close to justice. If the families of Burgos, Cadapan and Empeño finally get justice, it will be a feather in the cap of the Aquino administration, and a deterrent to more enforced disappearances.

 

 

ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES

BURGOS

CADAPAN AND EMPE

COMMONWEALTH AVENUE

COURT OF APPEALS

HARRY BALIAGA JR.

HUMAN RIGHTS

INFANTRY BATTALION

JONAS BURGOS

JOVITO PALPARAN

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