MANILA, Philippines — A unit of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) was behind the abduction and continued disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos, a military intelligence agent familiar with the operation has disclosed to INQUIRER.net.
The source, who spoke on condition he not be named for his own safety, indicated that the operation to abduct Burgos appeared to have been in the works as early as October last year.
“October pa lang nababanggit na ‘yung ‘Burgos.’ Basta ang pinag-uusapan, ang sinasabi nila nakakahon na, [As early as October they [member of the unit] were already mentioning Burgos. All I can say is they were saying they had him cornered,” the source said.
However, the agent said the unit, one of the military intelligence groups (MIG) belonging to the ISAFP, appeared to have difficulty getting Burgos, a son of the late press freedom icon Jose “Joe” Burgos Jr.
“Mukhang nahirapan silang hulihin dahil ilang buwan pa ang dumaan bago nila nakuha [They apparently had a hard time capturing him because it took several months before they finally got him,” said the source.
Burgos, an agriculturist who worked as a consultant for the leftist Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines), was forcibly taken from a restaurant at the Ever Gotesco mall in Quezon City on April 28.
Suspicion immediately fell on the military after the license plate on the vehicle used by the abductors was traced to an impounded vehicle kept at the Bulacan headquarters of the Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion.
The refusal of Armed Forces chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. to release the report on how the license plate disappeared from the camp to the Burgos family prompted Jonas’ mother, Edita, last week to openly accuse the military of abducting her son.
Lately, Army chief Lieutenant General Romeo Tolentino has hinted that a rival faction of the mainstream communist rebel movement may have been responsible for Burgos’ abduction.
Another source, also an officer in the security forces who also requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the matter, backed the claims of the military intelligence agent, saying all the evidence gathered in the Burgos case so far points to the military.
“In all likelihood, the involvement of the Armed Forces is relatively high,” the second source said.
He cited the artist’s sketches of two suspects in Burgos’ abduction based on descriptions provided by employees of the restaurant from where he was snatched.
The second source said he could positively identify the man and woman portrayed in the sketches as ISAFP agents.
He also confirmed that the vehicles used in the Burgos abduction — a Revo and a Vios, both Toyota models — were both known to be used by the MIG.
“Nung nakita ko nga yung artist sketch sa pulis, nakilala ko na talaga na sila ‘yun. Kahit pati yung sasakayan na ginamit nila alam kong yun ang ginagamit nila kapag may operasyon [When I saw the artist’s sketches with the police, I became certain it was them [ISAFP]. Even the vehicles they used I know for a fact are the same they use when they have operations],” said the source.
However, he said noting the license plates of the vehicles would not be of much use since military intelligence “are privileged” to change plate numbers for their operations.
Police describe the male suspect as around 30 to 35, 5’7” in height, dark and of medium build. The woman was described as between 22 to 27, fair-skinned and around 5’3” tall.
The military intelligence agent also confirmed the identities of the suspects, but would only give their code names, “Bajam,” and “Donna.”
He said the commander of the MIG the two belonged two is known as “Master” or “Tango Lima,” personally led the operation to snatch Burgos.
The military intelligence agent said Burgos was a likely target of the unit that snatched him because he was believed to be a member of an “education committee” of the Communist Party of the Philippines and was involved in recruiting members for the rebel movement.
The Burgos family has denied that Jonas was connected to the communist underground.
The second source, however, said that a soldier who had been arrested earlier this year for leaking information to the Left had identified Burgos as one of his contacts. This soldier, said the source, is undergoing court martial.
Dead or alive?
The military intelligence agent admitted that he had no personal knowledge of Burgos’ fate.
However, he said, based on his own operational experience, he is certain the activist has been killed.
“I am 110 percent sure he is dead,” the agent said. “In operations, a week is already too long [to keep someone alive]…he’s been missing for two months now.”
INQUIRER.net is trying to reach the Burgos family for comments but they cannot be reached as of posting time.
Originally posted at 06:59 p.m.