AFP had clear motive to get Jonas, says ma
MANILA, Philippines — The mother of activist Jonas Burgos said the Army’s finding that her missing son is a communist rebel only bolstered her conviction that the military was behind his disappearance.
“That gives the Army motive to get him. That’s a clear motive,” Edita Burgos told GMA News after Army chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Tolentino claimed Thursday that Jonas is a member of a unit of the communist New People’s Army based in Bulacan province.
According to Tolentino, that was the finding of the background check conducted by the Army on the 37-year-old agriculturist, who disappeared after being forcibly taken by an armed group from a Quezon City mall on April 28.
But when reporters asked him the significance of the finding, Tolentino could not categorically say.
“Kasi parang masalimuot ang buhay niyan e, masalimuot (His life seems really complicated),” Tolentino said of the second son of the late press freedom icon Joe Burgos.
He said the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group was conducting its own investigation of Jonas.
Burgos also said Tolentino’s announcement was “irrelevant.” She said even ordinary criminals had to be brought before the courts to face trial.
“That is the democratic way of life. Regardless of one’s ideological belief, whether he is rich or poor, he has a right to be free,” Burgos said.
Speaking with reporters at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija province, where he attended the test-firing of a batch of mortar rounds used in Basilan province last week where 14 Marines were killed, Tolentino said the Army had learned that Jonas was a member of the NPA’s Front Committee 2 based in Bulacan.
Tolentino said Jonas even had a “code name” but that he could not recall it at the moment.
He declined to say more, claiming that the Army would be accused of bias if he did so. He said it would be “better” if the other investigative agencies with which the Army was coordinating disclosed the details.
Tolentino had ordered an Army inquiry into Jonas’ background after the Commission on Human Rights suggested that doing so might unearth clues to his disappearance.
The military became a prime suspect in Jonas’ disappearance after the plate number of the abductors’ supposed getaway vehicle was traced to an impounded vehicle parked in the Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion camp in Norzagaray town, Bulacan.
Army officials claimed that the license plates of the impounded vehicle had been stolen, apparently when the battalion was retraining outside the camp from November 2006 to March 2007.
The battalion commanders have since been admonished by the military leadership for negligence.
Tolentino himself was recently linked to Jonas’ disappearance. According to an informant of the Department of Justice, the Army chief’s staff car, a Toyota Altis sedan, was one of the two backup vehicles used by the abductors.
But Tolentino denied that the car had been used for such a purpose. He said the car was used by his wife to attend official functions.
He dismissed the informant’s claim as “malicious.”
Public school teachers, principals, supervisors and other school officials belonging to the Kapisanan ng mga Gurong Retirado (Kaguro) said they were joining Edita Burgos, herself a former public school teacher, in asking the government to “leave no stone unturned” to find her son.
“We empathize with the members of the Burgos family in the situation they are in. We pray and hope that [Jonas] is still alive,” Kaguro secretary general Eusebio S. San Diego said in a statement issued after the group’s latest quarterly meeting held in Bagong Pag-asa, Quezon City.
San Diego said Kaguro would “help in whatever way, however humble and insignificant,” in tracing Jonas’ whereabouts.
“We come from different parts of the country, and [this fact] can help,” he said.
Kaguro recalled that Ang Pahayagang Malaya, “which was edited and published by Joe Burgos during the dark years of martial law, [took] up the cudgels for teachers in its opinion section and gave prominence to their mass actions in its news pages.”