June 27, 2007
First posted in Free Jonas Burgos Movement
I am the mother of Jonas Joseph T. Burgos. Jonas is a farmer; he manages our farm in Bulacan. He is a member of a peasant organization in Bulacan, Alyansang Magbubukid ng Bulacan. Jonas has been a desapercido since two months ago.
My son Jonas, according to witnesses, was forcibly taken by a group of 6 males and 1 female while he was having lunch at the Hapag Kainan Restaurant in Ever Gotesco Mall, Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City, on April 28, 2007 at about 1.30 p.m. As he was being forcibly taken, he was shouting “Aktibista lang po ako!”
I realized that Jonas could be missing when he did not come home that night of April 28th.
The following morning, I received a text message from Jonas which states: “Pasensiya na ligo lang ako”; this was followed by another text: “Sige bukas pag-usapan natin”. I tried calling his phone but could not get an answer until it could no longer be reached.
On April 30th, I called for a press conference and announced that Jonas has been missing since April 28th.
As a result of that press conference, I received information that a security guard at the Ever Gotesco Mall saw Jonas forced by persons who identified themselves to be “PULIS” into a vehicle with plate number TAB 194.
That plate number TAB 194 was traced to a vehicle registered in the name of Mauro Mudlong. Mr. Mudlong and his vehicle were apprehended on June 24, 2006 by PFC Jose Villena and CPL Castro Bugalon of the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (56th IB) based in Barangay San Mateo, Norzagaray Bulacan for violation of Section 68 of PD 705 or “Transporting of Timber Without a Permit” (filed with the Prosecutor of Bulacan at Malolos; IS No. 06-09-4287). Said vehicle with plate no. TAB 194 and its cargo were taken to the headquarters of the 56th IB at Norzagaray Bulacan. Lt. Col. Noel S. Clement was the commanding officer of the 56th IB at the time the vehicle with plate no. TAB 194 was apprehended and taken to the 56th IB headquarters.
Police investigators reported that they took the statements of 5 Army officers: Lt. Col. Noel S. Clement, at present the commanding officer of the Security and Escort Battalion based in Fort Bonifacio; Lt. Col. Melquiades L. Feliciano, commanding officer 56th IB who succeeded Lt. Col. Clement in January but reportedly relieved in May (his present assignment is unknown); Lt. Col. Edison Caga, commanding officer 69th IB stationed in Pampanga who was assigned to secure the 56th IB headquarters when it went for training in November 2006; CPL Castro Bugalon and PFC Jose Villena III both assigned at the 56th IB.
Media reported that Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. has ordered the Army Provost Marshal and the Inspector General to investigate the involvement of the above named 5 army officers in the forced disappearance of Jonas.
On May 21, 2007, my lawyer wrote to Gen. Esperon to request for a copy of the “report of the Provost Marshal and the Inspector General on the involvement of the 56th Infantry Battalion on [Jonas’] disappearance”. When Gen. Esperon was not responding after a week, we sent him another letter on May 29, 2007.
I met with Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita on May 29th to seek his help in finding Jonas or any information he can provide about what has happened to him. Secretary Ermita responded by arranging that I meet with General Esperon on June 6, 2007 at 10 a.m. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo called me up on June 2nd to express her concern about Jonas and reminded me that I go see Gen. Esperon.
My lawyer together with my brother, Jimmy Tronqued (I had vertigo attack and could not leave the house) went to Gen. Esperon’s office at the appointed time, June 6, 2007 at 10 a.m. However, they were met by 2 officers, LTC. Jose and LTC Lucero, and not by Gen. Esperon, who, according to the 2 officers, had left for another meeting. My lawyer asked the 2 officers about our request for a copy of the report of the Provost Marshal but the 2 officers had no idea about such request.
On June 21st, my lawyer received a letter from the Judge Advocate General, Brig. Gen. Nemesio I. Dabal, writing for Gen. Esperon. The letter said that we could not be given copies of the report of the Provost Marshal and the Inspector General because of two restraints: a) it is “a classified matter, the unauthorized disclosure of which, while not endangering national security, may cause unwarranted injury to an individual. Under pertinent rules, this category of classified matter expressly includes investigation and document of a personal and disciplinary nature which we are bound to secure for administrative purposes and further to safeguard the identity of personnel being investigated for an anomaly prior to the filing of appropriate charges”; b) the “restraint is a necessary measure in order not to preempt the final outcome of the case being investigated through the premature disclosure of an initial investigation result which is taking its course under the military justice system. This is with a view to further elevation of the matter to an appropriate body for proper disposition, including its possible referral with a view to trial by court martial against erring personnel involved, if circumstances warrant”.
In other words, Gen. Esperon turned down my request because he was concerned that my reading of the report of the Provost Marshal and Inspector General “may” cause some unwarranted injury to someone (whom he has not named) and because he does not want that the “initial investigation result” to preempt or be presumed to be the final outcome of the case being investigated.
Based on the evidence so far gathered: a) the testimony of the witness security guard that he saw Jonas forced into the vehicle with plate no. TAB 194; b) plate no. TAB 194 has been traced to be in the custody of the 56th IB since June 2006, I accuse the Army of having forcibly abducted my son Jonas on April 28, 2007 at the Ever Gotesco Mall in Quezon City. I strongly suspect that either or both of its former commanding officers, Lt. Col. Clement and Lt. Col. Feliciano participated in the enforced disappearance of Jonas.
The conduct of Gen. Esperon tells me that the Army is hiding from me information of vital investigative value in the Jonas case. First, he refused to see me and my representatives despite the fact that Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita had arranged the meeting and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo encouraged me to see him. And then he turns down my request for a copy of the report of the Provost Marshal and the Inspector General.
Gen. Esperon’s conduct or rather, misconduct, only reinforces my belief that the Army abducted Jonas and Gen. Esperon is covering up for the Army.
I am the mother of a desaparecido, the victim of enforced disappearance by unidentified persons who was taken into a vehicle with plate no. TAB 194 traced to the 56th Infantry Battalion whose 2 previous commanding officers, Lt. Col. Melquiades L. Feliciano and Lt. Col. Noel S. Clement were, among others, the subject of the investigation of the Provost Marshal and the Inspector General. I have all the right to know what the Provost Marshal and the Inspector General have found out in the investigation of these two former commanding officers of the 56th IB. My right to know vital information about my son, and even more important, my son’s well-being has primacy over the perceived injury that may suffer or the perceived preemption of the final outcome of the investigation, assuming that it is still on-going (according to media reports the Provost Marshal and the Inspector General has concluded their investigations and submitted them to Gen. Esperon). Certainly, the perceived injury to certain parties by a “premature” disclosure of the report can never be as substantial as the very real risk of serious harm, or even death, that may befall my son with every delay in the efforts to find him.
The excuse of Gen. Esperon in turning down my legitimate request is unacceptable to me. I need to find Jonas and the report that Gen. Esperon is withholding from me I know will help me find him.
I repeat, I accuse the Army of the crime of kidnapping my son Jonas on April 28, 2007 at the Ever Gotesco Mall in Quezon City. I strongly suspect that either or both of the former commanding officers of the 56th IB, Lt. Col. Clement and Lt. Col. Feliciano are participants in that crime. And the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, is covering up the crime committed against Jonas.