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Court accuses army of activist's disappearance

General and others declared accountable for missing leftist reporter, Manila

March 28, 2013

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The Court of Appeals yesterday declared the military, "particularly the Philippine Army, accountable for the enforced disappearance" of a leftist activist who has become the "poster boy" for "desaparecidos" or the disappeared.

After a three-year inquiry, the court ruled to recognize "the abduction" of Jonas Burgos as an enforced disappearance.

The decision is considered the "most damning official confirmation yet" that the military seized Burgos on April 28, 2007 in Quezon City.

The court holds "accountable" the Armed Forces of the Philippines "and elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, particularly the Philippine Army" for the abduction of Burgos.

It named former Army Major Harry A. Baliaga Jr. "responsible" for the "enforced disappearance." Several other military men are considered "at large."

The court directed the Philippine National Police to "exercise extraordinary diligence to identify and locate the abductors of Jonas Burgos who are still at large."

The court also directed the Commission on Human Rights to continue an independent investigation into the abduction, stipulating that a high degree of diligence must be demonstrated.

On June 9, 2011, Edita Burgos, mother of Jonas, filed a criminal complaint before the Department of Justice against Baliaga and others, for the “possible murder” of her son under Article 124 of the Revised Penal Code.

Aside from Baliaga, the other accused include Lt. Col. Melquiades Feliciano, Col. Eduardo Ano, and several unidentified co-conspirators.

Ano has since been promoted general and named chief of the military Intelligence Service.

Enforced disappearances were criminalized by the Philippine government after President Benigno Aquino passed the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 last December.

Enforced disappearance is defined as "the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty committed by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with authorization or support from the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared."

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