Aquino orders 'focused' probe on Burgos case

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday, April 3, ordered a "focused, dedicated and exhaustive" investigation on the case of missing activist Jonas Burgos, son of the late press freedom icon Joe Burgos.

In a statement, Malacañang said: "Upon the direction of the President, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima has instructed the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a focused, dedicated, and exhaustive investigation on the case of Jonas Burgos. This is in fulfillment of the President's pledge that any receipt of new evidence or leads will receive the scrutiny the case deserves."

Malacañang clarified that the government's probe will be "independent of any directives" from the Court of Appeals (CA). "Our system of justice is based on the presumption of innocence, but also guarantees that culpability derived from hard evidence will exact accountability."

In a ruling released last March 27, the CA declared the police and the military accountable and responsible for the disappearance of Burgos in 2007. He was abducted by unidentified men on April 28, 2007, in Hapag Kainan restaurant at the Ever Gotesco Mall in Quezon City. (Read: Jonas Burgos: Trapped in a web of lives)

The court singled out Army Maj Harry Baliaga as responsible for the enforced disappearance of Burgos. Baliaga belonged to the Army's 56th infantry battalion based in Bulacan when Burgos - who was known as "Ka Ramon," an alleged member of the communist New People's Army based in Bulacan - was seized.

Baliaga is still with the Army, based in the general headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Camp Aguinaldo. Other senior officers linked to Burgos' disappearance are also still in the military and have not been subjected to any military probe.

On Monday, April 1, Burgos' mother Edita asked the Supreme Court to order the CA to re-open the case following new documentary evidence linking the military to his abduction, including a photo of Jonas taken allegedly after he was abducted.

The Palace statement said: "As chief executor of our laws and as commander in chief, the President is mandated to do justice to every man."

Burgos' father Joe fought the Marcos dictatorship, like the President's father, the late Sen Ninoy Aquino Jr. - Rappler.com