Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Timeline of Search for Jonas

April 28, 2007: Jonas Burgos was abducted at about 1:30 pm by 4 armed men and a woman in civilian clothes while having lunch at the Hapag Kainan Restaurant. He was alone and unarmed. A waitress who saw the forcible abduction positively identified Jonas from a picture shown to her.

Jonas is a farmer who manages the family organic farm in Bulacan. Jonas has been giving technical training to members of the Alyansang Magbubukid ng Bulacan (Peasant Alliance of Bulacan), a local chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Phillipines), since 1999. the Philippine government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines have labeled the KMP a “front” organization for the Communist Party of the Philippines.

May 2, 2007: Larry Marquez, a security guard on duty at Ever Gotesco Shopping Mall, from where Jonas was abducted, told police that Burgos was dragged by the suspects to a maroon Toyota Revo with plate number TAB 194, as Burgos shouted for help.

The Burgos family files a missing person complaint with the Phillipine National Police (PNP).

May 4, 2007: in an investigation by the Philippine National Police (PNP), and through the efforts of the family, the license plate number was traced to a vehicle that was in the custody of the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Bulacan that was impounded from illegal loggers on June 24, 2006.

Senior Supt. Joel Coronel, who led the police investigation, was relieved from his post shortly after he traced the vehicle in Burgos’s abduction to the Army.

May 5, 6 and 7, 2007: Jonas’s family files a complaint at the Commission on Human Rights alleging military involvement in the abduction of Jonas. The Burgos family also filed a complaint with the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Task Force-USIG – National Capital Region.

May 9, 2007: The Army Provost Marshal opened an “administrative investigation” to determine how the license plate went missing from the military compound.

The Army did not initiate an investigation into Jonas’s abduction despite evidence linking the military to the abduction.

May 10, 2007: Major General Juanito Gomez, commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division deployed in Central Luzon, claimed the license plate was stolen from the military compound sometime between November 2006 and March 2007.

May 12, 2007: Lt. Col. Melquiades Feliciano, the commander of the Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion based in Norzagaray, Bulacan, was placed on administrative suspension pending investigation into the missing license plate that was under his control.

In self-defense, Lt. Col. Feliciano claimed that local members of an advocacy organization for the urban poor, Kadamay, who lived behind the military compound had stolen the license plate. He then accused Kadamay of being a “front” organization of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer noted that the investigation into the abduction has so far proceeded at a snail’s pace.

May 21, 2007: The Burgos family requests a copy of the AFP Provost Marshal’s investigative report.

May 24, 2007: Military Chief General Hemogenes Esperon Jr. admonished three battalion commanders over the “negligence” that resulted in the loss of a license plate from an Army camp in Norzagaray town, Bulacan province. Gen. Esperon was clear, though, that the AFP investigation was only began to determine why the license plate was missing, and not the alleged role of AFP personnel in the abduction of Jonas.

Nearly one month after Jonas’s disappearance, and 19 days after the vehicle used in the abduction was traced to the 56th Infantry Battalion compound, Lt, Col. Feliciano and two of his men linked to the missing plate still had not been interviewed or investigated by the police nor had the AFP initiated an investigation into the role the soldiers played in the kidnapping. The PNP issued a statement giving the soldiers until May 31, over a month after Jonas’s disappearance, to come in for an interview.

May 31, 2007: The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) issued a subpoena duces tecum and ad testificandum to Major Gen. Delfin R. Bangit, Chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), ordering him to appear and testify before the Commission on June 5, 2007.

June 5, 2007: The CHR holds its first public hearing into Jonas’s abduction. However, Gen. Bangit ignored the legal subpoena issued by the CHR and failed to show at the hearing, claiming that he had another engagement. Legal counsel for the ISAFP objected to the hearings as being illegal and unconstitutional. The CHR did not cite the ISAFP in contempt.

When asked by the media whether he would participate in the future CHR investigations, ISAFP Chief Delfin Bangit said, “I will if I’m available”.

June 7, 2007: Gen. Bangit met with Commissioners of the CHR in an ex-parte meeting.

June 11, 2007: The Burgos family files a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Philippine Court of Appeals asking that the government produce Jonas to the court.

June 14, 2007: The CHR convened a second hearing. The CHR called Dr. Burgos to testify. Citing a prior agreement with the CHR, Dr. Burgos’ lawyers insisted that the military officials testify first. Upon resumption of the proceedings in the afternoon, Gen. Bangit arrived and testified. Gen. Bangit of the ISAFP declares unequivocally, “Frankly and honestly, we do not have the name of Jonas in our list. He is not an enemy of the state. He was never a target”. After his testimony, CHR Commissioner Calamba decided not to call Dr. Burgos to testify.

In October 2007, the CHR ended the inquiry into Jonas’s disappearance citing non-cooperation of Dr. Burgos as the reason claiming that she refused to testify.

June 21, 2007: The AFP refuses to disclose the results of the Provost Marshal’s investigation into the missing license plate, stating that the investigation was not complete and contains classified information.

June 29, 2007: Defending its decision not to turn over the Provost Marshal’s report, the AFP again reiterates that its investigation is focused solely on the circumstances surrounding the missing license plate and not into the abduction of Jonas.

July 3, 2007: The Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines announced that it had conducted an investigation and that the New People’s Army “might” have abducted Jonas.

An AFP spokesperson publicly dares Mrs. Burgos to file a case against the AFP if she had evidence that the military was involved despite evidence linking a license plate in the custody of the military to the vehicle in which Jonas was abducted.

July 4, 2007: The Philippine Daily Inquirer, a respected nationwide newspaper, reports that sources within military intelligence have identified units of ISAFP as having plotted since October 2006 to abduct Jonas.

July 5, 2007: Gen. Esperon again declares that, since the AFP investigation was only into the missing license plate, and not into the abduction of Jonas, then there is no reason to release the Provost Marshall’s investigation. Gen. Esperon noted that the report served its purpose and that the battalion commanders had been punished for their negligence despite earlier statements that the investigation was still open.

July 9, 2007: State Prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco named three agents of the ISAFP in an investigation order issued to the National Bureau of Investigation. In that order, Velasco also identified two other vehicles that served as back-ups to the Toyota Revo that drove Jonas out of the mall: a maroon Lancer with plate number WAM 155 and a Toyota Altis with plate number XBX 881. The latter turned out to be a staff car of Gen. Tolentino, Army Chief at the time. In a press conference, Velasco said that “politics” was behind the abduction of Jonas last April 28.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales immediately removed Atty. Velasco from the investigation stating he had no proof the military was involved and that the ISAFP had already denied its involvement. The NBI never initiated the investigation that was ordered into the ISAFP agents.

July 20, 2007: A spokesperson for the AFP claimed they have evidence that Jonas was a member of the NPA. The Burgos family responds that whether that is true or not, Jonas has rights and deserves his day in court.

July 24, 2007: Philippine Supreme Court issues a Writ of Habeas Corpus ordering the Philippine government to produce Jonas to the court and to explain the basis for his detention.

July 27, 2007: In a hearing before the Philippine Court of Appeals, the AFP denies that Jonas is being held by the military and, as result, asked that the writ of habeas corpus case be dismissed.

August 2, 2007: PNP released a report raising the possibility that Mr. Mudlong, who was identified in May as the owner of the impounded car used in Jonas’ abduction may have stolen the plate and given it to the communist guerillas, probably out of a personal grudge against the Army.

In a September 6 hearing before the Court of Appeals, Justices found the PNP claim to be incredulous.

August 3, 2007: The Court of Appeals orders the AFP to turn over the Provost Marshal’s investigative report to the Court.

August 13, 2007: The Provost Marshal fails to show for a court hearing and the AFP does not submit the investigative report to the Court of Appeals.

August 29, 2007: The PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group presented the Meliza Concepcion Reyes, along with Emerito Lipio and Marlon Manuel, as communist guerillas who allegedly confessed to the police that the NPA was behind Jonas’s abduction.

However, each of the witnesses had already been under police or military detention at the time of Jonas’s abduction. Mr. Lipio, a labor leader from the union PISTON and a party organizer for Anakpawis party-list, was abducted by the military on July 3, 2006 along with six other members of the union. Among the units implicated in the abduction were the Army’s 56th and 69th IB based in Pampanga, all under the command at the time of retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, then 7th Division commander. After several days, the military released the six other union members abducted with Mr. Lipio, each of whom exhibited signs of being tortured. Mr. Lipio, however, was held incommunicado for over a year, despite efforts by his family to find him through filing a Writ of Habeas Corpus.

Ms. Reyes was reportedly abducted at the same time as Jonas Burgos. An aunt of Reyes, Dory Mendoza, reported to Karapatan on April 30, 2007 that her niece is missing.

September 6, 2007: The Philippines Court of Appeals again orders the AFP to turn over the Provost Marshal’s investigative report into the missing license plate.

September 19, 2007: The AFP asks the Court of Appeals to reconsider its ruling arguing that the order violates the separation of powers in the Philippine Constitution.

October 4, 2007: The Court of Appeals again orders the AFP to turn over the Provost Marshal’s investigative report. The Government again appeals the ruling.

November 7, 2007: The AFP finally turns over to the Court of Appeals an incomplete copy of the Provost Marshal’s investigative report from the month of May. The report included only a summary of the findings. The Provost Marshal explained that the affidavits from the report could only be given to the court with the permission of his superiors, which he did not have. The assistant Solicitor General argued that since the report dealt only with the loss of the license plate, it was irrelevant to the issue of the location of Jonas.

The Court of Appeals issues a subpoena for the missing portions of the Provost Marshal’s investigative report.

December 16, 2007: The Burgos family files for a Writ of Amparo seeking to obtain evidence in the custody of the military that could help locate Jonas.

December 24, 2007: The Court of Appeals issues a Writ of Amparo.

December 31, 2007: Gen. Esperon is called on to testify before the Court of Appeals on January 7.

January 7, 2008: The Solicitor General requests that the Writ of Amparo be dismissed because it is based entirely on hearsay. Gen. Esperon does not testify.

January 21, 2007: Dr. Burgos testifies before the Court of Appeals alleging that the military is behind the abduction of her son. Dr. Burgos’s lawyers requests that the court subpoenaed several military officials for the next hearing.

January 29, 2008: Lt. Col. Feliciano, who was head of the 56th IB and accused of having knowledge of or is responsible for Jonas’s abduction, failed to appear at a hearing before the Philippine Court of Appeals despite having received a subpoena by the Court of Appeals.

February 4, 2008: Lt. Col. Feliciano testifies before the Court of Appeals in a Writ of Amparo hearing.

February 28, 2008: Dr. Burgos submitted to the Court of Appeals a Philippine Army document, prepared by 1st Lt. Jaime Mendaros, that listed her son as an insurgent who has been “neutralized”, a military term for killed or arrested. Dr. Burgos testified before the court that she received the document from a friend of her late husband who is in the military.

February 29 – March 19, 2008: Dr. Burgos was invited to and goes on an inter-state speaking tour in the United States of America to tell them of the case of Jonas and other victims of enforced disappearances. This is to gather more support for the search for Jonas and the other victims as well as their families.

March 12, 2008: The Court of Appeals orders 1st Lt. Jaime Mendaros to testify. Next hearing is set as an exclusive session in Bagio.

April 7-8, 2008: 1st Lt. Jaime Mendaros Jr. testifies in an exclusive session of the Court of Appeals and denies involvement nor having knowledge of Jonas’s abduction and says the document (OB list) is a fraud. He confirms Abletes’ case but denies it has something to do with Jonas’s abduction. But he admits he knew Jonas’s identity and confirms the terms written in the said document.

April 15, 2008: Retired Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Romeo Tolentino testifies in court. He denies involvement nor having knowledge of Jonas’s abduction. He denies having told media in interviews of him last year that he knew of Jonas being an NPA and was in the Army’s OB list. He denies knowledge of the letter written by Gen. Esperon for the CHR telling them that Jonas is an NPA and is a target of the army.