Thursday, June 12, 2008

Oral intervention of Edita Burgos at the 8th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

UN Human Rights Council 8th Session
Item 6: Consideration of UPR Reports – Philippines
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
Delivered by Dr.Edita Burgos

Joint Statement on behalf of the Commission of Churches on
Interantional Affairs of the World Council of Churches (CCIA WCC) and
the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL)

Mr. President:

We thank the World Council of Churches' Commission of Churches on
International Affairs (WCC CCIA) and the International Association of
Democratic Lawyers (IADL) for their support to this statement.

We also take this opportunity to thank the States that raised serious
questions and recommendations during the UPR on the Philippines in
April. The continuing concern of the international community on
extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations in the
Philippines is reassuring.  Such concern dispelled the glossy picture
projected by the Philippine National Report through its reporting of
formal recognition of basic rights and lavish citation of laws and

During the April UPR, it was stated that the preparation of the Report
was done through a supposed "consultative and participatory process"
to fulfill the Government's pledge of "promoting constructive
engagement of the Council with civil society, ensuring opportunities
to gainfully contribute to the work of the Council."  We maintain that
much leaves to be desired in such a process.

In relation to the outcome of the review, we note that the Philippine
delegation did not indicate any adoption of the recommendations of the
Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution
especially on the changes in the counter-insurgency program being
implemented by the state and which the Special Rapporteur noted as one
of the causes of the killings and disappearances..  The filing of
cases in some and the conviction of four persons among almost a
thousand cases do not negate the fact that not a single military
person was convicted of such violations largely attributed to the
militarist approach of the Government to the issue of
counterinsurgency in the Philippines.

The reduction in the number of victims of killings is the result of
public outcry and international outrage. Yet, the impunity continues.
A recent case is that of Pastor Rodel Canja who was abducted and
subjected to mental torture in an attempt to force him to declare his
colleague, Pastor Berlin Guerrero, abducted one year earlier and now
detained on false charges, as a member of the communist party.  More
than a year after my son's abduction, in spite of all legal remedies
availed of, including the much-vaunted new remedy of the writ of
amparo, I am still searching for my disappeared son, Jonas.

Mr. President, in the outcome of the review, the Philippine delegation
declared one of its commitments is to "maintain the momentum on
addressing killings of activists and media professionals."

May we know what momentum is it saying and what actions it envisions
to totally address the issue of killings and disappearances?

We respectfully urge this august body to encourage the Philippines to
abide by its pledges and commitments and implement the recommendations
of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary

Thank you, Mr. President.

Search for Jonas, a Year After

Geneva - United Nations
June 4, 2008-06-05

It has been more than a year since my son Jonas was abducted in April 28, 2007. Since April 29, the family has embarked on an extensive search for Jonas. We have availed of all the peaceful remedies provided in a democratic country. These remedies, both personal and formal, consisted of appeals to and complaints filed with all the concerned agencies: the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Office of the President and the Executive Department, the Department of Justice and the Commission on Human Rights. The family has likewise participated in various kinds of mass actions as well as prayer rallies and masses, which has merited the coverage of both print and broadcast media. We have also brought our case to the attention of the international community through the United Nations. And still Jonas remains missing. We, as well other families of desaparecidos in the Philippines remain at ground zero because we still do not know the fate that befell our loved ones. The truth has been effectively kept from us.

Evidences uncovered in the ten months of hearing (in 33 sessions and with 12 witness, 6 of whom were hostile military officers) has confirmed the family's belief that the Armed Forces of the Philippines, particularly the 56th Infantry Battalion is guilty of abducting Jonas and that the highest officers of the AFP are guilty of covering up.

Today, from the recent enforced disappearances, we still see that the culture of impunity characterize the abductions. We also see new forms being used by the perpetrators. First the individual is abducted and unheard of for 3 days then he is surfaced in some jail in a remote place with charges filed against him. Within the days that the victim is held incommunicado he is tortured by his captors.

The pattern in disappearances is clear. A person is disappeared and when his disappearance is published in the newspapers, this victim is demonized. Furthermore, the military feed the media with lies that the victim was killed by the rebel group because of an internal purge.

The torture of the families of the disappeared continue. With no one being convicted and the government being in a constant state of denial, as a result of which the issue is not addressed, much less solved, justice is denied to both the disappeared and his family.

To be candid, we cannot see any glimmer of hope coming from the government police forces nor from the government's executive department. To date, the case of Jonas is up for resolution by the court of appeals. I bring my case to your attention because I fear that there would be no other venue left to me. I must find my son and I pray that I find him alive and well. But to do this we must find the truth.

Mother of Jonas