Aquino govt should ensure Baliaga, Año, etal punished

"The Court of Appeals (CA) ruling on the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos confirms our position since Day One -- that the military is behind the act as shown by evidences and testimonies. Sadly it took six long years for the government to acknowledge this," Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan said on the CA decision on the petition for the Writ of Amparo that points to the responsibility of Maj. Harry Baliaga and the accountability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). 

Palabay said that “the CA decision is also an affirmation of the practice of state security forces to abduct and forcibly disappear persons whom they brand as ‘enemies of the state,’ a practice that was conducted during the years of the Marcos dictatorship and Arroyo regime, and is still being enforced under Pres. Noynoy Aquino’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan.” Karapatan has documented 14 victims of enforced disappearance under the Aquino administration. 

"The decision is a positive development for the Burgos family and other families of the disappeared," said Lorena Santos, secretary general of Families of Desaparecidos for Justice. "This decision may help push for criminal charges against Maj. Harry Baliaga and others involved in the abduction and disappearance of Burgos," Santos said. "And yes, we hope this may also lead to the surfacing of Jonas," Santos added.

Karapatan expects “a full disclosure of other cases of enforced disappearance that Baliaga, his military unit, and his superiors, including Gen. Eduardo Año, were involved in” Palabay said.  Año was recently appointed by Pres. Aquino as chief of the intelligence services of the AFP.

Maj. Harry Baliaga was under the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army which was once under the command of retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. Palparan himself was involved in numerous cases of human rights violations such as the disappearance of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno in Central Luzon, and the killing of Eden Marcellana and Eddie Gumanoy in Southern Luzon. 

Palabay warns that the identification of Maj. Harry Baliaga should not end up like that of Palparan’s who remains at-large more than one year after he was issued a warrant of arrest. Court hearings, she said, proceed without Palparan in sight. “The Aquino government should see through that the process ends up in the prosecution and jailing of all those responsible for the human rights violations committed against the people,” Palabay added. 

"We stand by with the Burgos family on this battle. Their strength and courage is an inspiration to us and families of victims of human rights violations," said Santos. “The development on the case of Jonas is one thing we can celebrate on his birthday. But just like any family of a desaparecido, we may prepare their favorite food but in the end, it means nothing without our missing loved one. We look forward to the day when they will be home with their families and their abductors punished," Santos said. 

"We hope that the CA decision does not end up to be just a PR hype for the Aquino government like what happened to Palparan. The victims and their families deserve nothing but justice," ended Palabay.