Families and friends of victims of involuntary disappearances called for justice on Wednesday, April 28, the 14th anniversary of the abduction of Filipino activist Jonas Burgos.
The 37-year-old Burgos was abducted on April 28, 2007, while having lunch in a restaurant in Quezon City in the Philippine capital.
The abduction has become one of the most prominent cases of enforced disappearances in the country.
The Burgos family and human rights groups accused the Philippine military of having a hand in the abduction.
In March 2013, the Supreme Court resolved that Burgos’ abduction was a case of enforced disappearance. It held the Philippine Army responsible for the abduction.
The Supreme Court’s decision prompted the filing of a case of kidnapping and illegal detention against the suspects.
In October 2017, a regional trial court dismissed the case against a military official on the grounds that the prosecution was not able to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that he took Burgos.
“Fourteen years after [Burgos’] abduction, justice is yet to be served,” said Erlinda Cadapan, national chairperson of the group Desaparecidos.
“His case is a clear example of how the dire state of justice develops the prevailing culture of impunity in the country,” she said.
Cadapan said the case of Burgos “exemplifies how state mercenaries are used by the ruling regime to silence critics and dissenters.”
“We, the families and relatives of involuntary disappearances, remain steadfast in our demand for truth, justice, and accountability,” said Cadapan.
Burgos’ mother, Edith, said if her son were alive today “he too would be just as active and selfless as those who are now running community pantries.”
“Fourteen years have passed, justice is still elusive,” said Edith, adding that family and friends continue to suffer from her son’s absence.
“Yet we remain steadfast in our demand for justice and the return of Jonas. We remember and shall not forget as we continue to let Jonas live in our actions,” she said.
To date, at least 1,200 people have become victims of enforced disappearances in the country since the years of martial law in the 1970s.
Desaparecidos-Families of the Disappeared for Justice has documented 13 cases of enforced disappearances since July 2016 under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Philippines is the only country in Asia that enacted a law criminalizing the practice of enforced and involuntary disappearances.
In December 2012, the country passed the landmark Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act.