Press Release
June 10, 2007

Jinggoy seeks Senate probe on desaperacidos

Opposition leader Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada yesterday vowed to file a resolution seeking a Senate investigation on the disappearance of militant activists when the 14th Congress convenes next month.

Estrada said he will ask the Senate committees on human rights and national defense to call public hearings on the reported involvement of some military personnel in the kidnappings and killings of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's critics.

The Senate should initiate the first investigation of the 14th Congress by digging deeper into the enforced disappearance of political activists, Estrada said.

"We must craft a law to ensure that the human rights of the victims are respected and protected," he said.

Based on the statistics of human rights group Karapatan, the total extrajudicial killings, since Mrs. Arroyo took office in 2001, have reached 863 as of last May 15 and most of the victims are militant church workers, farmers and youths.

There are 51 journalists murdered since 2001 and the number of enforced disappearances under the Arroyo administration has already reached 196.

Estrada had earlier filed two bills in the Senate seeking the creation of a Commission on Missing Persons and to stop involuntary disappearances.

"Extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances of Mrs. Arroyo's critics should stop now and not tomorrow," Estrada said.

According to Estrada, he will file a resolution to conduct an inquiry and refile his two bills in the Senate when the 14th Congress opens on July 23.

Estrada said the Senate committees should summon officials of Arroyo administration, including Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, to explain why Malacañang had failed to sign and endorse a United Nations convention for the protection against enforced disappearances.

Estrada urged Malacaang to sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and endorse the same to the Senate for its ratification.

"Pinangangalandakan natin sa buong mundo na ang Pilipinas ay isang demokratikong bansa pero tila ayaw naman ni Gng. Arroyo na pirmahan ang International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances at i-endorse sa amin dito sa Senado para maratipikahan. We can only suspect why Mrs. Arroyo refuse to sign a UN convention and endorse the same to the Senate for its ratification," Estrada said.

French Ambassador Gerard Chesnel had recently appealed to the Philippine government and other countries to sign and ratify the international convention that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 20, 2006 where the Philipines participated.

Chesnel made the appeal as relatives of desaperacidos from seven countries planted tree saplings at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani shrine in Quezon City to mark the International Week of the Disappeared last June 1.

Edita Burgos, whose son Jonas Joseph has been missing, was one of the relatives who planted saplings along with relatives from India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakista, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Edita is the widow of the late press freedom icon Jose Burgos Jr, appealed to the captors of 37-year-old Jonas, who had been training farmers in Bulacan on organic farming before he was seized by unidentified men from the Ever Gotesco shopping mall in Quezon City last April 28.

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