Press Release
July 16, 2007

Jinggoy slams Palace destabilization
tag on bid to probe Jonas disappearance

OPPOSITION stalwart Sen. Jinggoy Estrada yesterday lambasted Malacañang for saying his bid for a Senate inquiry into the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos, allegedly perpetrated by agents of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), was a destabilization move against the Arroyo government.

"Here goes Malacañang again, labeling as destabilization moves any effort at ferreting out the truth, especially if that truth would potentially expose wrongdoings and inefficiency of people of this administration" Estrada noted.

Estrada was reacting to Presidential legal counsel Sergio Apostol's reported statement that the planned Senate inquiry "is destabilization, a poor stunt for publicity mileage, a gimmick whose purpose is not to hold an inquiry in aid of legislation but in aid of his (Sen. Estrada's) re-election." Apostol was further quoted as saying, "(H)ave they come out with legislative bills out of the inquiries they've done? None at all, they have not accomplished anything good from those investigations."

"We could only suspect why Malacañang officials have always tried to shun inquiries of this kind. The inquiry I am proposing precisely seeks to assess what the government, with our present legislations, is doing to protect human rights and to examine if there are in fact loopholes and inefficiencies in the laws that thus contributed to the current human rights situation where several activists, like Jonas, and critics of the administration have disappeared, while several others have been killed," Estrada said.

"Through this inquiry, we can improve legislations and come up with more effective measures on protecting and promoting the human rights of every Filipino," added Estrada, who has proposed bills penalizing acts of torture and involuntary disappearance of persons, and the establishment of a Philippine Commission on Missing Persons.

Estrada earlier said he would file a resolution asking the Senate committees on human rights and national defense to call public hearings on the reported involvement of ranking military personnel in the abduction of Burgos, as well as to summon officials of the Arroyo administration in connection with the human rights situation in the country and the administration's failure and refusal to sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and endorse the same to the Senate for ratification.

Apostol reportedly said "They (Senate) can no longer hold inquiries in aid of destabilization because we would ensure that EO 464 or Memorandum Circular 108 would be closely followed, meaning, the senators who wish to invite any government official would have to send an advanced invitation, a questionnaire which Malacañang would have to see first, and from then the President would decide whether she would allow or not a certain government official to appear in the Senate inquiry. In this case, the AFP would have to seek first permission from President Arroyo to appear in any Senate investigation."

"Why is Malacañang so afraid of this investigation? Is it hiding something?" Estrada said, adding:

"We announce to the world that the Philippines is a democratic country but Mrs. Arroyo refuses to sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and endorse it to the Senate for ratification, several activists and critics of this administration have disappeared or got killed and now, Malacañang is avoiding and even preventing this inquiry on the country's human rights situation."

Human rights group Karapatan said 863 victims of extrajudicial killing have been reported since Arroyo assumed office in 2001.

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