Press Release
July 17, 2007


OPPOSITION leader Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada yesterday affixed his signature to a resolution seeking a Senate investigation on the abduction and disappearance of Jonas Burgos and other critics of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Estrada's resolution intends to direct appropriate Senate committees to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the following: 1. The current human rights situation, 2. The failure and refusal of the Arroyo administration to sign the International Convention for the protection of all persons from enforced disappearances and endorse the same to the Senate for ratification, 3. And to prioritize the bills penalizing acts of torture and involuntary disappearance of persons in custody and the establishment of a Philippine Commission on Missing Persons.

Estrada said he will ask the Senate committees on human rights and national defense to "dig deeper" and call public hearings on the reported involvement of ranking military personnel in the abduction and disappearance of press freedom icon Jose Burgos' son.

The license plate (TAB-194) used in the abduction of Jonas was traced to a vehicle impounded by the Philippine Army at 56th IB in Norzagaray, Bulacan.

One of the two alleged back up vehicles (XBC-881) in Burgos' kidnappping was a service car assigned to Army Chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Tolentino while the other back-up vehicle was reportedly a Mitsubishi Lancer (WAM 155).

Witnesses told Senior State Prosecutor Emmanel Velasco that six military men -- T/Sgt. Jason Roxas, Corporal Maria Joanna Francisco and M/Sgt. Aaron Arroyo and a certain TL of the Intelligence Service Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp) together with First Lt. Jaime Mendaros and Lt. Col. Noel Clement of the 56th Infantry Battalion -- were involved in the abduction of Jonas.

Velasco also wanted to know if the soldiers are linked to the abduction of the five supporters of Estrada's father, former President Joseph Estrada, more popularly known as "Erap 5".

But Velasco was relieved by Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez due to Velasco's "premature" disclosure of the participation of Isafp agents in the April 28 abduction of Jonas inside a Quezon City mall.

Velasco was a former reporter of Malaya while Gonzales was a former columnist of the same paper.

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

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

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

"We should craft laws to ensure that the human rights of the victims are respected and protected," Estrada 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.

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