6 Soldiers Implicated In Disappearance of Activist In Philippines

July 9, 2007 at 6:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / 09 Jul) – Six government soldiers suspected as behind the disappearance of a political activists in the Philippines were ordered investigated on Monday.

Senior State Prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco, of the Presidential Task Force Against Media Harassment, ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to summon the soldiers to shed light on the disappearance of Jonas Burgos.

Burgos was seized in April this year at a restaurant in Quezon City. His family accused the military as behind the abduction.

“My son Jonas, according to witnesses, was forcibly taken by a group of six males and one female while he was having lunch at the Hapag Kainan Restaurant in Ever Gotesco Mall, Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City, on April 28, 2007 at about 1.30 p.m. As he was being forcibly taken, he was shouting “Aktibista lang po ako! (I am only an activist).”

“I realized that Jonas could be missing when he did not come home that night of April 28th,” his mother, Edith Burgos, said.

She said one witness saw the young Burgos forced into a vehicle with license plate number TAB 194, which was later traced to a vehicle impounded by the Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion in Bulacan province.

Army officials said the license plate was stolen from the vehicle inside their base.

Burgos is a member of a peasant organization in Bulacan province called the Alyansang Magbubukid ng Bulacan (Farmers’ Alliance in Bulacan).

Five of the six soldiers ordered investigated were identified as Army Lt. Col. Noel Clement, then commander of the 56th Infantry Battalion; Army Lt. Jaime Mendaro, of the 56th Infantry Battalion; Army Sgt. Jason Roxas and Air Force Cpl. Maria Joana Francisco; Army Sgt. Aron Arroyo and another soldier whose initials are TL, all allegedly assigned with the Military Intelligence Group-15 of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. An informant, also a soldier, has provided Velasco the names of the five suspects.

One the six, Clement, has strongly denied involvement in the disappearance of the activist and said he is ready to face the investigation. ”I will clear my name. I have nothing to hide,” Clement told reporters in Manila.

“I don’t know why I am dragged into this. If this were a book, I was in chapter one. I impounded the vehicle but it doesn’t mean that I will always be responsible for it,” Clement said.

The vehicle, owned by Mudlong Mauro, was seized by army soldiers for transporting illegal lumber in June 2006.

Clement said he was relieved by Lt. Col. Melquiades Feliciano as commander of the 56th Infantry Battalion and had nothing to do with the missing license plate. “When I was relieved, I turned over everything inside the camp (to my successor),” he said.

Clement’s unit was pulled out of Bulacan in January this year and replaced by the Army’s 69th Infantry Battalion headed by Lt. Col. Edison Caga.

Lt. Gen. Romeo Tolentino, the Philippine Army chief, last week linked communist insurgents in the disappearance of Burgos. (Juley Reyes)

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