MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed human rights investigators access to military documents that might lead to the identification of a male member of the military suspected of being the abductor of activist Jonas Burgos.
In the first of two issues the court resolved on Tuesday, it allowed the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) access to documents on the so-called “Erap 5” case on the grounds the suspected kidnapper of Burgos belonged to the same military group that allegedly arrested and tortured in 2006 five supporters of deposed President Joseph Estrada on suspicion they were plotting to overthrow the Arroyo administration.
According to Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te, the CHR wanted access to the “Erap 5” documents because it had “uncovered a lead that the male abductor of Jonas appearing in the sketch was among the raiders who abducted (Victor Eustaquio) and four others, known as the Erap 5.”
The CHR submitted to the high court a sworn statement by Eustaquio “who identified the male person in one of the cartographic sketches as among those who abducted him on a separate occasion.”
“The court noted that this sworn statement constitutes the sought-after missing link that establishes the relevance of the requested documents to the present case and that this lead may help the CHR ascertain the identities of those depicted in the cartographic sketches who, to this day, remain unidentified,” Te said.
The high tribunal directed the Clerk of Court to allow CHR representatives to inspect the Erap 5 documents and the National Bureau of Investigation to assist the CHR in its investigation.
The second issue that the Supreme Court decided on on Tuesday was to deny a petition from Burgos’ mother, Edita Burgos, to reopen Court of Appeals hearings into her son’s case, claiming she had new evidence.
According to the high court, the writ of amparo that it earlier issued that resulted in the appellate court’s hearing the Burgos case and its eventual promulgation “had already been served in the present case.”
The appellate court promulgated its ruling on the Burgos case in March 2013 where it decided, among other things, that Burgos’ April 2007 abduction was an enforced disappearance. It also held Maj. Harry Baliaga Jr. responsible and the Philippine Army accountable for Burgos’ disappearance.
The appellate court also asked the CHR to continue with its investigation into Burgos’ disappearance.
In Tuesday’s ruling, the en banc said the appellate court decision of March 18, 2013, finding Baliaga responsible for Burgos’ enforced disappearance was final.
“At this stage, the criminal investigation and prosecution proceedings are already beyond the reach of the writ of amparo now before the court,” Te said.
Sought for comment, Edita Burgos welcomed the high court’s decision allowing the CHR to look into the documents on the abduction of the “Erap 5.”
“That would help confirm Eustaquio’s claim that one of those who took Jonas was also among those who abducted them,” she told the Inquirer over the phone.
“But it came as a surprise because it’s not part of our original petition,” she added.
She expressed disappointment over the court’s denial of her petition to reopen the case of her son’s abduction in the Court of Appeals.
“It’s such a letdown. I was really hoping the Supreme Court could help us find the truth about what happened to Jonas,” she said.