The Supreme Court has ordered the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to conduct appropriate investigative proceedings to identify the perpetrators and determine the other circumstances surrounding the 2007 abduction of Jonas Joseph T. Burgos, a farmer advocate and a member of Kilusang Magbubukid sa Bulacan.
In a signed resolution penned by Justice Arturo D. Brion, the Court specifically directed the CHR to, among others, ascertain the identities of the cartographic sketches of two of the abductors as well as their whereabouts and determine based on records, past and present, the identities and locations of the persons identified by the DOJ to be involved in the abduction of Burgos.
The Court held: “Considering the findings of the CA and our review of the records of the present case, we conclude that the PNP [Philippine National Police] and the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] have so far failed to conduct an exhaustive and meaningful investigation into the disappearance of Jonas Burgos and to exercise the extraordinary diligence (in the performance of their duties) that the Rule on the Writ of Amparo requires. Because of these investigative shortcomings, we cannot rule on the case until a more meaningful investigation, using extraordinary diligence, is undertaken…From the records, we noted that there are very significant lapses in the handling of the investigation–among them the PNP-CIDG [PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group]’s failure to identify the cartographic sketches of two (one male and one female) of the five abductors of Jonas based on their interview of eyewitnesses to the abduction.”
The Court therefore ruled that further investigation and monitoring should be undertaken and resolved to
• require the incumbent Chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to make available and to provide copies, to the CHR, of all documents and records in their possession and as the CHR may require, relevant to the case of Burgos;
• direct the PNP-CIDG and its incumbent Chief to submit to the CHR the records and results of the investigation the PNP-CIDG claimed to have forwarded to the Department of Justice, which were not included in their previous submissions to the CHR and provide direct investigative assistance to the CHR;
• authorize the CHR to conduct a comprehensive and exhaustive investigation that extends to all aspects of the case; and
• require the CHR to submit to the High Court a report with its recommendations within 90 days from notice.
The Court also affirmed the dismissal of the petitions for Contempt and for the Issuance of a Writ of Amparo against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo since the latter, being the incumbent president, enjoys the privilege of immunity from suit.
Previously, the CA had issued a decision partially granting the petition for a Writ of Amparo filed by Burgos’ mother, Edita T. Burgos, who alleged that her son was forcibly taken and abducted by a group of four men and a woman from the extension portion of Hapag Kainan Restaurant, located at the ground floor of Ever Gotesco Mall, Commonwealth, Quezon City on April 28, 2007.
In a separate signed resolution, also penned by Justice Brion, the Court ordered the Court of Appeals to submit its 1st quarterly report and recommendations on the enforced disappearance of a consultant for the World Bank who was allegedly forcibly abducted in Sulu in 2007.
The Court also reminded the PNP and the PNP-CIDG “to faithfully and promptly comply” with the Court’s directives in its December 3, 2009 decision that they present to the CA a plan of action for further investigation. In the said decision, the Court had granted the petition of Mary Jean B. Tagitis, wife of the missing consultant engineer Morced Tagitis, for the issuance of the writ of amparo. The Court referred the case back to the CA for appropriate proceedings and monitoring of the PNP and the PNP-CIDG investigations and actions.
Tagitis, a consultant for the World Bank and the Senior Honorary Counselor for the Islamic Development Bank Scholarship Programme, was last seen in Jolo, Sulu on October 31, 2007. (GR No. 183711, Burgos v. President Arroyo, GR No. 183712, Burgos v. President Arroyo, GR No. 183713, Burgos v. President Arroyo, June 22, 2010; GR No. 182498, Razon, Jr. v. Tagitis, June 22, 2010)