Edita Burgos, mother of desaparecido Jonas,

 in US speaking tour

 

New York      San Francisco    Los Angeles

 

Posted March 21, 2008

 

 

 

▲New York

 

"I've come to the US to speak about Jonas in the hope that it will help me find him in the Philippines"

- Edita Burgos

 

Edita Burgos, the mother of abducted Filipino agriculturalist Jonas Burgos, and widow of the late Filipino press freedom-fighter Joe Burgos, has been in the US in March for a month-long national speaking tour in at least 7 cities across the US. Her first stop was New York City, where the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) hosted a community benefit dinner and welcome for her at the BAYANIHAN Filipino Community Center.
 

Mrs. Burgos marked successful visits with the Congressional offices of Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), Senator John McCain(D-AZ), Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) Representative Adam Smith (D-WA), Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), Doris Matsui (D-CA.), Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA.), Jerry McNerney (D-CA) and the majority staff of the House Foreign Relations Committee. She discussed with the offices how they could help her in her search for her son and the other disappeared in the Philippines.

 

▼San Francisco

 

The national speaking tour is being sponsored by GMA WATCH, a national grassroots advocacy network that has been actively participating in church lobbying efforts after the US Senate hearing last March 2007 on extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the Philippines. NYCHRP is a founding member of GMA WATCH.

 

■  Download Edita Burgos' Podcast interview

■  Download US Senate hearing on RP extrajudicial killings March 15, 2007

 

   
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Edita Burgos, mother of abducted son Jonas, in New York

Photos courtesy of New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP)

           

 

Filipinos in New York, Alston Band Together for Edith Burgos
Benefit Dinner Welcomes Mother of Abducted Son

New York-- Approximately 100 people crowded the Bayanihan Filipino Community Center last Sunday night, March 2,  to welcome Edith Burgos, mother of abducted activist Jonas Burgos, and widow of the late Filipino press freedom hero Jose Burgos, at a community benefit dinner entitled Kapayapaan, A Call for Peace. Burgos was in New York to kick-off her national speaking tour in the United States, where she will also travel to Minneapolis, Washington DC, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles before returning to the Philippines.

The main sponsor of the tour is GMA WATCH, a national grassroots advocacy network of Filipino and human rights organizations in the US that was spawned shortly after US Congress took note on the rate of extrajudicial killings and abductions in the Philippines last March with a US Senate hearing.

A Mother in Search of Her Son

Drawing tears from the audience, Burgos spoke candidly about her family's plight since Jonas Burgos, 36 and a agriculturalist with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines), was abducted by identified elements of the Philippine military in broad daylight from a Quezon City mall on April 28, 2007. Jonas Burgos was apparently whisked away while shouting "Aktibista lang po ako!" (I'm only an activist!) and thrown into a military truck.

"You cannot imagine what goes through a mother's head, knowing that at any moment of the day, her son is being tortured," Burgos expressed to the packed, standing room audience.

Despite the unmasked men and obvious abduction, no one lifted a finger to help Jonas at the mall.

"This is the culture of impunity in the Philippines today, meaning the military can do this in broad daylight because they know there will be no consequences for their actions, and the people live in fear of them," Burgos explained.

The Church's Response

Mrs. Burgos was accompanied by Mervin Toquero, a staff member of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP). Toquero further contextualized the "human rights crisis" in the Philippines, with over 901 killings and 300 abductions, noting the ultimate command responsibility of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA).

"We believe Arroyo's drive to stay in power is the real reason there are human rights violations in the Philippines today," Toquero emphasized to an agreeable audience.

Burgos and Toquero were joined by Berna Ellorin and Jamie Mapa of the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), a founding member of GMA WATCH, and the local organizers for last Sunday's dinner.

After the panel discussion, an open forum revealed the raw sentiments of the Filipino community abroad.

"Nothing we can do here can ever make up for the loss you and your family are suffering, but we are inspired by your courage, Edith," stated Dr. Orlando Apiado of the Movement for a Free Philippines (MFP), an organization of anti-Martial Law advocates founded in the 1970's, at a time when the late Senator Benigno Aquino, a staunch Marcos opponent, lived in New York.

"We may not be in the Philippines, but we are not helpless. We still have a role to play," stated Attorney Merit Salud, Advocacy Director for Region 1 of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA).

"We formed GMA WATCH precisely to lift US participation on the human rights crisis in the Philippines, on the basis that as US tax-payers, our dollars are funneled to the Philippine military as US military aid," Ellorin explained. "The GMA administration is the fourth largest recipient of US monetary aid in the world."

A Call to Step Down

Many others in the audience expressed their disgruntlement with the Arroyo administration and supported popular calls in Manila for a regime change.

"She simply needs to go. More important than knowing who will replace her is the collective mission to remove her from office. In fact, if they say GMA WATCH, I say GMA OUST," Burgos pointed out frankly.

The panel discussion was followed by a dinner that helped raise funds for Desaparacidos, an organization of families and loved ones of the disappeared in the Philippines, and GMA WATCH.

Meeting with Alston

The following Monday, NYCHRP facilitated a visit between Burgos and UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings and Summary Executions Philip Alston at New York University. Burgos thoroughly updated Alston on her son's case since his high-profile 2007 report on the Philippines, implicating the Philippine military. Burgos also expressed the lack of effort by the Arroyo government, by way of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), to address her son's case.

"The CHR has arrogantly dismissed Jonas' case, when they have told the world and the United Nations that they intend to sincerely address the human rights crisis in the Philippines," stated Burgos to Alston in his office.  ►

 

     
     

With Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings and Summary Execution, at New York University

     
     

 

Burgos' report to Alston was a striking contradiction to the report of Philippine Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, who flew to New York last fall to update Alston and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on the measures the Arroyo government was taking to resolve the country's human rights crisis.

After her meeting with Alston, Burgos proceeded to visit Elaine Pearson, director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch in Manhattan.

This week, Burgos will proceed to Minneapolis and then Washington DC, where she is scheduled to meet with the legislative offices of elected officials from US Congress. ###

 

Download statement
 

           

 

March 12, 2008
CONTACT:
Katrina Abarcar, National Coodinator, 443-794-8836, gmawatch@yahoo.com
Rhonda Ramiro, Media Liaison, 415-377-2599, rramiro@gmail.com

Politically Motivated Killings and Disappearances Concern US Congressional Representatives
Mother of Abducted Son Alerts Capitol Hill to the State of Human Rights in the Philippines

Washington DC-- Following a successful visit with United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston in New York, Edith Burgos, mother of abducted Filipino activist Jonas Burgos, embarked on a string of office visits with Congressional offices in Capitol Hill during the Washington DC leg of her National Speaking Tour this month.

Mrs. Burgos is traveling on her speaking tour organized and sponsored by GMA WATCH, a national grassroots advocacy network of Filipino-American and human rights organizations in the US. Burgos is also representing Desaparacidos, a national Filipino organization of families and loved ones of the disappeared in the Philippines.

"I've come to the US to speak about Jonas in the hope that it will help me find him in the Philippines," said Mrs. Burgos.

Mrs. Burgos marked successful visits with the Congressional offices of Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), Senator John McCain(D-AZ), Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) Representative Adam Smith (D-WA), Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), Doris Matsui (D-CA.), Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA.), Jerry McNerney (D-CA) and the majority staff of the House Foreign Relations Committee. She discussed with the offices how they could help her in her search for her son and the other disappeared in the Philippines.
 

 

"These visits have brought me so much hope. I did not expect the heartwarming reception I received," said Mrs. Burgos.

"Edith's story gave a clear example of how the Arroyo administration continues to be the main obstacle for victims of human rights violations seeking justice," said Katrina Abarcar, National Coordinator of GMA Watch. "The offices we met with seemed to understand this and were very concerned."

Mrs. Burgos' son, Jonas Burgos, was abducted by elements of the Philippine military in broad daylight on April 28, 2007 in a crowded mall in Quezon City. The Philippine Commission of Human Rights (CHR) has since dismissed Jonas' case despite assuring the United Nations that they would resolve the human rights crisis in the Philippines.

Mrs. Burgos was accompanied by members of GMA Watch, human rights advocates, and church leaders. Rev. Larry Emery, Presbyterian Pastor and an associate of the Ecumenical Advocate Network on the Philippines, stated that Mrs. Burgos' visit further illustrated the need for the United States government to reassess its support for the Philippine military. "They are using the funding they receive from the USA to fight legal progressive organizations and their leaders rather than legitimate military targets. This must stop." Rev. Emery went on encourage Filipino's around the country to make their views known to their congressional representatives who continue to vote for funding of the Philippine military.

Mrs. Burgos is set to speak in events in Seattle, San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles before returning to the Philippines this month. ###
 

Download statement

           

Edita Burgos, mother of abducted son Jonas, in San Francisco

Photos courtesy of BAYAN - USA

           

 

News Release
February 21, 2008

Reference: Jamie Mapa, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, email: nychrp@gmail.com

Mother of Abducted Son Comes to the US
Edith Burgos Speaks on Behalf of the Still-Missing Jonas Burgos in NYC

New York-- Edith Burgos, the mother of missing Filipino agriculturalist Jonas Burgos, and widow of the late Filipino press freedom-fighter Joe Burgos, will be coming to the US in March for a month-long national speaking tour in at least 7 cities across the US. Her first stop will be New York City, where the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) will be holding a community benefit dinner and welcome for her on Saturday, March 1st, 6pm at the BAYANIHAN Filipino Community Center on 40-21 69th Street in Woodside.

The national speaking tour is being sponsored by GMA WATCH, a national grassroots advocacy network that has been actively participating in church lobbying efforts after the US Senate hearing last March 2007 on extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the Philippines. NYCHRP is a founding member of GMA WATCH.

Ms. Burgos, a secular Carmelite (a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites ), has been traveling extensively on speaking engagements to call public attention to the case of her son, who was abducted by elements of the Philippine military on April 28, 2007 and remains missing to this day. Jonas Burgos, 36, is a land rights activist who was affiliated with the Alyansang Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) or Alliance of Peasants in Central Luzon, a local affiliate of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) or Peasant Movement of the Philippines.

Many believe Jonas was abducted because of his activism and support for genuine agrarian reform, as well as organizing other peasants and farmers to fight for their rights through peaceful means.

Ms. Burgos has testified to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva that she still believes her son is at the brutal hands of the Philippine military. Jonas Burgos' case was also numerously referenced in the 2007 UN report of Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings and Summary Executions, who released 3 reports on the Philippines last year. Burgos is set to have a private meeting with Alston during her brief stay in New York to update him on Jonas' case.

"We are concerned that not enough is being done for Jonas' case by the Philippine government," states Jamie Mapa, a member of NYCHRP and Jonas' Burgos' first cousin. "We have a moral responsibility to seek justice for the victims of human rights violations in our motherland."

Shortly after New York, Burgos is set to travel to Washington DC, where she will attend the Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD), an annual ecumenical gathering of Christian Church representatives that speak on global human rights, social, economic, and political concerns. She will make her way westward from there ending up in California by the end of March.

As a result of national grassroots advocacy efforts from various church groups, the 2008 Appropriations Bill included specific restrictive language on US military aid to the Philippines, with recommendations for the Arroyo government by Alston himself. Many are concerned such aid has been directly contributing to training a Philippine military that has been guilty of perpetrating these human rights violations, which includes over 890+ victims of killings and 300+ victims of abductions.

The Arroyo government is currently under intensifying public scrutiny in Manila for exposed graft and corruption. An initial protest calling for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's resignation topped at 15,000 last Friday, and the protests are only projected to get bigger as more social unrest unfolds.

Joe Burgos, Edith's late husband, was also a significant press figure that defied censorship under the martial law of the Marcos dictatorship in the 1970's. The late Burgos founded the popular newspapers We Forum and Malaya. For helping restore democratic processes to the country, Joe Burgos was honored as a World Press Freedom Hero Awardee by the International Press Institute in Boston in 2000.

Ms. Burgos, whose family continues to face political harassment in the Philippines, will be speaking on behalf of the Desaparacidos, a rapidly growing national organization of families and loved ones of the disappeared in the Philippines. She will be traveling with her daughter, Virginia Ann, and Mervyn Toquero of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).

KAPAYAPAAN, the Edith Burgos Community Benefit Dinner will have an entrance fee of $20.00 per person. RSVPs are encouraged. For more information or to RSVP, send an email NYCHRP at nychrp@gmail.com. ###

Download statement

 

■   Another Pastor Abducted and Illegally Detained in Mindoro Occidental, Philippines

■   Palm Sunday message on Pastor Berlin's Cup

     
     
     
     
     
     
           

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Justice for Disappeared Filipinos

Published on 17 Mar 2008 at 8:56 am. No Comments.
Filed under
Daily Programs.

 

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GUESTS: Edith Burgos, mother of abducted man Jonas Burgos, Mervin Toquero, National Council of Churches in the Philippines

 

Edith Burgos, a mother of a missing activist, is currently on a month-long tour of the United States to demand justice for her son and for all disappeared persons in the Philippines. Sponsored by various Philippines human rights organization, the tour is aimed at raising awareness of the abuses committed under the regime of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. During the Washington D.C. leg of her

 

trip, Burgos visited the offices of numerous congressional lawmakers in the hopes that they would reconsider US aid to the Philippine military. It was elements of the Philippine army that abducted her son Jonas, a farmer's rights activist, nearly one year ago. Seeking accountability, Burgos submitted to the Philippine Court of Appeals a military document that said that her son had been "neutralized." The family has continually faced harassment in the course of seeking justice. Unfortunately the case of Jonas Burgos is not an isolated one. Documented by numerous human rights reports, nearly 300 persons have been disappeared during the reign of President Arroyo. Edith Burgos, also representing the Desaparecidos organization, will continue her speaking tour, on behalf of victim's families, through Los Angeles before returning home to the Philippines later this month.

 

Edith Burgos will be speaking tonight at the Rosewood United Methodist Church, 4101 Rosewood Avenue, Los Angeles at 7 pm.

Mervin Toquero recommends that listeners call Representative Howard Berman at 818-994-7200 and urge him to add human rights conditions on US military aid to the Philippines.

 

           

Edita Burgos, mother of abducted son Jonas, in Los Angeles

Photos courtesy of Habi Arts

           
     
           
     
           

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