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Wheels of justice in the Philippines must turn quickly and judiciously on Burgos case

Akbayan Partylist today called on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to "shake the military establishment" and "weed out the corrupt, murderers and traitors" among its ranks. The partylist group made the call after the Court of Appeals' decision to hold elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) accountable for the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos in 2007.
"We expect that the Aquino government will do everything in its power to ensure that the wheels of justice turn quickly and judiciously on this case. President Aquino must assure the public that his administration is different from the previous regime, which was rabidly marked by impunity and human rights abuses," Akbayan National Spokesperson Barry Gutierrez said.

"President Aquino must once again demonstrate the grit of his resolve to provide justice to those who thirst for it, the same political will which we saw when he led the people's campaign to remove the government of corrupt enforcers left behind by the Arroyo regime. He must do this even if it means shaking the entire military establishment to weed out the corrupt, murderers and traitors," Gutierrez added.

However, Gutierrez said the reforms in the uniformed services must start from within. He said the Arroyo years, which reduced the military and police institutions to repressive apparatuses of an illegitimate government, must never happen again.

"We call on the patriotic and progressive sections of the military and the police force to lead a comprehensive and courageous campaign to fundamentally reform and transform the uniformed services into institutions deeply imbued with patriotism and genuine respect for human rights. Being the only profession tasked to bear arms, it is expected that their knowledge and respect of human rights are subjected to a standard higher than the rest.

Gutierrez, who is also the former Director of the Institute of Human Rights of the University of the Philippines-Diliman, said the court's decision is a major step forward in bringing to justice the perpetrators of this atrocious crime. He also said the decision effectively draws attention to the spate of extrajudicial killings of political activists and media people during the brutal Arroyo years, many of which remain unresolved to this day.

"We look forward to that the court's decision together with the emergence of new pieces of evidence will ultimately result in the triumph of justice and give the victim's family some measure of closure from years of pain and suffering," Gutierrez said.

Akbayan called on President Aquino to relieve all the military officials implicated by the court's ruling of their official duties. The group also asked the President to ensure that the AFP and PNP will cooperate with the court.

"Being the Commander-in-Chief, President Aquino must immediately order the removal of military officials and personnel implicated and make certain that the AFP and PNP fully cooperate with the court," Gutierrez said.