Contact: Jamie Mapa
NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.