Sun, May 13, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Philippine military places two officers under investigation


The military has placed two army officers under investigation in connection with the disappearance of a left-wing activist, an army spokesman said Saturday.

Lieutenant Colonel Noel Clement, former commander of the 56th Infantry Battalion, was summoned for questioning Friday over the abduction two weeks earlier of Jonas Burgos, a member of a farmers' group allied with the National Peasant Movement, the country's largest left-wing peasant federation, said army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Nestor Torres.

Torres said he was not informed about the results of the questioning by the military's provost marshal.

Lieutenant Colonel Melquiades Feliciano, who replaced Clement as part of a routine reshuffle in January, was suspended Friday "to give him and the investigators a free hand to conduct the investigation," Torres said.

Burgos has not been seen since April 28, when gunmen dragged him from a restaurant inside a suburban mall to a waiting car whose license plate was traced to another vehicle that was impounded last year at the 56th Infantry Battalion camp in northern Bulacan province.

The vehicle was seized by authorities in Bulacan in June last year because it was allegedly used in illegal logging, police said.

Burgos, 36, had conducted an organic farming seminar for members of his group earlier in the day and was scheduled to meet family members later but never showed up and did not answer calls to his mobile phone.

Burgos is the son of the late Jose "Joe" Burgos Jr, a prominent crusader for press freedom under ex-dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Witnesses said they saw Burgos struggling as he was being dragged away and telling the gunmen, "Sir, I am just an activist," according to Ruth Cervantes of the human rights group Karapatan.

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