EDITORIAL - No to EJK?
Since his promotion to the top post in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Eduardo Año has been hounded by accusations of involvement in the kidnapping and disappearance of farmer-activist Jonas Burgos on April 28, 2007 in Quezon City.
Burgos, the son of journalist and freedom fighter Jose Burgos Jr., was taken away in a Toyota Revo that had been impounded and parked since June 2006 at the headquarters of the Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion in Norzagaray, Bulacan. A member of the 56th IB, 1Lt. Harry Baliaga Jr., was identified by witnesses as the one who snatched Jonas Burgos at the Ever Gotesco shopping mall. Año was included in the charge sheet as head of Army intelligence at the time, but he was later cleared.
This week Año formally took on a new responsibility, as head of the department with supervision over the Philippine National Police. His first day on the job was met with a protest rally by those seeking justice for Burgos as well as those who see Año as an enemy of tribal minorities or lumads.
Despite such controversies, people mostly remember Año for leading the AFP in neutralizing Maute terrorists who laid siege to Marawi for five months last year. While the AFP also faces accusations of human rights violations in that siege, it has largely reaped praise, making it easier for the public to accept a second – and much longer – extension of martial law all over Mindanao.
In taking over as head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Año has vowed to exercise the same responsible use of state power. He would go after the corrupt, he has vowed. More significantly, he has said he does not believe in extrajudicial killings.
He issued this statement as the PNP prepared to resume Oplan Tokhang. Strictly speaking, the operation means knocking on the doors of private homes to remind residents about the perils of drug abuse and trafficking. Since the start of the Duterte administration, however, Tokhang has become synonymous with a bloody, take-no-prisoners approach to the drug war. Año’s avowed aversion to extrajudicial killings should rationalize the police campaign against illegal drugs. The nation will hold him to his word.