MALAYA: Jonas ma gets support of Obama, McCain

March 10, 2008

THE mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos has obtained expressions of support from the offices of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who is leading the Democratic presidential nomination and Republican presidential nominee Arizona Sen. John McCain.

“The offices that we have visited showed a great concern on the human rights situation in the Philippines,” said Edita Burgos, who is in the US on a seven-city speaking tour to drum up support in her quest to find her son.

The offices of Senator Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) and Richard Lugar (R., Ind.), both senior members of the Senate foreign relations committee, also opened their doors to Burgos.

As of this weekend, Burgos said she has visited the Capitol offices of Representatives Adam Smith (D., Wash.), Ellen Tauscher (D., Calif.), Doris Matsui (D., Calif.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Penn.), and Jerry McNerney (D., Calif.)

She said she could not yet disclose details of the meetings but assured media she would issue an update via email “as soon as I can.”

At a benefit dinner in New York Saturday last week (Sunday in Manila), which jumpstarted her speaking tour, Burgos spoke of “what goes through a mother’s head, knowing that at any moment of the day, her son is being tortured.”

“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,” she said.

Burgos joined Filipino Americans in raising the call for President Arroyo’s removal from office.

“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,” she said.

GMA Watch is a Filipino-American advocacy network that is participating in Church-led lobbying efforts to hold Arroyo accountable for alleged widespread violations of human rights.

Burgos’ visit also galvanized the usually fractious Filipino-American community, with both conservative and progressive groups coming together to express outrage over Jonas’ continued disappearance.

Members of the progressive National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) and the conservative National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA) voiced support for Burgos at the benefit dinner.

Apart from New York and Washington D.C., Burgos’ itinerary includes Minneapolis, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Burgos is accompanied by Mervin Toquero of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.

Burgos has also sat down with UN special rapporteur Philip Alston at the New York University and Elaine Pearson, director of the Asia Division of the Human Rights Watch in Manhattan