PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd has named the military’s former top spy who was linked to the abduction of the son of “world press freedom hero” Joe Burgos as the new chief of the Army.
Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año’s formally assumed command of the Army vice Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, who was earlier designated Armed Forces chief of staff.
Año, a member of Class of 1983 of the Philippine Military Academy, was commander of the 10th Infantry Division, which recently figured in a clash with New People’s Army rebels in Davao City that resulted in the killing of Leoncio Pitao, better known as Commander Parago.
He had been linked to human rights abuses including the abduction in 2007 of activist Jonas Burgos, who has since remained missing.
Burgos’ father was an ace reporter of the pre-martial law The Manila Times-Daily Mirror-Taliba group of Chino Roces before he jumpstarted the so-called “mosquito press” that aggressively sparred with the Marcos regime.
Año was chief of the AFP Intelligence Service when the younger Burgos was allegedly kidnapped by soldiers in 2007.
The Department of Justice, however, dismissed arbitrary detention charges against him and five other officers in 2013 for lack of probable cause.
Burgos’ mother Edita said Año’s appointment is “a sad day for human rights victims and defenders”.
“Truly with the appointment of Año, there is no hope at all that we will obtain justice for human rights victims under the watch of Aquino,” a GMA News report quoting Burgos read.
Mrs. Burgos has repeatedly opposed Año’s promotion before the Commission on Appointments.
Año, reportedly a protege of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, was credited with the capture of several leaders of the communist New People’s Army, including spouses Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.
Aquino, who witnessed the change of command ceremony at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City (Metro Manila), heaped praises on Iriberri, Año and other military officials who were appointed during his term.
“Talaga pong ako’y pinalad na makahanap ng mga tapat at mahuhusay na pinuno ng atin pong buong kasundaluhan [I was lucky to have found loyal and competent military leaders],” he said.
Año, in his speech, assured the public that the Army will not get involved in politics as he pledged to ensure the peaceful conduct of elections next year.
“Count on us to remain professional and non-partisan in our pursuit of peaceful elections,” he said.