Army officer acquitted in Jonas Burgos abduction case

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 12 2017 10:34 AM | Updated as of Oct 12 2017 01:19 PM

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - A military officer tagged in the abduction and disappearance of Jonas Burgos was acquitted by a local court on Thursday, 10 years after the farmer-activist's disappearance.

Maj. Harry A. Baliaga Jr. was found not guilty in the arbitrary detention case filed against him in connection to Burgos' disappearance.

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court 216 said the prosecution failed to prove that Baliaga is guilty beyond reasonable doubt as they presented weak evidence.

The decision by presiding Judge Alfonso Ruiz II called the accusations against Baliaga "hearsay" because the witnesses presented do not have personal knowledge of the incident.

Burgos, son of press freedom icon Jose Burgos, was allegedly abducted by six armed men and a woman at a restaurant in a mall on April 28, 2007.

The abductors used a vehicle with a plate number (TAB 194) that was later found to be in the custody of 56th Infantry Battalion.

After the court handed down its decision, Baliaga approached Burgos' mother, Edita. "I am also saddened na hindi pa niya nakuha justice para sa anak niya," said Baliaga, who said he is having mixed emotions after the court ruling.

Mrs. Burgos, in turn, asked Baliaga to help her find justice for her son if he is truly not guilty in the case.

No giving up in the search for Jonas

In a short speech after the court decision, the desaparacido's mother said she will not give up the search for her son. She said she will not also stop until the perpetrators are brought to justice.

 

Mrs. Burgos said they are still clinging to the 2011 decision by the Supreme Court that orders the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to produce her son.

"Ang desisyon ng Supreme Court ang totoong decision, that the AFP is accountable for the disappearance of Jonas. These high-ranking officials are accountable for his disappearance and they are ordered to surface Jonas. Yun ang aming kinakapitan," she said.

Baliaga was one of the AFP officials ordered impleaded by the high court in the habeas corpus case. Also ordered impleaded are: the AFP chief of staff, the Commanding General of the PA, and the Commanding Officer of the 56th IB, 7th ID, PA at the time of Burgos' disappearance.

"Apat na taon na ang nakararating hindi pa rin inaaksiyunan ang appeal namin to cite in contempt 'yung mga hindi nag-comply sa order na i-surface si Jonas," Mrs. Burgos said.

"To the perpetrators, justice will be served. Maybe not now, but surely it will be served. Hindi tayo natalo, mga kasama."