July 20, 2018, 10:04 am
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Main accused in Burgos disappearance acquitted

ARMY Major Harry Baliaga Jr., the main suspect in the disappearance of political activist Jonas Burgos in 2007, was acquitted by a Quezon City court yesterday.

In a nine-page decision, Judge Alfonso Ruiz II of the QC Regional Trial Court Branch 216 said the prosecution panel “failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt” that Baliaga was behind the disappearance of Burgos in April 2007.

“No eyewitness testified to identify the accused Baliaga as one of those responsible for the disappearance of Burgos. In fact, none of the witnesses identified him in court,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz said the information provided by other witnesses was “based not on their personal perception but   on statements made by other persons who claimed to have witnessed the abduction.” He said “this kind of testimony is hearsay in nature.”

Ruiz added there was no sufficient circumstantial evidence to prove the guilt of the accused.

Edita Burgos, Jonas’ mother, said she was saddened by the court’s decision but “will respect it.

“This is a bad day. I feel so bad. But we will find Jonas,” said Edita, who believes her son is still alive. “We will not stop looking for him. A mother cannot give up.” 

Edita also said they plan to elevate the case to higher courts “where justice will really be obtained.”

She also challenged Baliaga to tell where Jonas is. After the promulgation, Baliaga sat beside Edita for a couple of minutes without saying a word.

Baliaga told reporters he looks forward to being reinstated in the  active service.

“To be candid, I told him (Baliaga) ‘maybe you can help me find him (Jonas) now.’ If he’s not guilty, then maybe he can help me find my son. If he’s not guilty, I’m sure he knows,” said Edita.

“And I think as a father he should know what it should feel to lose a son... Who knows, Baliaga might be able to help us,” she added.

The Armed Forces said the acquittal of Baliaga only proves the military was never involved in the crime.

“We hope that this verdict of the court will put to rest the issues that surround (the) case and hounded the parties since 2007,” said Col. Edgard Arevalo, the military’s public affairs chief.

Arevalo added that Baliaga was released from his detention cell at the Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio after his acquittal.

Jonas was allegedly abducted by military personnel while having lunch at a restaurant in  a mall along Commonwealth Ave. in Quezon City on April 28, 2007. 

Burgos’ mother, Editha, accused several officials of the AFP and the PNP of abducting her son.  In June 2011, Editha filed a complaint before the Justice Department based on the results of a probe conducted by the Commission on Human Rights. – With Victor Reyes
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