DOJ clears military, police officials in Burgos’ disappearance-A A +A
Friday, September 6, 2013
MILITARY and police officials linked to the enforced disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos six years ago were cleared of charges by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday (September 3), leaving only one soldier who will face trial.
Dropped from the list of respondents for arbitrary detention, obstruction of justice and murder were Brigadier General Eduardo Año, Lieutenant Colonel Melquiades Feliciano, and former Lieutenant General Romeo Tolentino, former chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Generals Hermogenes Esperon and Alexander Yano, and former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Avelino Razon Jr.
Major Harry Baliaga Jr. of the Bulacan-based 56th Infantry Battalion will be charged with arbitrary detention, as he was positively identified by Jeffrey Cabintoy, a bus boy trainee of the restaurant in a Quezon City mall where Burgos had lunch prior to his abduction on April 28, 2007.
Cabintoy said Baliaga was seated next to Burgos in the restaurant. He said Baliaga told him that Burgos is under surveillance for a drug-related offense.
Baliaga insisted he does not know nor has met Burgos, and that he was at his former’s girlfriend’s house in Baguio City when the incident happened. From April 29, 2007 to May 1, 2007, Baliaga said he stayed with his aunt in Besao, Mountain Province.
The DOJ, through Assistant State Prosecutor Gerard Gaerlan, was unconvinced.
“It behooves this office why respondent Baliaga failed to substantiate his defense when he could have easily secured affidavits of relatives and friends who could have affirmed his presence in the Benguet province during the time of the abduction,” stated the resolution obtained by Sun.Star.
The DOJ justified the junking of all complaints against security officials. The resolution stated that the murder case will not prosper because Burgos’ whereabouts remain unknown.
It also noted the complaint failed to substantiate claims that the officials delayed the apprehension of persons involved in the abduction of Burgos and fabricated information to mislead or prevent authorities from arresting the perpetrators.
“Furthermore, respondents Razon and Yano only assumed their duties as PNP director general and commanding general of the AFP on October 1, 2007 and August 24, 2007, respectively. It is therefore safe to assume that they could not have been personally or sufficiently informed of the abduction of Jonas or given the order of or sanctioned the same,” the resolution read.
The department clarified its action will not affect the ongoing probe of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) into the crime.
Rights group Karapatan hit the timing of the release of the resolution, noting it came a day before Año was confirmed by the Commission on Appointments of his promotion to the rank of brigadier general.
“The DOJ resolution and the appointment of Año as head of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) are very clear manifestations that the Aquino administration coddles military generals who have blood in their hands,” said Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay.
Arbitrary detention complaints were filed against Baliaga, Feliciano and Año in June 2011. The recommendation of Assistant State Prosecutor George Yarte, who conducted the preliminary investigation, found probable cause to charge in court Baliaga, Feliciano, Año and three John Does and one Jane Doe.
Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, however, tasked Gaerlan to review the resolution. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)