SC to DOJ: Study new evidence on Burgos’ disappearance

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

MANILA -- The Supreme Court (SC) ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday to look into the fresh evidence that would allegedly pin down some members of the military in the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos.

Burgos' mother Edita forwarded to the SC in April 2013 documents showing officers and enlisted personnel of an intelligence unit of the 7th Infantry Division and the 56th Infantry Battalion in Bulacan are responsible for the disappearance of her son outside a Quezon City mall on April 28, 2007.

These include an after apprehension report, a psycho-social processing report and an autobiography of Burgos.

SC spokesperson Theodore Te said the Court’s decision to refer the documents to the DOJ should be used for investigation and filing of criminal charges in courts if such action is warranted by the gathered evidence.

“The referral to the DOJ is without prejudice to the Ombudsman’s exercise of its primary jurisdiction over the investigation should the case be determined to be cognizable by the Sandiganbayan,” he said.

So far, the DOJ only pushed charges against Major Harry Baliaga before a Quezon City court, exonerating his superiors such as Brigadier General Eduardo Año.

Judge Alfonso Ruiz II of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court branch 216 entered a not guilty plea for Baliaga, who was previously assigned at the 56th IB where Burgos taught organic farming among peasants.

The SC also allowed the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to access documents on the abduction of supporters of deposed President and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada in 2006.

Virgilio Eustaquio, one of the members of the “Erap 5,” earlier told the CHR that they were abducted by one of those linked to Burgos’ disappearance.

"The Court noted that this sworn statement constitutes the sought-after missing link that establishes the relevance of the requested documents to the present case and that this lead may help the CHR ascertain the identities of those depicted in the cartographic sketches, who to this day, remain unidentified," Te said.

For this purpose, the documents shall be examined by the CHR representatives and compared with the cartographic sketches of Burgos' abductors without copying and bringing the documents outside the Office of the SC Clerk of Court.

The CHR will then submit a supplemental investigation report to Edita, the DOJ, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and all respondents within 60 days.

Lastly, the SC terminated its writ of amparo proceedings due to the ongoing probe of the NBI on the incident.

The SC said its role in the writ of amparo is merely to determine whether an enforced disappearance has taken place, to know who is responsible or accountable and to define and impose the appropriate remedies to address the disappearance.

“The beneficial purpose of the writ has been served with the CA’s (Court of Appeals) final determination of the persons responsible and accountable and the commencement of criminal action against Baliaga. At this stage, the criminal and investigation and prosecution proceedings are already beyond the reach of the writ of amparo now before the Court,” said Te.

The CA ruled in March 2013 that the military was responsible for Burgos’ abduction. (Sunnex)

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