QC court acquits soldier in Jonas Burgos case

MANILA (Updated) -- A Quezon City court has found an Army major not guilty of arbitrary detention over his role in the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos 10 years ago.

In a nine-page decision promulgated Thursday, Quezon City RTC Branch 216 Judge Alfonso Ruiz II dismissed the charge against Major Harry Baliaga Jr. after the prosecution failed to prove that he was involved in the abduction of Burgos at a mall in Quezon City on April 28, 2007.

The ruling called the evidence presented by the prosecution "hearsay" as they were not based on witnesses' personal knowledge.

The court also ruled that there was no sufficient circumstantial evidence to prove the guilt of Baliaga.

"The only circumstantial evidence presented by the prosecution was the discovery that the vehicle, with plate no. TAB-194 was earlier apprehended and later impounded at the 5th Infantry Battalion located at San Mateo, Norzagaray, Bulacan, where the accused, Harry Baliaga, Jr., was previously assigned," the decision stated.

"Even if admitted, however, the circumstantial evidence standing alone will not reach the quantum of proof required to overcome the constitutional presumption of innocence," it added.

Baliaga was identified by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in March 2011 as the principal abductor of Burgos. The CHR findings were upheld on the same year directing the military to produce Burgos.

The court ruling saddened Burgos' mother, Editha, but she vowed to seek justice for her son. She even asked Baliaga to help her find her son to prove that he was indeed innocent.

Editha earlier filed charges against several military officials including now Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff Eduardo Año, who was later cleared of all charges.

Only Baliaga was formally charged before the Quezon City RTC.

Marine Colonel Edgard Arevalo, AFP public affairs chief, said the AFP hoped that the court ruling on Baliaga "will put to rest" the issues that surround the disappearance of Burgos.

"We submit to the wise discretion of the court in ascertaining the guilt or innocence of the accused charged before it in a deliberate and impartial proceeding," Arevalo said.

Burgos, a son of late journalist Joe Burgos, was last seen at a mall in Quezon City on April 28, 2007, where a group of unidentified men forcibly took him. (SunStar Philippines)
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