Soldier denies hand in Burgos abduction

A MILITARY officer tagged as the team leader of a group that allegedly abducted Jonas Burgos vehemently denied allegations he is responsible for the activist’s disappearance.

Major Harry Baliaga Jr. of the Philippine Army, in an interview Wednesday, belied a report of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) pinpointing him as the team leader in the abduction of Burgos claiming that CHR did not give him the chance to refute statements of alleged witnesses to his involvement in the case.

Accompanied by his wife Rachel, the military officer who traces his roots to Besao, Mountain Province, denied that he is hiding and stressed a case has not been filed against him to warrant his detainment.

Baliaga denied statements made by the state witness in an affidavit that he is the team leader who approached the bus boy in Quezon City on April 28, 2007 while Burgos was being apprehended inside a restaurant in Ever Gotesco, Quezon City.

In his counter affidavit, Baliaga said he was no longer connected to the 56th Infantry Battalion (IB) during the time of Burgos’ abduction. Baliaga said he was relieved from the battalion on June 1, 2004 and was already connected to the Special Forces Operation Class.

He added that prior to Burgos’ abduction, he went to school for the Basic Airbourne Course Class which ended April 19, 2007 and after which went on administrative break.

He claimed he was on his way to Besao from the city on board a GL bus together with his aunt during Burgos’ disappearance and stayed there until May 1.

According to Baliaga he only heard of Burgos in media reports. This, as he denied links to Colonel Melquiades Feliciano during his stint in 56th IB and another witness, a former soldier, who identified him in the CHR report as a member of the 56th IB.

He also rebuffed statements of the witnesses that he was the same person they identified in a photo taken from the Facebook page of the Philippine Military Academy yearbook of Sanghaya Class 2000. He added to have been identified by the witness in court by deduction as he was the only new face in the court when the state witness testified.

The Philippine Army officer questioned how the witness was able to identify him based solely on the class picture as the team leader who allegedly abducted Burgos. He stressed the cartographic sketch of the suspect earlier submitted does not even resemble him.

A classmate also testified that the person encircled by the witness in the class picture is him and not the army major.

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeals (CA) 7th Division in its decision on March 18 this year granted the petition for Writ of Amparo of Mrs. Burgos for the AFP and CHR to produce documents in relation to the disappearance of her son.

CA also held Baliaga responsible as the team leader of the abduction and enforced disappearance of Burgos granting the petition for Writ of Amparo and Writ of Habeas Corpus.

The military officer said he is now waiting for the result of the investigation to be conducted by National Bureau of Investigation as ordered by President Benigno Aquino III to finally resolve the five year-long case.

He said they are also waiting for other revelations of Mrs. Burgos with regards to the disappearance of his son.

In her affidavit sent to the Department of Justice, Edita Burgos said she believes the witnesses’ statements and is asking for the immediate surfacing of her son Jonas Burgos and also the prosecution of the military officers up to high ranking officers to pay for what they have done to her son.
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