Army major in Burgos case surrenders, posts bail
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - October 25, 2013 - 1:51pm

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Army major charged with arbitrary detention in connection with the disappearance of political activist Jonas Burgos surrendered to the court on Friday and posted a P40,000 bail in exchange for his temporary liberty.

Major Harry Baliaga Jr., accompanied by his lawyer Bumin Pasiwen, voluntarily surrendered to the Quezon City Regional Trial Courth Branch 216, more than one month after presiding judge Alfonso Ruiz II issued an arrest warrant against him.

The judge set the Army major's arraignment on November 12.

In an order dated September 11, Ruiz said the court found probable cause to place Baliaga under custody.

“There is a necessity of placing him under immediate custody in order not to frustrate the ends of justice. Accordingly, let a warrant of arrest issue against accused Major Harry Baliaga Jr. for reason stated herein,” read the court order.

The case was filed before the court following the issuance of the 14-page review resolution of the Department of Justice on September 3. Assistant state prosecutor Gerard Gaerlan recommended the filing of arbitrary detention in violation of Article 124 of the Revised Penal Code against Baliaga and four more unidentified persons.

The resolution, which was approved by Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, said Baliaga was positively identified by an eyewitness as among those who abducted Burgos at a restaurant in Quezon City on April 28, 2007.

It noted that 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.

During the preliminary investigation, Baliaga insisted that he does not know and has never met Burgos.

He also questioned the testimony of the witness, who is a busboy at the restaurant, as it is highly improbable for him to remember the details of the abduction.

He said that he was at the house of his former girlfriend in Baguio City on the day of Burgos’ abduction.

But according to the investigating prosecutor, the positive identification of the respondent would prevail over his “unsubstantiated denial coupled with alibi.”

The case stemmed from the case filed by Burgos’ mother Edita before the DOJ accusing several officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) of perpetrating the enforced disappearance of her son.

Aside from Baliaga, Edita also accused former AFP chief of staff Hermogenes Esperon, former Army chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Tolentino, Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano, and former PNP chief Avelino Razon of obstruction of justice.

Edita also accused Lt. Col. Melquiades Feliciano and Col. Eduardo Año of arbitrary detention.

The DOJ prosecutors, however, found no probable cause to file charges against the other officers.

'Truth will come out'

Baliaga, meanwhile, said he is optimistic that he will be cleared of the charges against him.

“We still believe in the justice system. This is the same justice system that will exonerate me. I believe 100 percent that I will be cleared,” Baliaga told Solar News yesterday.

“From the start, I know that I can get through this. In the end, the truth will come out and that I am do not have anything to do with it,” he added, referring to the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos.

Baliaga said he has been waiting for the opportunity to explain his side on the issue which, activists claim, reflects the human rights abuses under the government.

He said the case has affected his career in the military.  Officers involved in cases are usually placed under the support command instead of doing their normal tasks.

“I am losing track of the career path that I was supposed to tread  because of the accusations against me,” Baliaga said.

The Army officer became emotional when he talked about how he was accused of abducting Burgos at the time when he claimed he was with his family.

“I cried when I was asked about my whereabouts on April 28 (2007). I immediately thought about my family since I was with them that time then here comes other people claiming that I committed something wrong that time,” Baliaga said. with Alexis Romero

ALEXANDER YANO ALEXIS ROMERO ALFONSO RUIZ ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES AVELINO RAZON BALIAGA BURGOS EDITA JONAS BURGOS MAJOR HARRY BALIAGA JR.
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