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Metro

Army major in Burgos kidnap case remains at large

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Army major charged for the disappearance of political activist Jonas Burgos in 2007 remains at large more than one month after a Quezon City court handling the arbitrary detention case issued a warrant for his arrest.

Maj. Harry Baliaga Jr. has yet to post the P40,000 bail set by Presiding Judge Alfonso Ruiz II in exchange for his temporary liberty.

Court employees said yesterday that no return of warrant of arrest was submitted to the court in connection with the case.

On Sept. 11, Ruiz issued a warrant for Baliaga’s arrest after finding probable cause to place him under custody.

In a 14-page review resolution dated Sept. 3, Assistant State Prosecutor Gerard Gaerlan recommended the filing of charges of arbitrary detention against Baliaga and four others.

The resolution, which was approved by Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, said Baliaga was positively identified by a witness as among those who snatched 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 to affirm his presence in Benguet during the time of the kidnapping.

During the preliminary investigation, the Army officer insisted that he has never met Burgos.

Baliaga also questioned the testimony of the witness, who is a busboy at the restaurant, saying it was highly improbable for him to remember the details of the kidnapping.

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

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

Burgos’ mother, Edita, filed charges with the Department of Justice (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 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.

Also included in the complaint were Colonel Melquiades Feliciano and Colonel Eduardo Año.

The DOJ prosecutors, however, found no probable cause to file charges against the other officers. They dismissed the murder complaint filed against the respondents.

ALEXANDER YANO

ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES

ASSISTANT STATE PROSECUTOR GERARD GAERLAN

AVELINO RAZON

BAGUIO CITY

BALIAGA

BURGOS

COLONEL MELQUIADES FELICIANO AND COLONEL EDUARDO A

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

EDITA

QUEZON CITY

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