Protestant Pastor Implicated in Balweg Slay Released

A Regional Trial Court judge in Abra recently dismissed a case against a pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) who was implicated in the killing of former priest Conrado Balweg on Dec. 30, 1999.

BY ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 33, September 23-29, 2007

BAGUIO CITY (246 km north of Manila) – A Regional Trial Court judge in Abra recently dismissed a case against a pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) who was implicated in the killing of former priest Conrado Balweg on Dec. 30, 1999.

UCCP Pastor Francisco Bunuan, who was arrested by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) of Ilocos and Abra early this year, was ordered released after the case against him was dismissed for lack of probable cause. His case is the fifth case filed on the killing of Balweg against church and NGO (non-government organization) workers in the Ilocos region.

Judge Corpus B. Alzate of Branch 2, Bangued Regional Trial Court issued the release order on Sept. 4 in favor of Bunuan, who had languished in the provincial jail for five months.

Bunuan’s lawyers filed a motion for judicial determination of probable cause which Alzate granted. As a result, Alzate ordered the provincial prosecutor to present their evidence and witnesses to show that there was probable cause to link Bunuan with the Balweg case.

The prosecutor presented a Ronell Siganay, an alleged lone witness, on June 7 who was cross examined by Bunuan’s counsel, Atty. Randy Kinaud.  Kinaud said that Siganay did not know Bunuan. It looked like it was “on the prodding of someone” that Bunuan’s name was included in the charge sheet, Kinaud said.

“Evidences presented by the prosecution are at most in the realm of suspicion which “someone” entertains under the circumstances. Mere suspicion, speculation, relationship, association and companionship do not prove conspiracy,” Alzate stated in his release order for Bunuan.

Crackdown on NGOs

Alzate had also dismissed past cases filed against leaders of non-government and people’s organizations in the Ilocos Region in relation with Criminal Case No. 2000-A-001, the killing of Balweg.

The arrest in relation to the Balweg killing was that of church worker Lorna Rivera- Baba; the second was that of  UCCP pastors Emelyn and Noel Dacuycuy; third was that of Clarence Austin, Romy Kwan and the late Romy Sanchez and; fourth was that of Avelino Dacanay and several companions; and the most recent was that of Bunuan.

All the cases against these NGO workers and activist leaders were dismissed for lack of evidence linking them to the case.

Those arrested earlier believed that the inclusions of these personalities in the Balweg case were meant to carry out a “systematic crackdown” on their organizations.

The real Balweg killer

After the killing of Balweg in 1999 in Buanao, Bangilo, Abra, the New People’s Army (NPA) command in that province admitted through a statement that they killed Balweg as punishment for “his crimes against the people.”

In 2000, the PNP filed a case in Abra which included in the charge sheet Procopio Tauro, the alleged NPA gunman, and his other companions. However, inserted in the charge sheet were the names of at least 13 NGO workers and activist leaders in the Ilocos region and several John Does.

As these NGO workers and activist leaders were arrested one after the other, the Abra court consistently decided in their favor.

Aside from Kinaud, Baguio-based human rights lawyers who extended their legal services to the arrested NGO workers and activist leaders include Jose Molintas, Rene Cortes, Charles Juloya and associates at the Cortes Law Office. Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat

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