Jeffrey Cabintoy, then busboy at the Hapag Kainan restaurant inside the Ever Gotesco mall in Quezon City when Jonas Burgos was abducted, readily pointed to Major Harry Baliaga Jr. as the man who told him not to intervene when they forcibly took Jonas five years ago.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – “Sir, he is the one.”
Jeffrey Cabintoy, a witness to the abduction of activist Jonas Burgos told his companion, a Commission on Human Rights (CHR) personnel, the moment he saw Major Harry Baliaga Jr. at the court room this morning.
It turned out that Baliaga was the first witness to be presented by the defense in the continuing hearings on the habeas corpus petition filed by Jonas’s mother, Mrs. Edita Burgos. In a decision issued in July 2011, the Supreme Court reverted back the case to the appellate court’s Special 7th Division.
Before Baliaga took the witness stand, Assistant Solicitor General Amparo Tang, lawyer for the public respondents, requested for an executive session “for the protection of their witness.” Lawyer of Mrs. Burgos, Ricardo Fernandez, objected and instead asked the justices to order Cabintoy to identify Baliaga.
The justices ordered Cabintoy to stand up and point at Baliaga. Cabintoy, then busboy at the Hapag Kainan restaurant inside the Ever Gotesco mall in Quezon City, proved he has not forgotten the man who told him not to intervene when they forcibly took Jonas five years ago. He pointed at the man wearing blue long sleeves.
One of the justices then asked the man identified by Cabintoy to state his name. The man replied: “I’m Maj. Harry Baliaga.”
Before Baliaga took the witness stand, Cabintoy was asked to go out of the court room.
“Although Cabintoy was frightened, he was firm,” Mrs. Burgos said in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
Cabintoy’s testimony, along with other witnesses, became the basis for the CHR, in its March 2011 report, to recommend the filing of charges against Baliaga.
Jonas’s brother, JL, said the defense was trying to prove that Baliaga was no longer assigned at the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army at the time Jonas was abducted. Baliaga said he left the unit as early as 2004 and was transferred to a special operations company. He admitted he was assigned at Fort Magsaysay.
“When asked about his whereabouts on that fateful day, Baliaga choked, could not speak and suddenly broke down in tears,” JL, Jonas’s brother, told Bulatlat.com.
“I was really waiting for what he would say. I was just staring at him, his head bowed. I was surprised by his reaction. What does it mean? Does his conscience bother him?” Mrs. Burgos said.
The justices then called for a five-minute recess. When he took the stand again, Baliaga said he was on administrative break and went home to the Mt. Province.
“Our theory has been affirmed once again, that it was their group who did it,” Mrs. Burgos said.
The Burgos family expressed hope that this development would bolster the criminal charges they filed against Baliaga and other military officials involved in the disappearance of Jonas. Filed in June 2011, the case at the Department of Justice is still under preliminary investigation.