By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – The writ of amparo hearing at the Court of Appeals for missing activist Jonas Burgos concluded last Monday, June 23.
“It’s a relief that we do not have to look for resources for the hearing. We also do not have to go through so many emotions and feeling like being in a roller coaster,” Mrs. Burgos said when asked how she felt after the hearing.
Her son Jonas was abducted on April 27, 2007. His family and colleagues have been searching for him since then.
On the last day of the amparo hearing, the defense brought to the witness stand Major Vladimir Sta. Maria of the Philippine Army, who claims to be the person in two of the photos identified by eyewitness Jeffrey Cabintoy as Major Harry Baliaga who was one of the men who abducted Jonas.
The photos were taken in two different occasions, one, Sta. Maria said, was taken during the last quarter of 2010 and another on December 2009, which, he described as, “a simple gathering with my classmates in PMA (Philippine Military Academy)” along McArthur Highway.
Sta. Maria, meanwhile, identified Baliaga in his PMA graduation photo, which, he added is called a “sword picture.”
“They are trying to demolish the credibility of our witness and the CHR report. But our witness identified him in the flesh,” Mrs. Burgos said.
Writ of amparo
The Supreme Court issued a resolution in July 2010, directing the Commission on Human Rights to investigate Jonas’ disappearance, citing significant lapses in the police investigation.
CHR Commissioner Jose Mamauag said in their report that the abduction of Jonas is “not a simple case of kidnapping done by some individuals within the military, but is, in fact, a part of the entire counter-insurgency program of the past administration wherein both military and police forces played a crucial role in its enforcement.”
In July 2011, the Supreme Court affirmed the findings of the CHR and directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines to produce Jonas. It also directed the Court of Appeals to hear again the writ of amparo petition of Mrs. Burgos, which it dismissed on 2008.
Baliaga was the first witness that Assistant Solicitor General Amparo Tang, lawyer of the respondents, presented before the Court of Appeals.
“Sir, he is the one,” Cabintoy told his companion from the CHR, as earlier reported in Bulatlat.com.
On the same day, JL, Jonas’ brother, said Baliaga choked and broke down in tears when asked about his whereabouts on that fateful day Jonas disappeared.
Mrs. Burgos said Baliaga remains as their “direct link” that would support their theory that the military is, indeed, behind her son’s abduction.
Both parties are expected to submit their formal offer of evidences to the Court of Appeals, which will then submit its report and recommendations to the Supreme Court. Though there is relief that the hearing on the writ of amparo has finally concluded, Mrs. Burgos expressed her worries as they await the next steps that the Court of Appeals would do.
“It is written by human minds and hearts and I don’t know how it would turn out,” she said, “But I am happy that there are new evidences implicating the military.”
“Sometimes you are pleasantly surprised and sometimes you hear uncharitable words,” she added, “It is a relief that we do not have to go through that kind of experience again.”
Mrs. Burgos still finds it hard to believe how the Commission on Human Rights managed to find Baliaga among so many other more who are behind Jonas’ disappearance. She said it is “not just a product of the CHR’s investigation but also of God’s grace.”
“We are also very thankful to our “probono-abono,” very brilliant and handsome attorney,” Mrs. Burgos said, referring to their lawyer Boyet Fernandez, who has been with them since day one.
“He is very focused on the case. He has passion for the truth,” she added, “He does not settle for answers like ‘maybe or maybe not.’ He only wants either a yes or a no.”