Benguet police chief admits lapses in Balao case probe

Northern Dispatch

BAGUIO CITY — Benguet Provincial Police Office (PPO) Provincial Director Rodolfo Azurin admitted lapses in the investigations conducted in relation to the disappearance of activist James Moy Balao.

In an interview with Northern Dispatch, Azurin pointed out that there were procedural lapses in the conduct of the investigations on the Balao case. One of the lapses he mentioned was the failure of the investigators to immediately verify the exchange of text messages between James and his family and colleagues as reported by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).

“The investigators should have verified with the Globe Telecoms if there really an exchange of text messages between James and his family,” he said.

He also admitted that he had to study and familiarize himself with the case since he just assumed office this year.

Earlier, Branch 63 of the Regional Trial Court through a final report penned by Judge Jennifer Humiding expressed disappointment over the police’s failure to present new leads in the enforced disappearance of Balao.

“The lapse of time with no substantial lead or development lends a sense of resignation and exasperation,” the court said in its findings. The court added that despite the creation of Special Investigation Task Force Group-Balao, the police was not able to present any result except the recantation of a witness and unverified and unconfirmed identities of possible suspects.

The said report was submitted to the Supreme Court (SC) pursuant to the directive of the SC December 13, 2011 decision directing the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to conduct impartial and substantial investigation and submit periodic reports to the RTC.

Azurin said the investigation on Balao’s disappearance would take more time and patience given the length of time and recent developments. He added that the witness who helped producing a cartographic sketch of one of the suspects recently withdrew from the case. “Given that this is an old case and the witness withdrew his earlier statement, the investigations will take time. We will need a lot of patience,” he said.

The provincial director also mentioned that cases like that of James really require thorough investigation that is not bound by deadlines. “The problem with giving deadlines is that it adds pressure to investigators which affects the quality of their work,” he explained.

Azurin also said the investigation is now directly under the Department of Justice (DOJ) and that they are waiting for the reconstitution of the investigation team. He, however, mentioned that at the moment, the police is comparing the cartographic sketch with the roster of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Balao was abducted by suspected state agents on September 17, 2008 in Tomay,La Trinidad, Benguet. Northern Dispatch

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