“A soldier whose rank is low and who only follows orders is implicated while his superiors are set free. I could not understand this.” – Mrs. Edita Burgos
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — After more than two years, the Department of Justice (DOJ) finally issued a resolution on the charges filed by the family of missing farmer-activist Jonas Burgos.
Jonas, son of the late press freedom fighter Jose Burgos Jr., has been missing since April 28, 2007. Mrs. Edita Burgos went to the courts after the Armed Forces of the Philippines continued to deny that Jonas is in their custody even with evidences and witnesses pointing to their culpability. On June 10, 2011, she filed charges of arbitrary detention, murder and obstruction of justice against suspected perpetrators.
In a decision dated September 3, the DOJ held that there is probable cause that Army Major Harry Baliaga Jr. and three John Does and one Jane Doe committed the crime of arbitrary detention against Jonas. A digital copy of the resolution, penned by Assistant State Prosecutor Gerard Gaerlan and approved by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon and Prosecutor General Claro Arellano was sent to Bulatlat.com by the Burgos family.
The state prosecutors noted that Baliaga was positively identified twice by a witness, first through a photograph and second during the court hearing.
The resolution, however, finds no probable cause against two other respondents, Lt. Co. Melquiades Feliciano, former commander of the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) and Col. Eduardo Año of the Intelligence Service Group of the Philippine Army. “The facts alleged by the complainant are not sufficient to prove respondents Feliciano and Año’s participation, nor knowledge on the abduction of Jonas,” the resolution states.
On the charge of murder, the DOJ ruled it is bereft of evidence. The state prosecutors said there is no corpus delicti (body) as the whereabouts of Jonas remain unknown.
The resolution also states that there is no probable cause against all the respondents for the crime of obstruction of justice.
Asked to comment on the DOJ resolution, Mrs. Burgos told Bulatlat.com in a phone interview, “A soldier whose rank is low and who only follows orders is implicated while his superiors are set free. I could not understand this.”
“I know I should not pity Baliaga. This is the consequence of his actions. But it is not only Baliaga, many others are guilty,” Mrs. Burgos said.
Mrs. Burgos said she found it weird that Año already had a copy of the decision during a hearing of the defense panel of the bicameral Commission on Appointments, Sept. 4 at the Senate.
Mrs. Burgos has opposed the promotion of Año from colonel to brigadier general.
In December 2012, Año was assigned as the new chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp).
The DOJ resolution, Mrs. Burgos, noted, was issued a day before, Sept. 3. “In fact, we –the complainants– have not received our official copy yet. We only got a copy from a senator’s office,” Mrs. Burgos said.
Mrs. Burgos said the case filed against Año is the basis of her opposition to the military officer’s promotion.
“When President Aquino appointed him [Año] as Isafp chief, I said, ‘I lost hope in finding justice.’ Then Valte said [deputy presidential spokesperson Abigal Valte] said I should not lose hope because the President’s father is also a victim [of human rights violation]. That gives him [Aquino] all the more reason to have an open mind, to be expeditious. That is what I cannot understand,” Mrs. Burgos said.
Still, Mrs. Burgos does not give up. She pins her hopes on the Supreme Court.
On April 2,Mrs. Burgos filed an urgent ex parte motion seeking to reopen the case. Mrs. Burgos filed new pieces of evidence, including a photograph of Jonas taken after his arrest, documentary evidence which include: After Apprehension Report, Psycho Social Processing Report, Autobiography of Jonas. The family said the documents are all copies of confidential official reports on file with the Philippine Army.
The DOJ resolution states, “The ruling is without prejudice to the findings which may be discovered in the course of the investigation conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation on the disappearance of Jonas.”