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Soldier in Burgos disappearance acquitted

By: Chito A. Chavez

A Quezon City court has acquitted a military officer accused of abducting and detaining activist Jonas Burgos.

In a decision handed by Judge Alfonso Ruiz II of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 216, Army Major Harry Baliaga Jr. was acquitted of arbitrary detention charges after the prosecution failed to prove his involvement in the disappearance of Burgos.

The decision said that the testimony of an eyewitness identifying Baliaga was deemed hearsay by the court since it was based merely on somebody else’s information.

On April 28, 2007, Burgos was seen being dragged out of a Quezon City mall restaurant and forced into a vehicle with license plate TAB-194 which was traced later in the custody of the 56th Infantry Battalion.

Baliaga, the lone suspect arrested for Burgos’ disappearance, did not spend a single minute in jail after posting a P40,000 bail for his temporary freedom.

Burgos’ camp claimed that Baliaga allegedly led the group that forcibly dragged Burgos out of Hapag Kainan restaurant inside Ever Gotesco Mall in Quezon City.

The court rejected the motion for leave to file a demurrer of evidence filed by Baliaga

Also Baliaga waived his right when it was his turn to present his evidence before the court.

The private prosecution which included the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) failed to present eyewitnesses since they could no longer be located at the time of trial.