CA affirms ruling holding AFP, PNP accountable for Burgos disappearance

Mark Merueñas | GMA News

(Updated 5:59 p.m.) The Court of Appeals has stood firm on its earlier ruling that the military and the police should be held accountable for the enforced disappearance of political activist Jonas Burgos in 2007.

In a resolution penned by Associate Justice Rosalinda Asuncion-Vicente, the CA denied a motion for partial reconsideration filed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) seeking to reverse the court’s March 18 ruling holding the two agencies accountable for Burgos’ disappearance.

“Suffice it… to state that this court’s finding and conclusion that [Burgos] was abducted by a group of persons, one of whom was positively identified as Maj. Harry Baliaga, Jr. of the Philippine Army, coupled with the AFP’s lack of serious effort to conduct further and deeper investigation simply because [Burgos] is allegedly not in its custody, speak loudly of the leadership’s accountability,” the CA said.

As for the PNP’s accountability, the appeallate court said: “In the case of the PNP, suffice it to state that its failure to rap and elicit leads and information from Jeffrey Cabintoy, who personally witnessed [the abduction] and who was able to positively identify his abductor, is eloquent proof of its failure to exercise extraordinary diligence in the conduct of its investigation.”

Concurring in the latest CA decision were Associate Justices Remedios Salazar-Fernando and Franchito Diamante.

In a phone interview with GMA News Online, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson  Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan said “they would respect the court’s decision.”
He noted, however, that they filed the petition because it is not their policy to abduct activists.
“A motion for reconsideration was made because it is not the policy of the AFP to abduct and violate human rights,” added Tutaan, who was once the AFP’s Human Rights Office chief.
Justice to Burgos

In its original March 18 ruling, the CA also ordered the military to continue exerting efforts to bring justice to Burgos.

Aside from holding the military accountable, the CA also pointed to Maj. Harry A. Baliaga Jr. as being “responsible” for Burgos’ disappearance. Baliaga, an Army First Lieutenant at the time of the incident, belongs to the 56th Infantry Battalion based in Bulacan province.

The CA ruling, which stemmed the consolidated petitions for habeas corpus filed by Burgos’ mother Edita, also recognized his abduction as a case of enforced disappearance covered by the Rule of the Writ of Amparo, contrary to the military’s claim that Burgos was a victim of “internal communist purging.”

A writ of amparo is an expeditious and effective relief given to any person whose right to life, liberty, and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity.

Burgos, a political activist and son of the late press freedom fighter Jose Burgos, was abducted in a restaurant at the Ever Gotesco Mall along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on April 28, 2007.

He was believed to be seized by the military because the license plate number of the vehicle used in his abduction was traced to another vehicle impounded in 2006 at the 56th Infantry Battalion camp in Bulacan. — with Marc Jayson Cayabyab/KBK/RSJ, GMA News

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