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Abduction suspect in protective custody

Army officer who arrested missing activist urged to turn state's witness

Abduction suspect in protective custody
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima speaks at a forum on human rights
Hernan Melencio, Manila
Philippines

May 4, 2011

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Justice Secretary Leila de Lima announced today that a military official linked to the abduction and disappearance of a leftist activist four years ago is in protective custody. Peasant organizer Jonas Burgos was last seen in April 2006 being arrested by an army officer, Major Harry Baliaga Jr. “It is important that we secure Baliaga. We can never tell what will happen to him,” said De Lima. The family of Burgos believes Baliaga was acting under orders from senior officers and want him to turn state witness and reveal what he knows. De Lima said she already asked the prosecutor general to discuss with Burgos’ family their plan of action, including the filing of formal complaints against Baliaga. The Commission on Human Rights has also recommended that the witnesses who identified Baliaga as the arresting officer, be put in the government’s Witness Protection Program. Related to the Burgos case is an appeal by families of missing activists and human rights groups for the government to sign a United Nations covenant against abduction and kidnapping. De Lima and commission chief Loretta Ann Rosales said they will actively push for its endorsement and will urge the president to sign and ratify it. Last year’s International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances has been signed by 88 countries, but not the Philippines. PM14094
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