LA TRINIDAD, Benguet (Apr. 23) — Protestant pastor Francisco Bonuan, tagged by authorities as a top-ranked communist leader linked to the slay of paramilitary leader Conrado Balweg in 1999, was brought to the Abra provincial jail on Monday morning.
This was after he was arrested on Saturday afternoon in Baguio City by intelligence operatives on the basis of an amended warrant of arrest.
Police Regional Intelligence Office 14 director Sr. Supt. James Bucayu alleged that Bonuan was the acting secretary of the Urban White Area Committee and a concurrent executive committee member of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee of the CPP-NPA.
Bucayu said Bonuan had just met with his comrades in a house in UP Village in Irisan barangay when cornered by policemen.
Bonuan, 53, is a pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in the Ilocos Region.
Bonuan, who Bucayu said used the nom de guerre Ka Cesar and Ka Jojo, was named in the amended warrant of arrest after police intelligence tagged him in the slay of Fr. Balweg in Malibcong, Abra province on December 30, 1999.
Human rights lawyer Randy Kinaud, secretary general of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) said that Bonuan is innocent. Kinaud said the Protestant pastor was also falsely charged and “like the other pastors and church workers maliciously charged with the crime, his will eventually be dismissed.”
At least 14 others, including clergy and laity members in the Ilocos region and some leaders of the Abra-based Agustin Begnalen Command of the CPP-NPA, were lumped together in the criminal case arising from the Balweg slay.
The church and laity members including Fr. Noel Dacuycuy of the Aglipayan Church – Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), his wife, Rev. Emelyn, also a woman priest of the IFI, were however cleared by the courts.
They had chided the police and military who linked them to the Balweg slay even as the Abra NPA led by Balweg’s brother Jovencio claimed responsibility of the killing for alleged “crimes against the people” committed by Fr. Balweg after he split from the NPA in 1986 and formed the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA).
Since its founding in 1986, the CPLA had fought the NPA alongside the military, while some 264 of them had been gradually integrated into the Philippine Army and another 500 into the CAFGU.
The Abra provincial jail, where Bonuan is now detained, is the same jail where other jailed Ilocos church workers spent months in the past for the same Balweg murder case. # Ace Alegre for NORDIS