Release of missing CPA leader being demanded

by Harley Palangchao

Two groups in the region are calling on the military and intelligence units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to cause the release of James Balao, one of the founding members of the militant Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).

He was reportedly missing since Sept. 17 and was last seen in Baguio City.

The CPA and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance made the call to the AFP and the PNP, which the groups claimed are the most possible agencies behind Balao’s disappearance.

The CPA reported Wednesday that Balao is the second founder of the CPA to be the victim of a supposed enforced disappearance after Ama Daniel Ngayaan, who was abducted by government forces in Pasil, Kalinga in 1987.

To recall, Balao, who worked for the Research and Education Commission of the CPA, was first arrested in 1988 for alleged illegal possession of subversive documents but the case was subsequently dismissed for lack of evidence.

The call for the government forces to cause Balao’s release, if he is indeed in their custody, gained support from other cause-oriented and militant groups in the Cordilleras in wake of the noted pattern of disappearances of prominent militant leaders and protesters whose cadavers were later recovered while some are still missing up to now.

“Balao’s enforced disappearance is not an isolated incident. It is part of a systematic and desperate move of the state against members and officers of the CPA in its “counter-terrorism and anti-insurgency campaign,” reads the CPA statement released to the media Tuesday afternoon.

The CPA has been labeled by the military as a political front of the Communist Party of the Philippines, or supporter of the New Peoples Army, but such tag was vehemently denied by the group, saying that CPA is a legitimate people’s organization.

“We challenge the AFP and PNP to immediately and unconditionally surface James Balao. Each day that you, the PNP and AFP, remain silent and indifferent to the enforced disappearance of James only validates further your accountability in his disappearance,” the CPA statement further reads. (BaguioMidlandCurier)


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