Military unit main suspect: City council, AI condemn abduction of rights activist

By Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY – Amnesty International reiterated its call to the Philippine government to “surface” James Balao, a member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance who was believed abducted by elements of the Army’s Military Security Unit here since Sept. 17

In a statement, AI also urged anybody who has knowledge of Balao’s disappearance to contact his family, the CPA or AI among others who are searching for him.

This, as the city council Monday approved a resolution “condemning the involuntary disappearance of Balao.” In a resolution, proponent councilors Rocky Thomas Balisong, Betty Lourdes Tabanda, Galo Weygan, Perlita Rondez, Nicasio Aliping Jr., Antonio Tabora Jr., Erdolfo Balajadia, Isabelo Cosalan Jr., Nicasio Palaganas, Richard Carino, Fred Bagbagen, Elaine Sembrano, Joel Alangsab and Gloria Ysabel De Vera said Balao’s disappearance is “a result of the continuing political persecution of activists and civilians critical of the government.”

“This involuntary disappearance is alarming thereby curtailing and threatening democratic rights in the Philippines,” the resolution said.

Balao, an active member of the CPA contributing his research and education skills to advocate people’s issues, was last seen last Sept. 17 somewhere between his residences at Fairview barangay here and in La Trinidad, Benguet.

Before this, he was suspected to be under surveillance by unidentified entities since April this year. Balao was said to have observed white and blue vans tailing him from his residence to his daily chores.

The resolution also sought to give assistance to Balao’s family, the CPA and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance for the immediate location of Balao and release from his captors if any.

The city council resolution will be furnished to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Department of National Defense, Philippine National Police, Dept. of Justice, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Commission on Human Rights, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and Joint Monitoring Committee on CARHRHIL.

This, as the University of the Philippines Baguio, including representatives from the administration, faculty, union, and students held a press conference Tuesday calling on the government to initiate a speedy, impartial investigation on Balao’s disappearance. — – With a report from AD (NorthernPhilippineTimes)

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