(Photos) Signature campaign, candlelighting, writ of Amparo, Sanggunian Bayan resolution for the surfacing of James Balao

Signature campaign, candlelighting, writ of Amparo,

Sanggunian Bayan resolution for the surfacing of James Balao

Baguio City

October 10, 2008

Signing petitioons, lighting candles and filing for write of amparo for the surfacing of James Balao. The Benguet Sanggunian Bayan issued a resolution on enforced disappearance and Arhtur, father of James Balao, wrote a letter for his surfacing


James M. Balao is a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA). He was among the members of the Cordillera Consultative Committee who facilitated the establishment of the CPA in June 1984, and serviced the Alliance’s needs in research and documentation, education and information-dissemination, organizing and support-building during its formative years. He made invaluable contributions to elucidating the problem of national oppression, and the rights of indigenous peoples to ancestral land and to self-determination.

James holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of the Philippines, Baguio, where he double-majored in Psychology and Economics, and served as editor-in-chief of the campus paper, Outcrop. Even before graduating in 1983, he had already started working full-time in research and education on Cordillera issues, as part of the implementing staff of the Cordillera Schools Group’s Cordillera Studies Program. In 1986, he served on the staff of the Constitutional Commission, assisting anthropologist Ponciano Bennagen in the work of securing provisions for the rights of indigenous peoples in the 1987 Consitution.

When James returned from Manila, he became the first Head of the CPA’s Education Commission. Except for a brief period of political detention in Banaue, Ifugao in 1988, he has since been assisting the various rural formations of the CPA with their research and education needs. From 1994 to 1997, he worked with the Ifugao Research and Development Center, and focused his studies on the situation of the Ifugao peasantry. He helped establish the Ifugao Peasant Leaders’ Forum.

A native of Benguet and an indigenous person belonging to the Kankanaey-Ibaloi tribes, James is currently the President of the Oclupan Clan Association. Among his numerous responsibilities is the documentation and registration of the clan’s properties.

James is the eldest son of Arthur and Jane Balao of Atok and La Trinidad, Benguet. He was born on the April 19, 1961. #

James is the eldest son of Arthur and Jane Balao of Atok and La Trinidad, Benguet. He was born on the April 19, 1961. Photo above shows James upon graduation from the University of the Philippines Baguio in 1983. James holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of the Philippines, Baguio, where he double-majored in Psychology and Economics, and served as editor-in-chief of the campus paper, Outcrop.(Photo courtesy Balao Family)

James during the 1988 Cordillera Day Celebration in Ifugao. (Archive Photo/ Erik de Castro, Reuters)

An Update in our Efforts to Surface James Balao
October 3, 2008

Dear Friends:

This is to update you on our continuing efforts for the immediate surfacing of James M. Balao. The response to our urgent alert, call for support and missing bulletin is widespread. It is inspiring that the support continues to pour in. Sadly, we have not gathered new information on the whereabouts and state of James and thus, we need to continue and even double our efforts to locate, appeal and call for the immediate release of James from those who keep him in their custody. Each day that passes with no positive development, his life in the hands of his captors, is an unimaginable torture to all of us. Each day, the family and us wait and hope for new information yet at the same time dread that it is of his death. Thus, your continuing support becomes more urgent in saving the life of James.

While we continue with our efforts, we reiterate that the enforced disappearance of James is not an isolated incident. It is an attack on the CPA, on its leaders and members for their assertion of indigenous peoples rights and active involvement on economic, social, and political issues. It has taken a very critical position and/or opposition on government policies of liberalization, privatization, deregulation and militarization.

Let us never forget!: the killings of Ama Daniel Ngayaan, Romy Gardo, Markus Bangit, Albert Terredano, Alyce Omengan-Claver and many more; the continuing harassment and surveillance on our persons and offices; and malicious tagging by the military that we are communist terrorists, thus, enemies of the State.

These attacks including the disappearance of James point to a well-planned, state-instigated campaign to harass, intimidate, terrorize, and ultimately attempt to incapacitate organizations and offices who have been involved in the broad democratic movement, particularly on issues concerning violations of human rights and indigenous peoples’ rights. We are witnesses to a renewed and still unfolding campaign of state terrorism.


Immediately after we posted the missing bulletin, relatives of James and volunteers mounted posters on James’ disappearance at Fairview, Avelino where he was last seen and in public posting areas. Two teams scoured the streets near his apartment to ask his neighbors for any information they might provide on James’ disappearance.

The family and we immediately conducted inquiries with the camps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). The Balao family, Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) visited the AFP Military Intelligence Group (MIG) at Camp Allen, the AFP Intelligence Service Unit (ISU) at Navy Base, Pacdal and PNP Regional Office of the Cordillera Administrative Region (PRO-CAR) in Camp Dangwa. We made calls to PNP Officials in Pangasinan and Cagayan to get their commitment in our search for James.

Just this September 30, two teams of volunteers from the CPA and CHRA accompanied the Balao family, to Abra and Ilocos to inquire with AFP and PNP camps. The teams visited and inquired with the following units: (a) 50th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army (IBPA) at Guimod Norte, San Juan, Ilocos Sur (IS); (b) IS PNP Provincial Office at Bulag, Bantay, IS and the AFP offices within the compound; (c) PNP Ilocos Sur Regional Mobile Group (RMG) in Bio, Tagudin, IS, (d) 503rd Brigade PA (BDE) in Sulvec, Narvacan, IS; (e) 503rd Brigade PA headquarters in Lagangilang, Abra and the (f) PNP Regional Police Office at San Fernando, La Union. All of the units visited denied that they have James in their custody.

Two days after, the Balao family and their clan together with the CPA and the CHRA, went back to Ilocos Sur upon receiving information from reliable sources within the military and the police that the disappearance of James was undertaken by the Military Intelligence Group (MIG) and Intelligence Service Unit (ISU) of Region 1. (Region 1 as an administrative region covers the provinces of La Union, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte and Pangasinan.) The provincial government of Ilocos Sur through Gov. Deogracias Victor “DV” Savellano initiated a dialogue between the family and the military. A certain Lt. Wilfredo Tambio and Sgt. Marcelo Garcia acting under orders of Col. Roy Devesa of the 503rd BDE, met with the family. The said military officers did not give an outright denial that they have James in their custody or participated in his disappearance. Provincial Board member, Atty. Robert Tudayan also assisted the family during this second visit.

Public Information, and Protests

Aside from the inquiries with camps, we also held information dissemination activities, three (3) press conferences, so far (September 23, 29 and 30). The urgent action, letter of concern, and CHRA and CPA press statements were distributed online. A petition calling on the government to surface James is being circulated in schools, communities etc., which is also posted online and has so far gathered close to a thousand signatures.

Activities denouncing the enforced disappearance have been held regularly (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) at the Malcolm Square/People’s Park since September 24. James’ family, relatives, friends, different people’s organizations and institutions have been consistently present during the activities. The number of people who show their solidarity in these activities consistently grows.

Very recently, the ALL UP Academic Union Baguio Chapter and the Interfaith Gathering for Truth and Accountability have issued their statements of concern on the enforced disappearance.

Local Government Support

Baguio City Mayor Peter Rey Bautista with newly-installed Baguio City Police Office Director (BCPO) Wilfredo Franco have stated to the media that they will convene the Task Force Balao (TF) to look into this case. The said TF has yet to coordinate with the family.

The Baguio City Council in its session on September 29 collectively and unanimously approved the following resolution forwarded by councilors Perlita Chan-Rondez, Nicasio Palaganas, Fred Bagbagen, Galo Weygan, Richard Carino, and Nicasio Palaganas, and Vice-Mayor Daniel Farinas: RESOLUTION CONDEMNING THE ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE OF JAMES M. BALAO, MEMBER OF THE CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE (CPA) AND ASSISTING HIS FAMILY, THE CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE (CPA) AND THE CORDILLERA HUMAN RIGHTS ALLIANCE (CHRA) IN THE IMMEDIATE SURFACING AND RELEASE OF JAMES M. BALAO BY HIS CAPTORS. We are hoping for similar actions from other local government units.

National Lobby and Support

The family and the CPA have written the concerned desks or committees of the following government agencies: the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the GRP-NDFP Joint Monitoring Committee-CARHRIHL.

In an audience with our national alliance KARAPATAN (Alliance for Peoples Rights) on September 22, CHR Commissioner de Lima committed to look into the case of James and put his case as a priority for the Commission.

Through the CHRA, the family and the CPA met with Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casino last September 25. The partylist representative committed to bring up the case at the Committee on Human Rights in Congress aside from assisting the family in the search for James.

Recently, the family together with the CPA appealed to the members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives from the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) for assistance. They also met with some police and military officials.

The office of Senator Francisco ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan issued a press release entitled: “Kiko backs amnesty international’s call for safe return of missing indigenous rights activist; calls on military to be transparent.” This is available in the website of the Philippine Senate. On our end, we circulated this to the media.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was likewise informed about the case and they committed to inquire with the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) of the AFP and with the 5th ID in Gamu, Isabela.

International Support

The Amnesty International has issued its own urgent alert on September 26, the New Zealand Human Rights Commission through its Senior Advisor Dr. Jill Chrisp communicated that she shall raise the concern with the Commission on Human Rights-Philippines with whom they have a joint project with. The International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) based in Denmark has submitted their Letter of Concern to the concerned government offices in the Philippines.

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) received and immediately transmitted the complaint filed by the family last September 26 to the Philippine government.

On September 30, Forum Asia submitted a Fact Sheet on the disappearance of James Balao to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office in Bangkok.

The US Embassy in the Philippines is including the case of James Balao in their Human Rights Report for the year 2008.

We also received immediate response from different organizations through the International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS) to which the CPA is affiliated. A lot of organizations, groups, and individuals from different countries in Europe, Asia, and America including the Philippines and members of the CPA Friends Abroad have also responded by signing in the Petition, sending Letters of Concern to Philippine government agencies and circulating the urgent alert. However, despite the foregoing extensive effort, we have done with the family and the international support continuously pouring in, the captors of James have not yet surfaced him. Each day that passes with no positive development, his life in the hands of his captors, your continuing support becomes more urgent in saving the life of James.

We continue to hope that due to our efforts, the captors of James shall surface him and those responsible for his enforced disappearance made duly accountable. In behalf of the Balao family, we are very grateful for your continued support that has made us defiant against state fascism during these trying times.


Cordillera Peoples Alliance
#2 P. Guevarra St, Baguio City
e-mail: cpa@cpaphils.org
tel: 074 442-2115

Secretary General
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance
#10 Rimando Road, Baguio City
e-mail: chra@cpaphils.org
tel: 074 445-2586

Program for the surfacing of James Balao at the Baguio City People’s Park

Benguet Sanggunina Bayan in Session, condemns the enforced disappearance of James Balao

Download: Resolution No. 14, Oct. 6, 2008

Download: Statement of Mountain Province Gov. Maximo Dalog against enforced disappearnces

CPA, Balao Family Laud Baguio City Council Resolution Supporting the Search for James Balao and to Condemn his Involuntary Disappearance

On September 29, 2008, the Baguio City Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning the involuntary disappearance of James M. Balao and extending full support to the Balao family, the CPA and the CHRA in search of James. Balao, an indigenous person belonging to the Kankanaey and Ibaloi of Benguet, is a founding member of the CPA who was missing since September 17, 2008.

In behalf of the Balao family, the CPA extends its sincerest thanks to and lauds the officials of the City of Baguio for this concrete step forward in our search for James. Such move is also a solid action in the recognition and assertion of our basic rights to life and security.

The CPA, its officers and members, have always been under threat by the State and victims of its terrorism, even in regimes before the US-Arroyo’s. We have lost many of our valued colleagues who have done no harm but assert the rights of indigenous peoples, yet they were felled by State Terror which has significantly and gravely aggravated especially under this regime. Under this situation, the Council of Baguio City had stood by its constituents, including the CPA, its members and officers by passing resolutions during trying times when the CPA was under attack: on the unlawful arrest of Jose Cawiding, then secretary general of the Metro Baguio Tribal Elders and Leaders Assembly and former staff of the CPA Education Commission in 2007; and on the extrajudicial killing of CPA Elders Desk Regional Coordinator and Regional Council Member Markus Bangit in 2006.

The attack against CPA is an attack against the people. The city council’s action through a resolution condemning the involuntary disappearance of James demonstrates they have not only stood by CPA but by the people, their constituents. These acts of solidarity and support to the Cordillera peoples’ movement are significant and have inspired us to carry on, even with the intensifying state terror, knowing that they are behind us and recognize the importance of our work.

There is nobody more liable and accountable for James’ disappearance than the State, through the AFP’s military intelligence and security units, and even the PNP. We challenge the AFP and PNP, which have remained mum and indifferent about James’ involuntary disappearance since September 17, to surface James Balao if indeed they truly are champions of people’s rights and democracy.

We hope that other government institutions and more local governments in the Cordillera and all over the country, such as the provincial and municipal levels, would also concretely aid us in this situation that we, the CPA, and the Balao Family are in. Every part of the government should be doing their part because the government exists to serve and protect the people. We continue to appeal to the public and to the officials of Benguet to also urgently extend its support in our search for James Balao. James is the eldest of four children, and is the son of Mr. Arthur and Mrs. Jane Balao of La Trinidad and Atok.

James had unselfishly given himself in service to his fellow Cordillera indigenous peoples through his work as CPA and Clan President of the Oclupan Clan Association. Now is an opportune moment for us to fight for our right to life, our right to survive as humans and as indigenous peoples. Help us find James M. Balao. #

Press conference for the surfacing of James Balao

Download: Letter of Arthur, father of James

Filing of the write of amparo for James Balao


James Balao, a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) is missing since September 17. His family, friends and colleagues have searched long-enough to find him. The agony lingers, the emotion heightens.

James Balao is a victim of enforced disappearance, which by definition is state perpetrated. This is based on his long time involvement to the CPA, an organization branded as left-leaning and critical to government. James is the first case of enforced disappearance in the Cordillera. According to a national alliance for human rights KARAPATAN, there are 199 cases of enforced disappearances under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration. The three recent cases of enforced disappearances in the country happened in a span of less than a week, 2 cases immediately preceded the disappearance of James, in September 20 and 21. The victims are peasant organizers in Bataan.

We are outraged with the waves of enforced disappearances in the country. This alarming reality directly undermines the sanctity and integrity of life. The darkness gripping their victims and the sufferings of their families and loved-ones could not be captured by words. It is brutal with the victims frequently tortured and in constant fear for their lives. Often, the captors of the enforcedly disappeared (desaparacidos) never release them and their fate remains unknown. This must stop!

We hold the present administration accountable for the enforced disappearance of James Balao and to the many victims of human rights violations in the country under an undeclared martial law. Extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, political harassments and persecutions that are widely happening under this regime are glaring evidences of injustices. These acts must be condemned!

It is necessary for us to challenge the state and all its instrumentalities to surface James Balao unconditionally and immediately. We cannot be blind to gross violations of human rights and turn deaf to the people’s cry.

The Interfaith Gathering for Truth and Accountability condemns in strongest terms the state perpetrated disappearance of James Balao. We support the call of his family, friends and colleagues for him to be surfaced immediately. We appeal to the public to be one with us in a sustained effort to fight enforced disappearances alongside with other forms of human rights violations. We demand no less than justice!

Stop Enforced Disappearances! Surface James Balao Now!

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me.
To bring good news to the poor
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind
To let the oppressed go free. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 4:16-21

September 29, 2008

Dialogue with the 50th Infantry Battalion

(Arkibong Bayan)

(Photos Courtesy of Cordillera Peoples Alliance)

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