Benguet dads alarmed over the abduction of Balao

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Benguet police provincial Chief Danilo Pelisco took to the podium on October 27 trying to allay fears among provincial board members that peace in the province has been disturbed by the abduction of activist James Balao.

Pelisco said the enforced disappearance of Balao is an isolated case.

The common sentiment in the board is the possible repercussion of the abduction on the province’s economy, especially that it is preparing to host a throng of tourists during the holding of the Adivay Festival, which kicked off November 3.

The provincial board’s question hour delved on the case of activist James Balao, a victim of enforced disappearance when witnesses saw him taken by some armed men who claimed they were policemen on September 17.

First abduction in Benguet

Alarmed over the first case of enforced disappearance in Benguet, the provincial board summoned both Pelisco and the Commission on Human Rights-Cordillera to appraise them of the case.

Pelisco said Balao has no criminal record, nor any derogatory involvement as far as the provincial police record is concerned,when asked of Balao’s police image.

“He is a founding member of the CPA, which is a front organization of left-wing organizations,” Pelisco told the provincial board. He added Balao is not even in the Order of Battle, which he admitted is an existing list of identified members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).

Impact on tourism

Meanwhile, Board Member Ro­gelio Leon expressed his concern that the abduction of Balao may impact on tourism and the peace in the province.

Balao’s enforced disappearance came in the wake of the province’s preparation for this year’s Adivay Festival, which is an annual event that entices both local and foreign tourists into the province. This year’s celebration runs for one month with a battery of activities that draw people’s attention to Benguet’s products, people and culture.

“We are no longer secured in our province,” Board Member Juan Nazarro told Pelisco as he expressed an alarm that Benguet is no longer a peaceful province.

Pelisco, in his report to the board, said a witness has testified seeing Balao being hand-cuffed in the morning of September 17 in Tomay, Barangay Tawang here.

Pelisco said, the witness also saw Balao taken at gunpoint by six armed men and forced into a white Mitsubishi Adventure, a brand of a vehicle, that headed towards Camp Bado Dangwa, a few kilometers away, with the driver telling two motorcycle-riding men to follow suit, saying “Pare sa Camp Dangwa tayo,” (Off to Camp Dangwa).

Not in PNP custody

Pelisco said, however, quoting Police Regional Office Cordillera chief Gen. Eugene Martin, the police did not have Balao in its custody.

Earlier, CPA Chairperson Beverly Longid said in a press conference Balao is in a detention facility of the state security forces. She did not say which branch of service is reportedly holding him.

An entourage that attempted to locate him on October 28 in Fort Bonifacio and Camp Aguinaldo both in Quezon City, however, was denied entry. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

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