Asian lawyers urge Philippine government to surface James Balao


BAGUIO CITY — Lawyers from various countries of Asia added their voice at urging the government to surface James Balao in a recent conference held at the Club John Hay here.

“We strongly urge the Philippine Government to make public his (Balao) present legal status, if he is in the custody of the state security forces, as indicated by some reliable sources,” said the Asian Network of Indigenous Lawyers (ANIL) in a statement.

Participated by 25 lawyers, the conference, which ended Tuesday, was sponsored by Tebtebba Fopundation, an indigenous peoples international center for policy research and education based in this city.

Balao, who belongs to the Benguet Ibaloi tribe, was abducted by alleged policemen on September 17 in Tomay, La Trinidad, Benguet. His whereabout is not yet determined until now despite a petition for writ of amparo his family filed in a court in Benguet Province.

Bringing case to UN

A lawyer from India, Babloo Loitongbam, a member of ANIL, said that they will utilize international venues for the case of Balao.

“We will submit our statement to the United Nations Working Group on Enforce Disappearances,” Babloo added. He explained this UN mechanism started in the 1980s in cases of enforced disappearances in Latin America.

Babloo said, “The mechanism had been proven effective in bringing the issues to the attention of the concerned governments after deliberation by the said working group.” Babloo has been lawyering in India defending human rights cases in his country since 1992.

Diplomatic “appeal”

Another ANIL member added they will bring Balao’s disappearance case through a diplomatic “appeal” to the Philippine Embassy Consulate Kathmandu, Nepal.

“We will communicate to the Philippine Embassy for them to act on the case of Balao’s disappearance,” pointed out Shankar Limbu, a Nepalese lawyer for eight years, in an interview.

This is their act of solidarity with human rights advocacy outside their country, added Limbu, who is the secretary of the Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese IndigenousPeoples (LAHURNIP).

Lawyer Chyt Daytec-Yangot, a Baguio-based human rights lawyer, said ANIL’s statement asking the Philippine government to surface Balao is part of the organization’s human rights advocacy.

She added ANIL is composed of indigenous lawyers in the Asia region rendering free legal services to indigenous peoples.

ANIL claimed in its statement there is a reasonable ground to believe that the enforced disappearance of Balao is linked to his non-violent resistance to the Arroyo administration’s program of aggressively harnessing the natural resources in the indigenous cultural communities’ ancestral domains under its mining revitalization program.

It also urged the government to become a party to the UN Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorDis)

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