Archive for the ‘James Balao’ Category

‘Amparo’ issued for Baguio activist

January 25, 2009

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:49:00 01/25/2009

Filed Under: Judiciary (system of justice), Missing Persons, Civil unrest

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—A Benguet judge has issued a writ of amparo for missing activist James Balao, saying government officials, including those from the military and police, are responsible for his abduction last year.

Judge Benigno Galacgac of the Benguet regional trial court, in a Jan. 19 order, asked the government to “disclose where [Balao] is detained or confined [and] release [him] considering his unlawful detention since his abduction.”

The court also asked them to “cease and desist from further inflicting harm upon his person.”

Balao, an activist and founder of Cordillera Peoples Alliance, was abducted by armed men believed to be soldiers in Benguet on Sept. 17 last year.

Balao’s family, in October last year, filed a petition for the issuance of a writ of amparo to compel the military to present the activist.

Galacgac, however, denied the issuance of inspection, production and witness protection order after Balao’s family and the CPA failed to comply with the provisions on the rule on the writ of amparo.

The respondents were President Macapagal-Arroyo, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Alexander Yano, and Philippine National Police chief, Director General Jesus Verzosa.

Also named as respondents were top military officials with the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) and police officials in Northern Luzon.

Galacgac said Ms Arroyo should not be bothered by lawsuits but he noted that a petition for the writ of amparo “is not by any stretch of imagination a niggling, vexing or annoying court case that Her Excellency should be shielded from.”

“The duty of the President to faithfully execute the laws of the land places the Chief Executive under the rule of law … Her Excellency should thus be made aware of impediments in the system that threatens or subverts human rights so she could act accordingly to counteract their negative impact on society,” he said.

The court said the police and military “failed in conducting an effective investigation of [Balao’s] abduction.”

Galacgac said the issuance of a writ of amparo “must not be looked upon with disfavor.”

“Instead, it should be a welcome development for Her Excellency’s commitment to enforce the rule of law. It should be seen as a report of wrongdoings of Her Excellency’s subordinates, those who, like spoiled bureaucrats, do not wish to toe Her Excellency’s line of good governance,” he said.

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HR groups cry: ‘Surface Balao’

December 22, 2008

by Harley Palangchao

Surfacing Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) co-founder James Balao is the battle cry of militant groups and their supporters as they marked the 60th year of the United Nation’s adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights last Dec. 10.

“We commemorate Dec. 10 in the midst of the agonizing search for James Balao, a human rights defender and genuine servant of the people. It is now 85 days since Sept. 17 when he was brazenly abducted by heavily armed state security forces,” reads the statement of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA).

The CHRA believes that Balao’s alleged enforced disappearance is part of the Arroyo government’s implementation of Operation Plan Bantay Laya II.

Oplan Bantay Laya II, CHRA said, equates progressive people’s organizations critical to government policies and practices with the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New Peoples Army.

“This counter-insurgency program makes the members and leaders of these organizations (like the CPA and CHRA) targets of neutralization,” the CHRA statement also reads.

The CHRA also attributed to the program the killings of known progressive and militant leaders in northern Luzon like Romy Sanchez, Jose Manegdeg III, Albert Terredano, Jose Dotyon, Rafael Markus Bangit, Gloria Casuga, and Alyce Omengan-Claver.

“Since 2001, there [have been] 977 victims of extrajudicial killings, 201 victims of enforced disappearances, 1,010 victims of torture, 1, 464 illegal arrests, and 868,096 displaced from their homes and villages because of military operations,” the CHRA statement reads.

The figures are worse than the human rights violations recorded during the Marcos regime.

Militant congressmen Satur Ocampo, Liza Maza, Teodoro Casiño, Luzviminda Ilagan, and Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao co-authored House Bill 869 requesting the Lower House Committee on Human Rights to investigate Balao’s disappearance.

The bill stated that the alleged enforced disappearance of Balao might be because of his work in defense of human rights and pressing issues and concerns besetting indigenous peoples in the Cordillera region.

Balao, CPA reported, was abducted by five men in Tomay, La Trinidad, Benguet at around 8 p.m. on Sept. 17. Supposed witnesses heard the “abductors” calling Balao a drug pusher.

(BaguioMidlandCourier)

No more democracy

December 21, 2008

(Speech of Joni Balao-Strugar at the Holy Mass on the 60th Anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights Cathedral of our Lady of Atonement on December 9 and at the picket at the Camp Allen gate on December 10.)

I am Joni Balao-Strugar, the youngest sister of James.

My other two siblings are in Manila on December 9 and had a meeting with our comrade Igorots and friends. They have gathered there as we gather here today for the same purpose to tell the whole world that there is no safety anymore in the Philippines. It is all about money and greed. The abduction of James is no doubt connected to money. Money shared with the surveillance team, the abductors and whoever is connected.

The Oplan Bantay Laya is a democracy with a death list. They have an order of battle list, wanted list, classified list and highly classified list of heads they want to abduct. There is no more democracy, that is called fascism. Soon intellectuals, media, journalists, organizers disappear. There is no more democracy. The state has to be open to constructive criticism – to be democratic, to learn from these criticisms, to know the needs the people demand. Without freedom of speech and of opinion, the Philippines turns into a country of fascistic rule.

My family was in Europe for a few years. We came back to the Philippines to have our young children learn about our ancestry and culture. And what do i show them? Aside from a smoke-polluted city? Atrocity? Fear? My brother, their uncle James they played and discussed with, was abducted. Where is the safety that my children can have? Their right to life and protection are in jeopardy in this democratic country. Can I have my family’s safety guaranteed for my parents, my siblings, my friends? The military, the police – meaning peace officer, peace-maker, are there to supposedly keep us safe, but they cannot guaranty our safety from enforced disappearances. Or any connections to such. Are they also safe? One wrong move and they are also dead. Where is democracy in this country?

James is not a terrorist. Why is one already a terrorist when one criticizes State politics.

Should we not be happy he is an organizer of the indigenous peoples in this unorganized country? We should be happy to have him here with us as he is a peace-maker in this discomposed and perturbed country. He devoted his knowledge to protect the indigenous peoples. And to protect the indigenous means to fight for the rights of everybody even that of the military and the police. They too are our comrades, our kailians.

I want to make it clear there are bad military men and good military men. You know who you are, and we too know who you are. Some are our friends and some are extremely evil they do not deserve to walk the earth. Jesus said, “Dear God, please forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” The Tibetans say, “What you do unto others will be done back unto you.” I say, “karma strikes back and when it strikes, you will not even see it. It will just strike so fast.” That is a divine rule too. So, to those bad guys there: Release my brother now!

I quote from Honorable Teodoro Baguilat Jr., provincial governor of Ifugao, “True, we live in a world of conflict, a war of attrition, but Cordillerans have for centuries resolved their conflicts respecting the rule of traditional law and human rights. The casualties of our wars were slain in acts of honor, not with treachery. The battles waged by our forefathers were for freedom, not for fascism.”

Losing my brother is my pain. Equally, it is all our pain. We have done all we could and we will continue to do even more until we see James again. Losing our friend is our pain, we don’t want to feel this pain. We will do whatever we can to embrace our friend, again. Losing our clan president is our pain, James is not yet finished with the Ngalatan and Calis clan family tree books. Our love for him is never ending. We defend him from any harm done towards him. We direly need him back in our lives as soon as possible. Losing our kailian is our pain. Cordillera is demanding the immediate release of James. Isakit mi ti kailian mi nga Igorot. We still have many things to do together so release James now in the name of the Cordillerans. #

Igorot elders perform rituals to aid search for missing Cordi activist

December 21, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Elders from different Cordillera provinces participated in a series of rituals condemning the perpetrators of James Balao’s disappearance, in time for the 60th year of the UN declaration of human rights, Wednesday here.


SEARCH RITUAL. Invoking ancient spirits, Igorot elders plead that missing activist James Moy Balao be kept safe and alive as they condemn his abductors. Photo by Cye Reyes

Some elders representing all Cordillera provinces, who joined in the march-rally during the International Human Rights Day commemoration in the city, did a specific ritual just in front of Camp Allen where Balao was reported to have been taken before his alleged transfer to a different safe-house.

Camp Allen houses the headquarters of the Military Intelligence Group (MIG), which is alleged to have abducted Balao.

According to Ama Julio Longan from Kalinga, the prayer they aired was for the abductors, captors and whoever has knowledge of his disappearance, “for them to experience what they have done to Balao.”

Each elder from the different provinces prayed over a chicken before it was sacrificed and buried in a small hole in front of the military camp.

“Nalawag ti kayat a sawen ti inyaramid a ritwal: isubli da a sibibiag ni James iti kabiitan. Nu saan ket marikna ti agtengtengngel kenkuana ti rigat a sinagrap ni James.” (The message of our prayer during the ritual is clear, surface James alive as soon as possible and if they do not do that the same thing would happen to whoever abducted and has him now) said Longan.

Longan also said they even called the spirits of their ancestors and martyrs like Macliing Dulag, Ama Ngayaan and Markus Bangit to help in the search for Balao.

The elders along with some members of the Balao family and the Oclupan clan did another round of rituals separately Wednesday and Thursday, calling on the spirits of their ancestors to help in the search of Balao.

Xavier Akien of the Cordillera Elders Alliance (CEA) said the rituals are based on an Igorot tradition done whenever an grave injustice is done to a member of the community.

“These rituals are usually done in extreme cases and the elders must be really convinced that an injustice has been done to a member of the community before it is cast,” said Akien adding that this tradition has different forms according to the practice of the different tribes among the Igorots but the processes are basically the same.

“These series of rituals were made more powerful compared to other rituals already done before to bother the conscience of the perpetrators and based on the powerful prayers of the elders it would create disturbance to whoever knows any information of his whereabouts,” added Akien.

This is a very traditional way of the Igorots that is very unique to them and cannot be found in any other culture here in the country.

“We are in an emergency situation that needs the help of the spirits for the emergency search, and we are one in doing so to immediately search for James,” said Akien.

The rituals done were part of the Mabtad Kaigorotan call of the Balao family and the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) in the search for James. Mabtad is a call for all communities to participate in the search of someone who is missing. It is a Kankanaey practice and has proven community unity.

The Mabtad Kaigorotan was also launched in Manila Tuesday. # Cye Reyes(NorDis)

HR Day awaits amparo resolution

December 20, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — The Regional Trial Court (RTC) here Thursday agreed to send the petition for the writ of amparo, filed after the abduction of James Moy Balao, for resolution in 10 days, in time for this year’s Human Rights Day.

Balao, a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and president of the Oclupan Clan, was abducted on September 17 here. His family and CPA strongly suspect James was a victim of an enforced disappearance perpetrated by state security forces, as a part of Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), a state policy which targets legitimate people’s activist organizations as part of counter-insurgency operations.

Balao’s family and CPA filed a petition for the writ of amparo on October 8, asking for a court order to search state security force camps, to produce James and to produce all military and police records referring to him, particularly the military order of battle (OB) .

RTC Branch 63 Judge Benigno Galacgac has already presided over two hearings on the petition. During the first two hearings on October 23 and 30, the Balao family and CPA presented witnesses who attested to the heavy surveillance that CPA and its members have been facing since the implementation of OBL.

Their witnesses also testified to the surveillance Balao was subjected to before his abduction.

At the end of the second hearing the Balaos rested their case and requested the court to bring the case to a quick resolution. The third hearing Thursday was scheduled for the 13 respondents, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), to present witnesses.

“The strategy of the OSG throughout the first two hearings was to delay the resoplution of the case. Insisting on a third hearing to “possibly” present witnesses was just to delay the case resolution,”said Atty. Mary Ann Manja Bayang of the Cordillera Indigenous Peoples Legal Center (Dinteg).

Bayan maintain the petition for the writ of amparo is not a normal case,but rather involving a person’s life, liberty and security. “It is a case that requires proper care and speed. Any attempt to delay it is unprofessional and irresponsible,” she added.

Bayang and Atty. Cheryl Daytec-Yangot, appearing for the Balaos and CPA, filed a motion that waived the right of the petitioners to cross-examine any witness presented by the respondents, accepting their affidavits as their testimony and requested the court to resolve the case,hoping it would make the third hearing unnecessary.

The court, however, chose to push through with the third hearing. Balao lawyers iterated the importance of a speedy trial in this case and the desire to have the case resolved.

In an apparent change in strategy the OSG also asked the court to move for a resolution.

In regular proceedings a judge has 90 days to resolve a case. In a petition for the writ of amparo a judge must present a resolution within 10 days.

Jude Baggo, secretary-general of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) said, “We need a resolution as soon as possible. We want James out of state custody and out of danger as soon as possible.”

Beverly Longid, CPA chairperson “It is important to remember that the writ of amparo is not accusatory and is not a proceeding on criminal charges. The granting of the writ does not define guilt.” She added it is a proceeding intended to protect Balao from any further harm and to release him from illegal detention,” she said, wondering at the government’s antagonistic response.

As this developed, there is a significant pressure for the immediate surfacing of Jame from national and international indigenous and human rights advocates s.

November 28 marked the International Day of Action to Surface James Moy Balao, when hundreds of groups and individuals who support the Surface James Balao! Campaign simultaneously faxed and emailed the Philippine government to increase the pressure for his immediate release.

At the University of the Philippines Diliman campus, students led by Takder, an organization of Cordilleran students, lit candles symbolic of hope for the surfacing of James. # CHRA Release

Statement: The Asian Network of Indigenous Lawyers on James Balao’s enforced disappearance

November 20, 2008

By SHANKAR LIMBU (Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples)
BABLOO LOITONGBAM (Human Rights Alert India)
CHERYL L. DAYTEC

It is brought to the notice of the Asian Network of Indigenous Lawyers (ANIL) that Mr. James M. Balao, founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) has been abducted by a group of armed men in civilian clothes claiming to be policemen on 17 September 2008 in La Trinidad, Benguet and that his whereabouts are still unknown to date.

A petition for a writ of amparo filed by Mr. Balao’s family with the assistance of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) is pending before the Regional Trial Court in La Trinidad, Benguet. ANIL is concerned that on the behest of CHRA and CPA, the Commission on Human Rights issued an order for the inspection of state detention facilities. But the military denied entry to Camp Aguinaldo.

There is reasonable ground to believe that the enforced disappearance of Mr. Balao is linked to his non-violent resistance to the Arroyo administration’s program of aggressive harnessing of natural resources in the indigenous cultural communities/indigenous peoples’ ancestral domains under the Mining Revitalization Program, among others.

In this connection ANIL:

– Expresses its solidarity with the Balao family, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance and other organizations and individuals involved in the campaign to bring out James Balao. – Reminds the Philippines Government of its international human rights obligations to ascertain the whereabouts of Mr. Balao and to ensure his safety and security. – Strongly urges the Philippine Government to make public his present legal status, if he is in the custody of the state security forces, as indicated by some reliable sources – Calls on the Philippine Government to become a state party to the UN Convention for the Protection of all persons from Enforced Disappearance. #

Asian lawyers urge Philippine government to surface James Balao

November 20, 2008

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)

AFP denies search in camps

November 18, 2008

Family of missing activist remains hopeful

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — In the continued search for missing activist James Balao, even in the company of the Commission of Human Rights (CHR), members of the Balao family and officers of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) were denied entry to military camps in Manila, Tuesday.

“The government is putting obstacles to all our efforts to search for James. If they are not guilty, then why are they afraid to open their camps to us?” said Windel Bolinget, secretary general of CPA, who with representatives of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) were with the family.

The group visited the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Camp Aguinaldo and Fort Bonifacio.

According to Bolinget, they were not allowed to enter these camps because they did not have a court order to compel them (the AFP) to allow them entry.

The Balao family and CPA have a pending petition for a writ of amparo.

“If the writ is granted by the court, the Balao family and CPA would be allowed to search for James in the military and police camps and facilities,” said Bolinget quoting the military officers.

The CHR, however, needs no court order because their mandate is directly from the Philippine constitution, added Bolinget.

The group also visited Camp Crame of the Philippine National Police (PNP). Only the representatives of the CHR and Winston Balao, a sibling of missing Balao were allowed to enter. They, however, were not allowed to go around the police facility.

Meanwhile, the second hearing for the writ of amparo of Balao has been calendared for the 27th of November as requested by the respondents represented by Atty. Gerik Paderanga of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), here, Thursday.

The petitioners asked for five days for them to submit a formal offer of exhibits and their position paper to the court. Paderanga, however requested for more time to make and file their comments.

Judge Benigno Galacgac initially scheduled the next hearing for the 13th but due to another case, Paderanga got it scheduled for a later date.

Though disappointed by the extended time, the petitioners and aggrieved parties vowed to continue their search for Balao.

“I am really frustrated because the intention of the writ of amparo is to protect James’ life and security, and the longer it takes for it to be granted puts James’ life at greater risk,” said Bolinget.

According to Beverly Longid, CPA chairperson, that in as much as they want the court to act with the utmost urgency, their group does not have any control because there are rules to be followed.

“We just hope that they would look at the merits of the case and not dwell on issues of technicalities and legal standing,” added Longid.

Atty. Rex Lampa, one of the members of the legal team handling Balao’s case said “In cases like the writ of amparo, summary proceedings are adopted and any dilatory pleadings are prohibited because of the urgency to provide protection to the victim.”

Paderanga on the other hand said in an interview, it is not easy for them to do all the court requirements because they have lots of respondents including the president.

The respondents’ answer to the petition, which is required in all cases, was just filed during the second hearing.

The answer includes the request to drop Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo among the respondents of the Balao petition citing that the president has immunity from any kind of suit as long as she is in power.

Balao was abducted by heavily armed men, who identified themselves as policemen, on September 17. The petition for the writ of amparo was filed October 9.

While the hearing was ongoing, CPA members and other militant organizations held two separate programs at the Benguet Capitol steps and La Trinidad public market to appeal to the public to be involved in the call for the immediate surfacing of Balao. The Balao family hails from this municipality. # Cye Reyes(NorDis)

Benguet dads alarmed over the abduction of Balao

November 18, 2008

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)

PRO-COR trades words with CPA on Balao abduction

November 18, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — The head of the Police Regional Office in the Cordillera (PRO-COR) insinuates that the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) is not cooperative on their effort for the investigation on James Balao abduction.

CPA on the other hand claimed they did all the cooperation efforts and in fact facilitated the interview of the abduction witnesses by the PNP Task Force Balao.

In an interview, Gen. Eugene Martin said they asked the CPA to present to them the house mates of Balao as they might help in the resolution of the case but to no avail.

Martin clarified the allegation that they are not doing something on the case, “not all developments and information on the Balao investigation should be divulged publicly.”

He added they expanded the Task Force Balao and “we are going as far as Sagada to get information that would help in solving the Balao case.”

Task Force Balao was created by PRO-COR to investigate the alleged abduction of Balao. Col. Fortunato Albas of the PRO-COR heads the said body.

Martin claimed the PNP should not be immediately linked to the abduction while the investigation is on-going.

“We took the statements of witnesses. There is nothing from their statements that directly identify the PNP and military as involved in taking Balao,” he added.

The witnesses accounted the alleged abductors claimed that Balao has many offenses, like drugs, and they are bringing him to Camp Dangwa, added Martin and asked, “Why announce that you belong to the PNP if you are to involve in such act of abduction?

Martin denied the abduction was the handiwork of the police.

Complete lie

Windell Bolinget, CPA secretary-general, belied that they are not cooperating.

He tagged Martin’s words are complete lie instead.

“We had been fully cooperating to them (PNP). In fact, we are the ones who presented the witnesses of the abduction to them and they (PNP) interviewed them afterwards,” explained Bolinget in an interview.

Bolinget added they went to meet with Col. Albas and Col. Jess Cangbay, head of the R2, intelligence unit of the PRO-COR, for several times for dialog and meetings.

Bolinget claimed it is the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that are not cooperative on the immediate resolution of the abduction.

He cited in the scene of the incident, a PNP living near the area failed to investigate immediately the abduction despite being informed by the residents.

“And we wonder on the slow development of the case despite the incident happened just a few meters from the PNP camp”, Bolinget pointed out.

He also pointed that despite the accounts of the witnesses, the PNP pushes for the angle of land and clan conflict as the reason for Balao’s abduction. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorDis)

Buhay si James Balao

November 14, 2008

Cye Reyes / Nordis Weekly

BAGUIO CITY—Nakatanggap ang Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) ng impormasyon mula sa isang source na nagsasabing buhay at nakadetine sa isa sa mga pasilidad ng Estado ang nawawalang aktibistang si James Balao.

Ayon kay Beverly Longid, tagapangulo ng CPA, nagmula sa “mapagkakatiwalaan at kredibleng” impormante na isang ahente mismo ng Estado ang impormasyon.

Sinabi pa ni Longid na kumukuha pa ng karagdagang impormasyon ang CPA kung ano ang eksaktong pasilidad na kulungan na ito para iprayoritisa sa inspeksiyon ng kanilang grupo at ng pamilya Balao.

“Ngayong alam naming buhay si James at nasa kustodiya ng mga ahenteng panseguridad ng estado, kailangang agarang ilabas (ng korte) ang writ of amparo para payagan ang pamilya at ang CPA na masusing inspeksiyunin ang mga kampo ng militar at pulisya kabilang na ang mga safe house na matutukoy namin,” ani Longid.

Natagalan umano ang CPA para iberipika ang katangian ng tip na natanggap nito. Hindi pa rin umano maaaring ihayag kung anong partikular na yunit ang pinagmulan o kung sino ang nasabing impormante.

“Kahit alam na naming ang pagdukot kay James ay kolaborasyon ng iba’t ibang ahenteng panseguridad ng Estado, sa puntong iyo ay hindi namin matukoy ang eksaktong yunit na sangkot. Pero naniniwala kaming ang paniniktik kay James bago siya dinukot ay isinagawa ng Intelligence Service Unit (ISU) ng Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at konektado sa Philippine Army,” sabi pa ni Longid.

Sa kabila ng magandang balita, muling iginiit ng pamilya Balao at ng CPA ang apela nito sa publiko na ipagpatuloy ang suporta at pagtulong para mailutang si Balao.

“Napakahalaga ng oras ngayon para masalba ang buhay niya,” dagdag ni Longid.

Samantala, pinabulaanan ni Longid ang teorya ng Task Force Balao ng Philippine National Police (PNP) na resulta ng sigalot sa pagitan ng mga tribong Balao at Oclupan o kagagawan ng CPA ang pagkawala ni Balao.

“Hindi lang ito katawa-tawa kundi malinaw na hakbang ng gobyerno para ilayo ang anumang lead na mayroon sila na nagtuturo sa totoong maysala at pagtakpan ang tunay na motibo sa pagkawala ni James,” paliwanag pa ni Longid.

Sinabi pa ng lider ng CPA na may padron na ang kasong ito, dahil kadalasang tinatarget at hinaharas ng mga ahente ng gobyerno ang gma miyembro ng CPA.

Balao is alive, Baguio court told

October 26, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:49:00 10/26/2008

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—Missing activist James Balao is still alive and is being detained in a military camp.

This was a tip received by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance on Thursday, after the first hearing on the petition for a writ of amparo for the surfacing of Balao at the regional trial court in La Trinidad, Benguet.

“Our source informed us that James is still alive and is in detention,” Beverly Longid, CPA chair, said in a forum here on Friday.

Asked to comment about the possibility that his son is still alive, Balao’s father Arthur said: “I am happy to learn that my son is still alive but I am still confused because I do not have the information about his whereabouts.”

On Thursday, the family of Balao and militant groups led by the CPA and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) held a rally in front of the Justice Hall of Benguet to drum up the call to issue the writ.

Witness’ account

During the hearing, representatives of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), which represented the respondents in the petition, tried to have the case dismissed but failed.

A witness, Aniceto Adawing who was cross-examined during the hearing, said he saw five armed men accost Balao in Barangay Lower Tomay in La Trinidad on Sept. 17.

Adawing said the men poked their Armalite rifle and .45 cal. guns at Balao and announced that they were arresting him for suspected illegal drug pushing.

Adawing said he was certain that the men were from the police.

Lawyer Gerik Caesare Paderanga, OSG associate solicitor, said most of the petitions which were filed under the writ had been dismissed due to baseless accusations.

Balao’s family filed the petition to compel the military, James’ suspected abductor, to produce him.

The family asked the court to direct the military to disclose the whereabouts of Balao, a founding member of the CPA.

The family also asked the court to allow its authorized representatives to inspect military or police facilities where Balao was believed detained.

Procedure lapse

The OSG also failed to submit a return during a hearing, which, according to human rights lawyers, was a violation of the procedure.

The return is the answer of the respondents to the issues against them which should be submitted five days after the petition was received.

Paderanga said they failed to submit the return because the process would take long as the respondents involved extraordinary people such as President Macapagal-Arroyo, Cabinet secretaries and police and military officials.

“We understand that the family is suffering but the submission of the return will require a lot of time. We have to be practical,” he said.

Lawyer Mary Ann Bayang, Balao counsel, said the failure of the government to submit its response because they were extraordinary people was a flimsy excuse.

“Saying that the respondents were extraordinary people was not an excuse. Whether they were ordinary or extraordinary people, they should be treated equally before the court. The more that they have to comply because they are public officials,” she said. Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

Statements: Another Cordillera son missing

October 22, 2008

By TEODORO B. BAGUILAT, JR.
GOVERNOR, PROVINCE OF IFUGAO

Yet another son of the Cordillera, another activist for our rights, has disappeared.

I do not know James Balao personally, but I know his kind. There are only a few of us who have the courage to devote one’s life to pursuing difficult causes. Yet he craves no praise or gratification. Just a desire that the coming generations of Cordillerans will live in a region of genuine peace, sustainable development and self-determination.

Thus, I join all those who have manifested their indignation over his disappearance. I condemn forces of political intolerance and brute force who have sought to silence Balao’s crusades with an act of terror.

For whatever ideology, political belief or religious persuasion that propels our actions, the value of non-violence and human rights must be upheld.

True, we live in a world of conflict, a war of attrition. But Cordillerans have for centuries resolved their conflicts respecting the rule of traditional law and human rights. The casualties of our wars were slain in acts of honor, not with treachery. The battles waged by our forefathers were for freedom, not for fascism.

These were the things James fought for. Despite the fears and the solitude, he struggled. We owe him this much to pray and demand that he be returned to the family and community he so loved. #

From Under This Hat: It has been 32 days

October 22, 2008

By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO

It has been 32 days now since James M. Balao fell victim of enforced diasappearance.

Last Friday in a rally organized by colleagues, family and friends a mabtad was re-echoed. It is fetad against enforced disappearances.

One speaker in the rally from central Bontoc who found it in her heart to pitch in her much valued help, seemed scared to be among angry militant organizations and their red banners. Apparently her rage at the violent abduction and more so that it can only be an enforced disappearance made her speak strongly against the act and the enforcers.

She made it clear that she was no member of any of the organizations in the rally but nevertheless she called on her townmates and fellow Cordillerans to cooperate, help find and surface James for it is the right thing to do.

She believed this abduction could not be done by a Cordilleran (“saan tayo nga aramid dayta”), she expressed this taboo was respected by the people of these mountains. She illustrated this as she narrated a community mobilization in Bontoc she had participated in to express her vehement condemnation of what was done to James.

She said, there was one time when the New People’s Army had captured seven soldiers of the Philippine military in the Mt. Province, the elders of the community with her among them called a mabtad to bring these soldiers back safe and alive.

For a few emotionally tensed and fired-up days, they negotiated, stood vigil through the night and pleaded for their release. The “prisoners of war” were safely handed over to them. They even had to make sure the military command will not maltreat them or count them as casualties when the community handed them over to the local command.

The people’s concern and value for life was very high and clearly expressed in this community action. The people together, in the face of a vengeful military and the NPA revolutionaries, showed no fear just the overwhelming concern for the lives and safety of the prisoners.

She strongly pleaded publicly to those who took James to surface him. And, as other speakers also expressed “for the abductors to find courage in themselves to surface him and if he had committed any crime together let us deal with it in the proper and legal process.”

  • * * * * *

Milestones: My family, colleagues and I would like to express through this column our deepest sympathies to the family of the late Bishop Richard Abellon Sr. who passed away October 16.

The grandfather, father, mentor, Bishop and my, along with others, refuge when my young son and I were abducted by the military some sixteen years ago. May his lifework be an inspiration to all of us whose lives he has, in one way or many other ways, touched. To his children and grand children, his good service and life experience is the weight of the Cordillera on our shoulders that we can generously share among others to continue guiding us thru strife and peace. #

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

October 16, 2008

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 BALAO PROFILE

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.

Search

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.

Respectfully,

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

JUDE BAGGO
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

STATEMENT FROM THE INTERFAITH GATHERING FOR TRUTH AND ACCOUNTABILITY ON THE ENFROCED DISAPPEARANCE 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

INTERFAITH GATHERING FOR TRUTH AND ACCOUNTABILITY
September 29, 2008

Dialogue with the 50th Infantry Battalion

(Arkibong Bayan)

(Photos Courtesy of Cordillera Peoples Alliance)

Balao Family Files Amparo Petition

October 12, 2008

With members of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), the family of missing activist James M. Balao, through counsel National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL), filed a petition for a writ of amparo at the Benguet Regional Trial Court.

BY KATHLEEN T. OKUBO
Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) — With members of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), the family of missing activist James M. Balao, through counsel National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL), filed a petition for a writ of amparo at the Benguet Regional Trial Court.

The petition was filed Oct. 8 against President Gloria Macapagal–Arroyo and officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) .

The 29-page petition pleads for the court to issue a writ of amparo ordering the respondents to immediately surface and release James Balao and stop inflicting further harm on him.

The petition also sought the issuance of an inspection order to facilitate the inspection of police and military defense facilities and safe houses where Balao may have been kept in custody.

The petition further pleads for the issuance of a production order directing officials of the PNP, AFP and other concerned agencies to produce documents relevant to the petition particularly the order of battle that includes the name Balao and his dossier in the AFP and PNP offices.

It also seeks for the issuance of a protection order for witnesses to the abduction of Balao.

The writ of amparo is a legal remedy for any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened. The Balao family’s pettion is a first filed here in the courts of Benguet. It was raffled to Regional Trial Court Branch 63, the sala of Judge Benigno Galacgac, on Oct. 9.

Respondents included Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Interior Secretary Ronald Puno, Presidential Chief of Staff Norberto Gonzales, Gen. Alexander Yano, Gen. Jesus Versoza,Brig. Gen Reynaldo Mapagu, Police Dir.. Edgardo Doromal, Maj. Gen. Isagani Cachuela (Commanding Officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Intelligence Service Unit based in Baguio City), and Police S/Supt. Eugene Martin.

Balao, 47, a founding member of CPA and president of the Oclupan Clan Association of Benguet, was abducted Sept. 17 by armed men suspected to be soldiers.

Consolidated reports from the CHRA revealed that initial eyewitness accounts confirmed that James was seized and forced into a vehicle by five military-looking men in civilian clothes at approximately 8:00 a.m. while walking in front of the St. Therese Church and School in Lower Tomay, La Trinidad, Benguet.

In the same documentation, witnesses also said that onlookers were told that the men taking Balao were police officers and that the procedure was normal because Balao was a drug pusher.

CHRA Spokesperson Jude Baggo said, “This lie has kept the witnesses from coming forward sooner. It is feared that other witnesses with vital information that could help surface James may not be come forward for the same reason.”

Since his disappearance, Balao’s relatives and friends have been engaged in a search that has brought them to different military camps, installations, jails and detention centers. Instead of being helpful, military and police officers have been “cold and hostile,” they said. This all the more firms up fears that James is a victim of enforced disappearance, they further said.

A growing community concern and outcry against the abduction has fed the search and campaign to surface James. Petitions, resolutions and letters of appeal from local government and non-government organizations, leaders and officials of communities around Luzon, and most especially human rights organizations here and abroad continue to be sent to concerned national government officials and military commands.

Most recent is the Oct. 10 resolution of the regional and national offices of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) “strongly condemning” the enforced disappearance of James Balao, continuing the investigation through the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) Regional office, and requesting the AFP and PNP for assistance. ??In a separate document, CHR Chairperson Leila De Lima issued a memorandum to the regional office of the CHR directing it to investigate Balao’s disappearance and to submit a report to the Office of the Chairperson, copy furnished the Legal and Investigation Office, within 15 days from completion, and to submit a report within five days upon receipt of the memorandum if there is already an ongoing investigation.??Among those who have sent statements and letters of support are a group of Filipino academicians in the US, friends in Germany, Amnesty International, the Uniting Church of Canada, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, and Mountain Province Gov. Maximo Dalog.

It has been almost a month since and weariness is taking its toll on the family; but with the growing support of friends and concerned groups and individuals, they remain hopeful as they continue to appeal for the safety and return of James, CPA said in its public appeal and statement of gratitude. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat)

Letter of Concern from Filipino Scholars in the US: On the Enforced Disappearance of James Balao

October 12, 2008

Letter of Concern from Filipino Scholars in the US: On the Enforced Disappearance of James Balao (Cordillera People’s Alliance)

We are alarmed and disturbed with the enforced disappearance of Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) member James M. Balao since September 17, 2008. His family has no information regarding his whereabouts up to this moment. We urgently call for the immediate and unconditional surfacing of James, in the spirit of upholding our basic human rights, very basic of which is the right to life and security which must not be denied to anyone.

His enforced disappearance is being attributed to his work with the legal people’s movement advocating indigenous peoples rights, human rights and social justice. Balao has reported that he was being surveilled since June and this heightened until his disappearance last week. The CPA and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) point to military intelligence agents as the perpetrators of this violation.

Since the Arroyo government implemented its Operation Plan Bantay Laya in 2001, members and leaders of legal and legitimate people’s organizations such as the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) have been targeted for neutralization by agents of the state and are unjustly labeled as communist fronts and terrorist organizations. Innocent lives have already been claimed as a result of this State policy of political and extrajudicial killings, and Balao is the second case of enforced disappearance to a CPA member or officer, since Ama Daniel Ngayaan was abducted in 1987.

We ask the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines to fully assist the family, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance in the search for James Balao.
The State policy Oplan Bantay Laya which has labelled legal progressive organizations such as the Cordillera Peoples Alliance as “sectoral fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines, National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the New Peoples Army should be immediately terminated.
We call on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to sincerely implement the recommendations of United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston – “As Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, the President must take concrete steps to put an end to those aspects of counterinsurgency operations which have led to the targeting and execution of many individuals working with civil society organizations”.

We call on the Philippine Government to observe the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and other international human rights laws and declarations such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

The search for James Balao gets more and more urgent by the minute. He must be immediately and unconditionally surfaced.

Sincerely,

RICK BONUS, Ph.D ?Associate professor

American Ethnic Studies?University of Washington

SARITA SEE, Ph.D.?Associate Professor?University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

CYNTHIA TOLENTINO, Ph.D.?Assistant Professor?Department of English?University of Oregon

RICHARD T. CHU, Ph.D.?Five College Assistant Professor?History Department?University of Massachusetts

SHARON DELMENDO, Ph.D.?Professor of English?St. John Fisher College?Rochester, NY

MARIA HWANG?Doctoral student?Department of American Civilization?Brown University, RI

LUIS H. FRANCIA?Faculty?Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program?New York University

BENITO VERGARA JR., Ph.D.?Anthropologist

DYLAN RODRIGUEZ, Ph.D.?Associate professor?Ethnic Studies?University of California, Riverside

JOI BARRIOS, Ph.D.?Writer?Lecturer for the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies?University of California Berkeley

PETER CHUA, Ph.D.?Associate Professor of Sociology?San Jose State University

FRANCISCO BENITEZ, Ph.D.?Assistant professor of Comparative Literature?University of Washington

LUCY BURNS, Ph.D.?Assistant professor, Asian American Studies?University of California Los Angeles

ANTONIO TIONGSON JR., Ph.D.?Assistant professor?American Cultural Studies?Colorado College

NERISSA S. BALCE, Ph.D.?Assistant professor?Department of Asian and Asian American Studies?State University of New York at Stony Brook

From Under This Hat: Surface James

October 5, 2008

By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO

James Balao is mestizo Japanese, like me. His eyes are just chinkier because he is also part Chinese, like my kids. He is a very much better investigative and literary writer than very many of us identified as journalists.

We, both, trace our roots to the Japanese migrant workers who came in the 1900s to build Kennon Road, the City of Baguio and the town of La Trinidad. He was abducted on September 17, twelve days ago, on his way to his parent’s house for a visit. His is the first case of enforced disappearance under this president.

This stirs my memory of my father’s stories during the 2nd world war. My father was assigned to the USAFFE engineering brigade when the war broke out. He was one of those who did not choose to change his name when the Japanese were the established enemies of (the American colonizers of) the country. His group was usually ahead of the fighting troops having to build bridges or dig trenches for mobility and defense.

When Bataan fell, he was among the last of the defending Igorot soldiers and Baguio boys who naturally sought each other for support until the death march and eventual escape from it.

He, and his death march colleagues in the Japanese-army-occupied Baguio City were wanted outlaws. They naturally joined the guerrilla forces – the people’s army for the Americans had ran or retreated to Australia.

The Kempetai (the notorious Japanese secret police) searched for them. In this hunt he painfully witnessed school mates, former playmates and relatives rat on these escapees and guerillas. In his story he described these traitors as having a bag with two holes for eyes over their heads as they went to point at the wanted outlaw. Victims were cruelly treated, “worst than dogs” by the Kempetai. He was not able to escape one of these he was tortured in their chambers (the present Bayanihan Hotel). He was just lucky he got away and headed to the mountains before they could (the Tabora park now) chop of his head.

That was an open war situation and the nationalist bravely defended his country whether he was part Japanese, Chinese, Jew, Russian American, and Igorot.

When Martial Law was declared by Marcos, many young activists were abducted, detained, tortured, summarily killed. The youngest political detainee I met was 13 years old, high school president, top of his class, son of a shipping magnate, and he even did not know why. From Baguio there were some 80 people, from Dagupan more than 150 members of then ‘de Colores’ prayer group. I also met former friends and even relatives pointed out innocent people like the traitors of old.

The Kempetai of today is no longer a foreigner but a ‘macabebe’ or a ‘magdalo’ made legit by a government directive and leashed against the lesser people of a nation, against an Andress Bonifacio. History, has documented traitors in different guises and most during or when it is a poor peoples war against the establishment. For traitors like these try very hard to legitimize themselves in the eyes of the nation. (No wonder the PR budget is so big)

Yes, Virginia, there is an on-going war in the country. It is a war against graft and corruption, big time thieves, against being cheated off your daily sustenance, against those who perpetuate poverty. A war against Martial Law again. I believe it is for this reason the people’s enemy has taken James.

I repeat the appeal to friends, relatives, the Filipino, Japanese, Chinese and Igorot communities to please help the family and clan find James.

I also add this postscript to also stress the need for unity against state terrorism:

“First they came for the communists and I did not speak out because I was not a communist; Then they came for the socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist; Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist; Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew; Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.” # (NorDis)

Support pours in to surface missing activist

October 5, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Support continue to pour in from all sectors, for the immediate surfacing of James M. Balao, an activist reported missing since September 17.


Photo by Brenda S. Dacpano/NORDIS

Declared by rights groups as a case of enforced disappearance (see side bar for related text), the Balao case is gaining even international attention as his family and friends intensify urgent search efforts.

In a proposed resolution, some Baguio City council members are united in condemning the involuntary disappearance of Balao and are committed to give any assistance to the family for the “immediate surfacing and release of Balao by his captors.” The proposal is up for deliberations during the council’s regular session Monday.

Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr., also condemning the abduction of Balao, said Thursday he would issue a directive to the city and regional Philippine National Police (PNP) offices for assistance in locating Balao immediately. He also asked the public to contact his office for any information on Balao’s whereabouts.

Police Regional Office Cordillera (PROCOR) Director Eugene Martin came out with a directive early last week to all provincial offices for any information on the case.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Leila De Lima of the Commission on Human Rights assured the family that their office would treat the case as a priority.

In an on-line petition signing initiated by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), of which Balao is a member, hundreds have already signed calling for the immediate surfacing of Balao.

“The search for James Balao gets more and more urgent by the minute. He must be immediately and unconditionally surfaced,” said the petition.

Wilma Gacayan Wilson, one of the petitioners commented, “James is a good friend of mine from college 20 plus years ago, in the University of the Philippines Baguio. James is a man of character, morals, ethics, principle. He has always stood up for the poor, the unfortunate and for those whose voice is suppressed. The Philippine government, if it truly believes in basic human rights, needs to expend all the necessary resources to ensure the safe return of James to his family at the soonest possible time.”


CONGRESS LOBBY. The Balao siblings (left) asked Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño some assistance for their brother’s enforced disappearance case. Photo by Cye Reyes/NORDIS

Meanwhile, Balao’s siblings along with the CPA and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) had a dialog Thursday with Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño who is a member of the Congressional Committee on Human Rights. He was in town for a speaking engagement.

According to Casiño, Bayan Muna would include the case of Balao in a privilege speech Monday, along with the recent disappearance of two peasant organizers in Bataan. He also consoled with the family and assured them of the party’s assistance in the search of their brother.

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance asked the CHRA to forward a case summary to New York to present it to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who was there to address the UN.

Amnesty International (AI) released an appeal to the public to send letters of concern to pressure the Philippine authorities from PGMA to the secretary of defense and the chief of police to order a prompt and thorough investigation on the Balao case and other cases of enforced disappearance and extra-judicial killing.

Meanwhile, militant organizations held a candle-light protest Wednesday and a noise barrage Friday condemning Balao’s alleged abduction.

According to CPA Chairperson Beverly Longid, Balao’s case is not an isolated incident and is part of a systematic government move against members of legitimate people’s organizations like CPA in its “counter-terrorism and anti-insurgency” campaign.

CPA members Markus Bangit and Alyce Claver were assassinated in June and July 2006, respectively. Both cases are yet to be resolved.

CPA alleged elements of the Intelligence Security Unit (ISU) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as the perpetrators of Balao’s abduction.

Before his disappearance Balao had reported that he was in heavy surveillance since June and had often observed white and blue vans tailing him.

As of press time, no government unit has confirmed nor denied the accusation.

The Balao family continues to appeal for the witnesses to come out and for the public to give any information of Balao’s whereabouts. # Cye Reyes (NorDis)

Pangilinan joins calls for surfacing of Balao

October 3, 2008

By Rimaliza Opiña

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SENATOR Francis Pangilinan backed calls of international rights groups calling for the immediate surfacing of missing activists in the country.

The statement was issued over the recent disappearance of James Balao, an activist affiliated with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA). He was declared missing since September 17.

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“Have we again reached a point in our history when international groups need to interfere for human rights to be acknowledged? What are the military and police doing? Shouldn’t they be searching for James Balao? Their lack of decisive action on his disappearance further confirms suspicions they are involved in this crime,” Pangilinan said.

The independent human rights group, Karapatan, pegs the number of killed activists and journalists at 800 and 200 cases of enforced disappearance since 2001.

The senator said he will support petitions calling for the surfacing of the missing activist.

“If we need to petition the Supreme Court to command the military to open their camps, that is what we will do,” he said.

Members of the City Council filed a proposed resolution supporting the call for Balao’s surfacing. Several militant organizations did the same. They held rallies and sponsored various forums for the purpose.