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.
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
James is the
eldest son of Arthur and Jane Balao of Atok and La Trinidad, Benguet. He
was born on the April 19, 1961. #
An Update in our Efforts to Surface
October 3, 2008
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
BEVERLY L. LONGID
Cordillera Peoples Alliance
#2 P. Guevarra St, Baguio City
tel: 074 442-2115
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance
#10 Rimando Road, Baguio City
tel: 074 445-2586