Surface James Balao campaign

reaches Congress and the United Nations

 

Baguio City

 

November 27, 2009

 

 

   
   

INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY. Friends in Stuttgart, Germany continue to help raise concern over the James' enforced disappearance through public activities issuance of statements.

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Photos courtesy of Cordillera Peoples Alliance

http://www.cpaphils.org

           
           

 

BAYAN AND KARAPATAN UPDATE UNITED NATIONS BODY ON CASE OF JAMES MOY BALAO

(GENEVA) The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and the human rights group Karapatan met with representatives of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) under the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights last November 18 to follow up on the case of missing activist James Balao. Balao is a founding member of the Cordillera People's Alliance, the regional chapter of Bayan in the Cordillera region.

Balao has been missing since September 17 this year. He was believed to be abducted by elements of the military in Lower Tomay, Benguet province.

Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. and Karapatan volunteer Donnie Mapanao met with WGEID secretary Giovanna Zucchelli and Associate Human Rights Officer Claudia de la Fuente at the Palais Wilson in Geneva. They Filipino delegation gave an update on the case of Balao, including the writ of amparo pending before the Baguio Regional Trial Court.

"We told the representatives of the WGEID that there has been no significant change in the repressive atmosphere in the Philippines and that many of the recommendations of UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston have not been implemented by the Arroyo government," Reyes said.
 

Reyes said that the abduction of Balao occurs in the context of the continuing persecution of legal activists labeled as "communist fronts" by the Arroyo government. This includes the legal offensives against 72 Southern Tagalog activists on fabricated murder charges, as well as the recent incidents of extrajudicial killings in Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte.

For their part, the working group is still awaiting a formal response from the Philippine government on a request for a country visit by the WGEID. The working group request dates as far back as 2006, even before the visit of Alston in 2007.

"The Arroyo government should allow the WGEID to formally investigate the situation of enforced disappearances in the Philippines. The regime's continued refusal to do so only betrays guilt on the part of the government. The regime would rather cover up its terrible human rights record than allow UN bodies to uncover the truth," Reyes said.

The WGEID will meet again in March next year as it prepares its report on cases worldwide. Bayan and Karapatan requested that the case of Balao as well as other known desaparecidos such as Jonas Burgos, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno and Philip Limjoco be also taken up in the upcoming meetings. ###

SURFACE JAMES BALAO CAMAPIGN REACHES CONGRESS AND THE UNITED NATIONS. BAYAN National Secretary General Renato Reyes discussing James Balao's Case to Associate Human Rights Officer Claudia dela Fuente and WGEID Secretary Giovanna Zucchelli (left). Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, Nonette Balao (James' sister) and CPA Chairperson Beverly Longid filed in Congress a resolution for congressional probe on James' disappearance last Nov. 17 (right)

           

 

RESOLUTION CONDEMNING THE ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE OF JAMES M. BALAO, AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’S AND HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE OF THE CORDILLERAS IN THE IMMEDIATE SURFACING AND RELEASE OF JAMES M. BALAO BY HIS CAPTORS

WHEREAS, on September 17, 2008 enforced disappearance of Indigenous People’s and Human Rights advocate, James M. Balao of the Cordilleras is not an isolated case for the Cordilleras, in particular, and of the whole country, in general;
 

WHEREAS, the spectre of the continuing enforced disappearances in the country whose victims are known legal political activists, mass organization leaders, remains unsolved, is very alarming;
 

WHEREAS, the pattern of the enforced disappearances in the country and of James M. Balao is in consonance with the state’s policy in the counter-insurgency campaign, popularly known as Oplan Bantay Laya I-II, patterened after the CIA Operation Phoenix in the Vietnam War that dwells on labelling legal mass organizations as “communist sectoral fronts”;
 

WHEREAS, this dreaded Oplan Laya I & II since its implementation in 2001 had wrought havoc, instill fear among the ranks of the legal democratic mass movement in the country including the church sector, with twenty (20) UCCP Church Workers and lay people were brutally victimized.
 

WHEREAS, the enforced disappearance of James M. Balao is a clear violation to various agreements and statutes that the Philippine government had entered into such as the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People’s (UNDRIP);
 

WHEREAS, the enforced disappearance of James M. Balao is a clear manifestation of the insincerity of the Arroyo government to comply with the recommendation of UN Special Rapporteur, Philip Alston, enjoining the government to, “TAKE CONCRETE STEPS TO PUT AN END TO THOSE ASPECTS OF COUNTER INSURGENCY OPERATIONS WHICH HAVE LED TO THE TARGETING AND EXECUTION OF MANY INDIVIDUALS WORKING WITH CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS.”;
WHEREAS, in keeping with Article II, Section 11 of the UCCP Constitution to wit, “In accordance with the biblical understanding that all persons are created in the image of God, the Church affirms and upholds the inviolability of the rights of persons as reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other agreements on human rights, the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights and on civil and political rights, the 1984 Convention against Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and those that relate specifically to refugees, women, youth, children, minority groups and other persons who cannot safeguard their own rights.
 

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, AS IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED, that the 11th National Council condemns to the strongest possible terms the enforced disappearances of James M. Balao and other victims of Human Rights violation under the Arroyo Administration.
RESOLVED FURTHER, that copies of this resolution be circulated to all local churches of the UCCP.

The Resolution Committee
REV. HOMAR RUBERT R. DISTAJO    REV. PIO MERCADO III
REV. LEMUEL SALEN                        MR. GERSON APURA

REV. SANNY PATRICIO

 

 

November 17, 2008
 

61st Day: Our Search Continues
 

On the 61st day of James Balao’s enforced disappearance, we continue to hope that he is alive. We continue to search for him and we strongly reiterate our demand that he be surfaced.
 

We mark this day with further resolve, hope and vigilance to search for James even if the search has been torturously difficult, and continue to appeal to all our fellow Igorots to help and assist in to save James' life.
The search has been doubly hard because in our search for James, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have released statements on their theories in an attempt to divert the accountability of the State on James’ disappearance. They have questioned James’ identity and have even placed James’ clan and his colleagues in the Cordillera Peoples Alliance as suspects in the enforced disappearance.
We condemn this attempt at a whitewash and find it inexcusable and irresponsible.
 

Annexed to the Petition for the Writ of Amparo is James’ journal that detailed his being surveilled by state security agents/forces (AFP and PNP). The notes date from April 29– September 1, 2008. In this journal, he wrote the details of the vehicles surveilling him, the time and dates when he was followed. The patterns of surveillance described in his journal are patterned in the operations to neutralize members and leaders of progressive people’s organizations under Operation Plan Bantay Laya. James noted this and feared not only for his life and security but for his family’s and colleagues’ as well. The journal proves the State’s hand in James’ abduction and enforced disappearance.
 

The lies being thrown in now by the AFP and PNP that the clan and his colleagues are responsible for his enforced disappearance are the same accusations they made in the other cases of enforced disappearances and the more than 900 cases of extrajudicial killings. Their statements have been highly criticized by the United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston in his report saying that “The military’s insistence that the “purge theory” is correct can only be viewed as a cynical attempt to displace responsibility.”

In the 61st day of James’ enforced disappearance, we continue to demand accountability from the State on the circumstances of James’ enforced disappearance and his whereabouts. We continue to demand the right to thoroughly search their camps and even their safehouses. We demand from the Arroyo government to surface him immediately and bring him back to his family and to us. We continue to appeal to our fellow Igorots in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippines National Police, isakit tayo ni James, isakit tayo ti kabsat tayo nga Igorot
 

We call on all Cordillerans and human rights and peace advocates to help us in relentlessly searching for James. The search for him and the other victims of enforced disappearances is a search for justice. Mabtad tako amin!
 

CORDILLERA HUMAN RIGHTS ALLIANCE
CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE

 

Download:

House Resolution No. 869 on the enforced disappearance of James Balao on Sept. 17, 2008

 

           
           

Cordillera Human Rights Alliance
#10 Rimando Road, Baguio City 2600
Email: chra@cpaphils.org
Telefax: 074-445 2586


Balao Family Files for Resolution of Amparo Case

Lawyers of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) representing the Balao family and the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) in the petition for the Writ of Amparo for James Balao filed a Manifestation and Motion to Submit the Case for Resolution. Atty. Jennifer Asuncion who is also a member of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) explained that the motion was filed, “…because the Writ of Amparo is summary in nature. We want to get through this process quickly because the the life, liberty and security of James Balao is a very urgent matter.” The motion states that the Balao family and the CPA have rested their case and have agreed to accept the witnesses affidavits of the respondents as their testimony thus, waving their right to cross examine the respondents' witnesses. The motion requests that Judge Galacgac of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 63 cancel the hearing on November 27 and come out with a resolution on the petition.

During the last hearing, the Balao family, CPA and CHRA were heavily disappointed by the delay in the case forced at the last hearing by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG). With the motion filed last November 13, they now wait for the court’s decision.

James Moy Balao, a founding member of the Cordillera People's Alliance (CPA) and the President of the Oclupan Clan Association was the victim of an enforced disappearance perpetrated by elements of the state security forces on September 17, 2008 in Lower Tomay, Benguet. On October 8 the Balao family and Beverly Longid, the Chairperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), filed a Petition for the Writ of Amparo, praying for the court to, “(a) issue a Writ of Amparo ordering the respondents to disclose where James Balao is detained or confined, (b) to release James Balao considering his unlawful detention and (c) to cease and desist from further inflicting harm upon his person.” It was hoped that the Writ of Amparo, a special legal measure created by Chief Justice Puno last year to assist in cases where a person's life, liberty and security are in immediate risk, would finally force James Balao's abductors to surface him.

On October 30, during the second hearing on the Writ of Amparo, the Petitioners presented the last of their witnesses and rested their case. The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), representing all the 13 respondents, including President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the highest ranking officials of the PNP and AFP, seemingly unconcerned with the urgency of the case, requested a third hearing in order to present the witnesses of the Respondents. The third hearing was scheduled for November 27, forcing the Balao family to wait another month for the proceedings to continue. Jude Baggo, Secretary General of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), waiting outside the court with different organization reacted to the situation saying, “James has already been missing for almost two months, and now his family has to wait until the end of November? The OSG knows that the rules for the Writ of Amparo state that the hearings should be summary. They continue to delay the case and deny the Balaos and us access to this important legal remedy.”
 

If the Writ of Amparo is granted it will allow the Balao family access to Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) camps and other specified places in their search for James Moy Balao. Since the abduction the Balao family has attempted to search camps in the Cordillera Administrative Region, Region 1 and the National Capital Region (NCR). On October 28 the Chairperson of the National
◄◄◄
 

SECOND HEARING. The Second Hearing on the Writ of Amparo last October 30. The process is rather slow and disappointing, but we will pursue this and continue to engage in efforts to search for James.

     

 

 Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Leila de Lima, issued a mission order to her staff to aid the Balao family in their camp searches, facilitating better access. However, even when they are accompanied by CHR staff the Balao family's access to PNP and AFP camps has continued to be restricted. Until they receive a resolution on the Writ of Amparo the Balao family plans to continue searching camps in Central Luzon and around the NCR, maximizing the CHR mission order, despite its limitations.#

For reference:

Jude Baggo
Secretary General
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance
 

           

 

KIN OF MISSING IGOROT ACTIVIST TAKES MABTAD! CALL TO CONGRESS
 

In Cordillera, a "mabtad" is declared in times of emergency, such as when a tribe member disappears, to prompt community mobilization. The family of missing Igorot activist James Balao today echoed the indigenous call in the House of Representatives as militant lawmakers filed a resolution seeking a congressional probe into the disappearance.

 

"Each passing moment without knowledge of our James' whereabouts is agonizing. Please help us find him," lamented the desaparecidos' younger sister Nonette Balao, who was accompanied to the Batasan Complex by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Manila-based indigenous group TAKDER, and human rights groups Desaparecidos and Indigenous Peoples' Rights Monitor.

 

In a letter to legislators, Balao's seventy seven year-old father pleaded Congress "to give more pressure to surface my son soonest so we, as a family, will all be together this coming Christmas."

 

The progressive party list bloc in the House of Representatives composed of lawmakers from Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women's Party and Anakpawis welcomed Balao's family and colleagues, expressing solidarity with them in their unremitting quest for justice.

 

House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo and the other progressive lawmakers had earlier filed the Anti-Enforced Disappearance and Anti-Torture Bills.

 

 

Meanwhile, Cordillera Peoples Alliance Chairperson Beverly Longid urged Cordillera lawmakers to support the resolution filed by the progressive bloc.

 

"We call upon our kakailian (villagemates) in Congress to support efforts to immediately surface our Ibaloi and Kankana-ey brother. Isakit ti kailyan (defend, protect and empathize with your fellow Igorots)."

 

The Cordillera solons are Congressmen Manuel Agyao (Kalinga and Mountain Province), Elias Bulut (Apayao), Solomon Chungalao (Ifugao), Samuel Dangwa (Benguet), Cecilia Seares-Luna (Abra) and Mauricio Domogan (Baguio City).

 

"President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has Igorot blood on her hands. Under her regime, many of our kakailian have been martyred while defending their ancestral land and self-determination. Help save Jame's life from the punitive handiwork of state terrorism and national oppression," added Longid.

 

Balao, a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and President of the Oclupan Clan Association of Benguet was abducted by armed men suspected to be elements of state security forces on September 17, 2008 in Lower Tomay, Benguet.

 

He is the first documented indigenous victim of enforced disappearance under the Arroyo administration according to the Indigenous Peoples Rights Monitor. The human rights watchdog KARAPATAN has documented about two hundred cases of enforced disappearances in the country since 2001. #

 

           

 

International Day of Action to Surface James Moy Balao on November 28, 2008.

 

Dear Friends,
 
As we further the search for our missing colleague, Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) founding member  and indigenous leader James Moy Balao, the CPA, along with the Balao family and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), again appeal for your support by joining us in an International Day of Action to Surface James Moy Balao on November 28, 2008.
 
This day marks the 72nd day of James’ disappearance while November 29 is the International Day of Women Human Rights Defenders. As advocates and defenders of human rights, let us take action on the said dates by paying tribute to human rights defenders around the world, and seek justice for the victims of human rights violations and enforced disappearances such as James Balao.
 
The International Day of Action involves primarily the simultaneous sending of letters of concern and/or condemnation from different countries to the offices of the Philippine President, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
 
Thus, we urge groups and individuals to send letters to the said concerned government officials of the Philippines, the names and contact details are provided below. Attached is a draft letter, which you may send.
 
We also encourage friends and partners to hold activities in significant places such as Philippine embassies in countries where they are. Let us work under the theme “Uphold human rights! Fight for peace and justice. Stop enforced disappearances in the Philippines!”
 
Through this, we are hoping that the Philippine President, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and other concerned government agencies will immediately respond to our call and immediately surface James. 
 

 
 

 

Kindly inform the CPA (cpa@cpaphils. org) and CHRA (chra@cpaphils. org) of your action in relation to this.
 
Thank you for your continued support.
 
Sincerely,
(SGD) Beverly Longid
Chairperson
Email:
sakongan@gmail. com
 

Kindly send communications to the following:
 
H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace,JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
E-mail: corres@op.gov. ph / erermita@pop. gov.ph
Fax: +63 2742 1641 or +63 2929 3968
 
DEPUTY DIRECTOR GENERAL JESUS A. VERZOSA
Chief, Philippine National Police
Camp General Rafael Crame
Quezon City, Philippines
Fax: +63 2726 4361 / +63 2726 4366 / +63 2726 4329
 
Gen. Alexander B. Yano
Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines
Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo
Quezon City, Philippines
Fax: +63 2892 1693

           

 

 
 

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