CORDILLERA HUMAN RIGHTS
#55 Ferguson Road, Baguio City 2600
Statement on the Occasion of the International Day for the Disappeared
August 30, 2008
SURFACE JAMES BALAO AND OTHER DESAPARECIDOS!
We have not lost track of the days since James Moy Balao was abducted by
five armed State security agents last September 17, 2008 in Lower Tomay,
La Trinidad. It has been 348 days of searching, waiting and demanding for
the State to surface him.
We had hopes that the government shall assist us to search and surface
James with the Benguet Regional Trial Court’s issuance of the Writ of
Amparo for him, which ordered the government to respect James Balao’s
constitutional rights, to cease from inflicting harm on him and to release
him. However, the government ignored this and worse, its legal minions
even appealed to deny the writ that simply should provide protection for
We have exhausted all means to find him and we continue to seek for ways
to search for him.
Today, there is still no trace of James!
James’ name belongs to the long list of names of the others too whom the
State have tried to silence through enforced disappearance under the
policy Operation Plan Bantay Laya. Among those who remain missing to this
day are Jonas Burgos, Luisa Posa-Dominado, Nilo Arado, Karen Empeno,
Sherlyn Cadapan, Romulos Robinos, Gloria Soco, Prudencio Calubid, Celina
Palma and Leo Velasco. There are about 200 families ceaselessly searching
for their loved ones until they are found.
Each day of their absence is agonizing for parents and children searching
for their sons and daughters or parents who have been stolen from them.
The testimonies of those who escaped, like Raymond Manalo or those who
were found or surfaced, like Melissa Roxas tell of what the State security
forces subject the victims of enforced disappearance to. Their accounts
describe the dastardly inhumane the physical and mental torture they went
through. Raymund Manalo recounted that while he and his brother were being
forced to admit that they were members of the New People’s Army, they were
flogged with chains and wood until their bodies gravely weakened. That
they were kept in a dingy cell with their hands and feet tied, with no
food. That they were pissed on and beated repeatedly. That he almost died
when they poured gasoline over him and attempted to burn him alive.
Melissa Roxas in her affidavit described how her captors deprived her of
sleep, food, and how they repeatedly banged her head and choked her while
she was being interrogated by a certain ‘Tatay’. The exhumation that
yielded the charred bones of Manuel Merino in an abandoned military camp
in Limay, Bataan is also a dreadful possibility in the range of what could
have happened to those who were enforcedly disappeared.
Today, August 30, on the occasion of the International Day for the
Disappeared, we strongly remind the public of this reality that the GMA
regime shamelessly continues to deny and perpetrate. We all should
continue to exact State accountability for the Desaparecidos.
Enforced disappearances have taken place in the government’s scheme to
neutralize all political dissent even those allowed within the very
limited democratic space defined by the State. Under Operation Plan Bantay
Laya, the GMA regime labels legal progressive people’s organizations like
the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), its members and network as sectoral
fronts of the revolutionary organizations Communist Party of the
Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic
Front of the Philippines (NDFP). This has classified the members and
leaders of these organizations as enemies of the State and legitimized the
political persecution and attack against the members and leaders of these
In the implementation of this policy, the government has wrongly and
systematically denied the basic rights to life, liberty and security of
the people, thus, fueling the revolution that it seeks to quell. The
government further tries to justify the abductions or killings of victims
by stating their involvement and tagging them as terrorists. They should
remember that one’s human rights are not lesser because of his or her
The enforced disappearances executed also derail the peace process between
parties involved in the armed conflict to become substantive. The enforced
disappearances of the NDFP consultants to the peace process directly go
against the confidence building measures the Government of the Republic of
the Philippines (GRP) should be doing if it were sincere on walking the
road to peace. These are blatant violations of international humanitarian
laws and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and
International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
Today, we call on the public to join us in the reiteration of our demand
to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to surface James and all victims of
enforced disappearances. As the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of
the Philippines,she is accountable for the enforced disappearance of James
and the other victims with the implementation of her state security
We call on the government to abandon Oplan Bantay Laya. It should cease
from classifying legal progressive people’s organizations as sectoral
fronts of revolutionary organizations. It should stop violating human
We demand justice for victims of enforced disappearances and all human
rights violations. Perpetrators - abductors, captors and the masterminds,
should be brought to the bars of justice and should be meted out with
We have not lost track of the days since James went missing. We will not
lose hope and lose track in searching for the path towards finding him and
other victims of enforced disappearances and claiming justice for them.
STOP ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES!
HOLD THE ARROYO REGIME ACCOUNTABLE FOR ITS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS!