Gathering on the eve of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights, legislators, human rights organizations and advocates
from the academe and church institutions formed a network that supports
the plight of the kin and colleagues of missing indigenous activist
In a statement, the group called MABTAD condemned
the enforced disappearance of Balao, saying that "the persistence
in our country of such form of arbitrary deprivation of life and
liberty only shows that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
is not fully realized but fully violated by the state under the
helm of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo."
"In the tradition of solidarity woven in the
historical struggle of indigenous peoples, we declare our commitment
and support to find James Moy Balao, to end enforced disappearances
in the country, and to advance human rights and fundamental freedoms
of the people," the group added.
The newly formed network derived its name from the Kankanaey and
Bontok term referring to the indigenous practice of community mobilization
and cooperation among Igorots in the Cordilleras in times of emergency.
Earlier, the Balao family and Cordillera Peoples
Alliance (CPA) have sounded the mabtad call to search and immediately
surface James Balao, an Ibaloi and Kankana-ey activist from Benguet.
Armed men suspected to be elements of state security forces abducted
James on September 17, 2008 in Lower Tomay, La Trinidad, Benguet.
"Each day that passes by without knowledge
of James is agonizing to our family. In honor of Human Rights Day,
we ask the authorities and concerned groups and citizens to help
find my brother," pleaded the desaparecidos' younger sister
Presenting MABTAD's unity statement, Bp. Deogracias
Yniguez Jr., DD, Ecumenical Bishops' Forum (EBF) Co-Chairperson,
vowed that the group will actively participate in efforts to search
James in military and police camps and other facilities; organize
various fora and other information and awareness- building activities;
conduct data gathering and monitor the case; and link with church,
civil society, media and other eminent institutions and individuals.
"James' activist life has been a shining example
of devotion to the cause and aspiration of his fellow indigenous
peoples, in their struggle for land, life and self-determination."
added PrimeBishop Ignacio Soliba, Ecumenical Bishops' Forum (EBF)
Meanwhile, Beverly Longid, CPA Chairperson lambasted
the government and security forces for conveniently denying state
responsibility over Balao's disappearance and for casting aspersion
on the integrity of CPA which Balao co-founded.
"What the government cannot deny is that Jame's
disappearance took place amid the wave of human rights violations
and brazen development aggression perpetrated against activists
and struggling peoples."
The CPA leader demanded that the government immediately
surface James and end enforced disappearances in the country.#