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. ###