BALAO FAMILY LETTER
SENT TO THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
22 September 2008
Hon. Leila De Lima
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Commonwealth Ave. Diliman,
Dear Honorable Leila De Lima:
James had been missing since Sept. 17, 2008. Today
is the fifth day of his unexplained disappearance - the fifth agonizing
day of waiting for our family. We are a family gripped with absolute
fear. Each passing moment without knowledge of our James' whereabouts
makes us more hopeless.
James is the eldest of our four children and was born in April 10,
1961. He has remained single into his late 40's as a result of his
dedication to his work. For James, his service to the people has
always come first. But regardless of his status, he has always been
a family man. His desire to serve extended as well to his clan and
James has always been a pillar upholding our family.
In 1981, James, graduated with a Bachelor of Science
in Psychology from the University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio.
In college, he was the Editor-in-Chief of Outcrop, the UP Baguio
campus newspaper. After graduation he worked as a research staff
for the Cordillera Studies Group (CSG), based in Easter School (1981-1984),
then as a staff of Pons Benagen, a member of the 1986 Constitutional
Commission. James was especially involved in the drafting of the
provisions on indigenous peoples rights in the 1986 Constitution.
James was one of the founding members of the Cordillera
Peoples Alliance (CPA) in June of 1984. Prior to that, James had
been working as a research staff of the Cordillera Resource Center
(CRC). An expert in research, James subsequently worked as member
of the CPA's Research and Education Commission as a researcher and
trainer until 1993. Between 1994 and 1997 he was based in Ifugao,
first with the Ifugao Research and Development Center and later
with the Ifugao Leaders Forum. He has frequently extended his research
and training skills to CPA member organizations in other provinces.
James has significantly contributed to the CPA's research in particular
on the issues of tribal war, agricultural liberalization and ancestral
land. As an active member of the CPA, James makes it a point to
attend the CPA's Annual Cordillera Day celebration such as in Tocucan,
Mt. Province (2004) and Baguio City (2007). At present, he is the
president of the Oclupan Clan Association.
In his work with the clan association James has
played an even more important role in our family. He was tasked
with looking into the registration and documentation of clan properties.
He has also served as a mediator in clan and tribal conflicts. His
selfless willingness to use his education and skills in the service
of his family and his people has greatly contributed to the Cordillera's
collectivity and connectivity.
James's sudden absence is extremely alarming. Starting the first
week of June this year, James and the rest of our family have been
under regular surveillance by unidentified people. Vehicles with
heavily tinted windows have been regularly seen tailing him and
us from our residence to wherever we went during the day. We believe
that his years with the legal progressive people's movement has
made James the target of state terrorism.
We absolutely fear for his safety and for his life.
We humbly ask your attention, and request your services.
Your assistance in immediately locating James is vital to his survival.
If he is still in captivity, we believe that his captors will release
him, knowing that you have interceded in this delicate situation.
If he is being mistreated, we hope that his captors will cease their
actions and spare him anymore harm, knowing that the Commission
on Human Rights is behind us.
Please help us find James. We, Arthur and Jane,
parents of James, Nonette his younger sister, Winston his brother,
and Joni the youngest of the family, will exhaust all efforts and
resources to locate our James. Together with his colleagues, all
the people he has helped and supported in his life, all the clans
and tribes he has been a part of we are calling on you to join our
search. We will all be lost unless James is found. We fear that
the more time we spend searching the less time he will have. We
will not cease until we find our James.
We will not lose hope or faith. Please help us find
With utmost respect,
The Balao Family
and the people of the Cordillera