An Update in our Efforts
to Surface James Balao
October 3, 2008
This is to update you on our continuing efforts
for the immediate surfacing of James M. Balao. The response to our
urgent alert, call for support and missing bulletin is widespread.
It is inspiring that the support continues to pour in. Sadly, we
have not gathered new information on the whereabouts and state of
James and thus, we need to continue and even double our efforts
to locate, appeal and call for the immediate release of James from
those who keep him in their custody. Each day that passes with no
positive development, his life in the hands of his captors, is an
unimaginable torture to all of us. Each day, the family and us wait
and hope for new information yet at the same time dread that it
is of his death. Thus, your continuing support becomes more urgent
in saving the life of James.
While we continue with our efforts, we reiterate
that the enforced disappearance of James is not an isolated incident.
It is an attack on the CPA, on its leaders and members for their
assertion of indigenous peoples rights and active involvement on
economic, social, and political issues. It has taken a very critical
position and/or opposition on government policies of liberalization,
privatization, deregulation and militarization.
Let us never forget!: the killings of Ama Daniel
Ngayaan, Romy Gardo, Markus Bangit, Albert Terredano, Alyce Omengan-Claver
and many more; the continuing harassment and surveillance on our
persons and offices; and malicious tagging by the military that
we are communist terrorists, thus, enemies of the State.
These attacks including the disappearance of James
point to a well-planned, state-instigated campaign to harass, intimidate,
terrorize, and ultimately attempt to incapacitate organizations
and offices who have been involved in the broad democratic movement,
particularly on issues concerning violations of human rights and
indigenous peoples' rights. We are witnesses to a renewed and still
unfolding campaign of state terrorism.
Immediately after we posted the missing bulletin,
relatives of James and volunteers mounted posters on James' disappearance
at Fairview, Avelino where he was last seen and in public posting
areas. Two teams scoured the streets near his apartment to ask his
neighbors for any information they might provide on James' disappearance.
The family and we immediately conducted inquiries
with the camps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and
the Philippine National Police (PNP). The Balao family, Cordillera
Peoples Alliance (CPA), Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA)
and the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) visited the AFP Military
Intelligence Group (MIG) at Camp Allen, the AFP Intelligence Service
Unit (ISU) at Navy Base, Pacdal and PNP Regional Office of the Cordillera
Administrative Region (PRO-CAR) in Camp Dangwa. We made calls to
PNP Officials in Pangasinan and Cagayan to get their commitment
in our search for James.
Just this September 30, two teams of volunteers
from the CPA and CHRA accompanied the Balao family, to Abra and
Ilocos to inquire with AFP and PNP camps. The teams visited and
inquired with the following units: (a) 50th Infantry Battalion Philippine
Army (IBPA) at Guimod Norte, San Juan, Ilocos Sur (IS); (b) IS PNP
Provincial Office at Bulag, Bantay, IS and the AFP offices within
the compound; (c) PNP Ilocos Sur Regional Mobile Group (RMG) in
Bio, Tagudin, IS, (d) 503rd Brigade PA (BDE) in Sulvec, Narvacan,
IS; (e) 503rd Brigade PA headquarters in Lagangilang, Abra and the
(f) PNP Regional Police Office at San Fernando, La Union. All of
the units visited denied that they have James in their custody.
Two days after, the Balao family and their clan
together with the CPA and the CHRA, went back to Ilocos Sur upon
receiving information from reliable sources within the military
and the police that the disappearance of James was undertaken by
the Military Intelligence Group (MIG) and Intelligence Service Unit
(ISU) of Region 1. (Region 1 as an administrative region covers
the provinces of La Union, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte and Pangasinan.)
The provincial government of Ilocos Sur through Gov. Deogracias
Victor "DV" Savellano initiated a dialogue between the
family and the military. A certain Lt. Wilfredo Tambio and Sgt.
Marcelo Garcia acting under orders of Col. Roy Devesa of the 503rd
BDE, met with the family. The said military officers did not give
an outright denial that they have James in their custody or participated
in his disappearance. Provincial Board member, Atty. Robert Tudayan
also assisted the family during this second visit.
Public Information, and Protests
Aside from the inquiries with camps, we also held
information dissemination activities, three (3) press conferences,
so far (September 23, 29 and 30). The urgent action, letter of concern,
and CHRA and CPA press statements were distributed online. A petition
calling on the government to surface James is being circulated in
schools, communities etc., which is also posted online and has so
far gathered close to a thousand signatures.
Activities denouncing the enforced disappearance
have been held regularly (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) at the Malcolm
Square/People's Park since September 24. James' family, relatives,
friends, different people's organizations and institutions have
been consistently present during the activities. The number of people
who show their solidarity in these activities consistently grows.
Very recently, the ALL UP Academic Union Baguio
Chapter and the Interfaith Gathering for Truth and Accountability
have issued their statements of concern on the enforced disappearance.
Local Government Support
Baguio City Mayor Peter Rey Bautista with newly-installed
Baguio City Police Office Director (BCPO) Wilfredo Franco have stated
to the media that they will convene the Task Force Balao (TF) to
look into this case. The said TF has yet to coordinate with the
The Baguio City Council in its session on September
29 collectively and unanimously approved the following resolution
forwarded by councilors Perlita Chan-Rondez, Nicasio Palaganas,
Fred Bagbagen, Galo Weygan, Richard Carino, and Nicasio Palaganas,
and Vice-Mayor Daniel Farinas: RESOLUTION CONDEMNING THE ENFORCED
DISAPPEARANCE OF JAMES M. BALAO, MEMBER OF THE CORDILLERA PEOPLES
ALLIANCE (CPA) AND ASSISTING HIS FAMILY, THE CORDILLERA PEOPLES
ALLIANCE (CPA) AND THE CORDILLERA HUMAN RIGHTS ALLIANCE (CHRA) IN
THE IMMEDIATE SURFACING AND RELEASE OF JAMES M. BALAO BY HIS CAPTORS.
We are hoping for similar actions from other local government units.
National Lobby and Support
The family and the CPA have written the concerned
desks or committees of the following government agencies: the Commission
on Human Rights (CHR), the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples
(NCIP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine
National Police (PNP), the GRP-NDFP Joint Monitoring Committee-CARHRIHL.
In an audience with our national alliance KARAPATAN
(Alliance for Peoples Rights) on September 22, CHR Commissioner
de Lima committed to look into the case of James and put his case
as a priority for the Commission.
Through the CHRA, the family and the CPA met with
Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casino last September 25. The
partylist representative committed to bring up the case at the Committee
on Human Rights in Congress aside from assisting the family in the
search for James.
Recently, the family together with the CPA appealed
to the members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives
from the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) for assistance.
They also met with some police and military officials.
The office of Senator Francisco 'Kiko' Pangilinan
issued a press release entitled: "Kiko backs amnesty international's
call for safe return of missing indigenous rights activist; calls
on military to be transparent." This is available in the website
of the Philippine Senate. On our end, we circulated this to the
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
was likewise informed about the case and they committed to inquire
with the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) of the AFP and with the
5th ID in Gamu, Isabela.
The Amnesty International has issued its own urgent
alert on September 26, the New Zealand Human Rights Commission through
its Senior Advisor Dr. Jill Chrisp communicated that she shall raise
the concern with the Commission on Human Rights-Philippines with
whom they have a joint project with. The International Work Group
on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) based in Denmark has submitted their
Letter of Concern to the concerned government offices in the Philippines.
The United Nations Working Group on Enforced and
Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) received and immediately transmitted
the complaint filed by the family last September 26 to the Philippine
On September 30, Forum Asia submitted a Fact Sheet
on the disappearance of James Balao to the Office of the High Commissioner
on Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office in Bangkok.
The US Embassy in the Philippines is including the
case of James Balao in their Human Rights Report for the year 2008.
We also received immediate response from different
organizations through the International League of People's Struggles
(ILPS) to which the CPA is affiliated. A lot of organizations, groups,
and individuals from different countries in Europe, Asia, and America
including the Philippines and members of the CPA Friends Abroad
have also responded by signing in the Petition, sending Letters
of Concern to Philippine government agencies and circulating the
urgent alert. However, despite the foregoing extensive effort, we
have done with the family and the international support continuously
pouring in, the captors of James have not yet surfaced him. Each
day that passes with no positive development, his life in the hands
of his captors, your continuing support becomes more urgent in saving
the life of James.
We continue to hope that due to our efforts, the
captors of James shall surface him and those responsible for his
enforced disappearance made duly accountable. In behalf of the Balao
family, we are very grateful for your continued support that has
made us defiant against state fascism during these trying times.
BEVERLY L. LONGID
Cordillera Peoples Alliance
#2 P. Guevarra St, Baguio City
tel: 074 442-2115
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance
#10 Rimando Road, Baguio City
tel: 074 445-2586