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November 20, 2008

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(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. ###

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