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September 24, 2008

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22 September 2008

Hon. Leila De Lima
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Commonwealth Ave. Diliman,
Quezon City

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 James Balao.

With utmost respect,

The Balao Family
and the people of the Cordillera



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