PUBLISHED ON April 20, 2009 AT 12:05 PM
The family, clan, colleagues, as well as friends of missing Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) member James Moy Balao held a photo exhibit and information drive on enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings at the public market of La Trinidad, Benguet on April 17, the 213th day of his disappearance.
BY ALDWIN QUITASOL
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Posted by Bulatlat
BAGUIO CITY (246 KMS NORTH OF Manila) ? The family, clan, colleagues, as well as friends of missing Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) member James Moy Balao held a photo exhibit and information drive on enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings at the public market of La Trinidad, Benguet on April 17, the 213th day of his disappearance.
Amid heavy rain, Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and CPA members and supporters distributed statements, displayed banners and delivered speeches on Balao’s abduction, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. They reiterated the call to surface James Balao.
Balao turns 48 this April 19.
During the congressional on-site hearing last March 12 at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Baguio, Jasmes’s father Arthur Balao asked House Committee on Human Rights chairman Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III (Quezon) and members Reps. Liza Maza (Gabriela Women’s Party, GWP) and Satur Ocampo (Bayan Muna, People First) to urge President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to act for the immediate surfacing and release of his son. Balao said they would like to have him on his birthday.
According to witnesses’ accounts, armed men who identified themselves as policemen announced the arrest of a “druglord”, grabbed Balao and shoved him into a white vehicle in Lower Tomay, La Trinidad on Sept. 17, 2008. Witnesses said Balao asked his abductors what he had done wrong as he was being dragged.
CHRA Secretary General Jude Baggo said that James has done nothing wrong but has only helped his fellow Filipinos at seeking remedies to the social inequities that has plagued Philippine society for so long. He added that James stood up against government policies, laws and measures that have weighed down the masses in poverty and injustice. “He has contributed well to the defense and recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights,” Baggo stated.
Organizations and advocates active at addressing social issues and promoting system change are being tagged as legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front of the Philippines-New Peoples Army (CPP-NDFP-NPA), said the CHRA.”Because of this, they are considered targets of the administration in its counter-insurgency drive Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Freedom Watch) I and II,” the CHRA added.
James’ sister, Joni Balao-Strugar, renewed their clan’s plea that her brother be surfaced at the soonest time. Strugar said her brother is a simple and honest man doing research on their clan. She said that their parents and their siblings keep hoping they will be with James on his birthday.
CHRA added that on James’s birthday and the upcoming 25th Cordillera Day, more people will signify their support for the search for him and the quest for justice.
Meanwhile, CPA Chairperson Beverly Longid said as the alliance hosts the 25th Cordillera Day in five provinces of the region namely Benguet, Mountain Province, Kalinga, Abra and Apayao on April 24, a resolution for the intensification of the Surface James Balao campaign will be proposed for signing by the delegates. Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat.com