17 September 2008. Tomay, near Camp Dangwa … the usual morning routine of mothers and their children walking to the elementary school, early bread delivery truck parks in front of Saymore’s store. The quiet day was disturbed when the people witnessed the terrible abduction of James. Five men showed their inhumane cruelty to him — a kind and quite soul of a man. These evil men sneered and threatened the people with their guns, locked his jaw and shoved him in a white SUV. All he could say was, “ask these men, what have I done wrong.”
James was lost to us on this day. Maybe you remember. Yes, he is the same person still missing. James Balao, our brother — the same person abducted by the military and the same man we, his family and closest friends, seek to this day. Five long years of worry, unsettling emotions and feelings, anger and anguish, frustration, being threatened ourselves for trying to find him… name it…we have gone through it.
Five long years passed, to those who have him, please, have a heart and let him come back home to us. If you killed him, like what our late father said, give us back his bones so that we can give him a proper burial
James was abducted under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her brutal internal security policy Oplan Bantay Laya. She was heartless. Hundreds went missing like James and more than a thousand people were killed and tortured. Enemies of the State subjected to the terror of the policy are teachers, doctors, nurses, journalists, educators, agriculturists, social workers, even students, farmers, indigenous peoples – honorable men and women who have the will to serve their fellow men. These are the people who tirelessly help the people safeguard their land and rights.
It is painful to see that this violation continues to this day with no desaparecido reunited with his or her family and that to this day, the present President allows enforced disappearances under his Operation Plan Bayanihan.
Together with our family, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, Desaparecidos, various local and international groups, we continue our search for James Balao and the campaign to end enforced disappearances.
We want our brother back home. We need him and we miss him. His friends need him too and so do the people whom he had served.
We will not stop until we find him.
For justice and freedom,
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance
17 September 2013
We continue to search for James Balao and for justice
James Balao, founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance was abducted in Tomay, La Trinidad last September 17, 2008. State security forces took him as he was trying to get home. He remains a desaparecido up to this day.
His enforced disappearance was part of the implementation of the national internal security policy Oplan Bantay Laya (Freedomwatch) under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s regime. He is among the more than 200 men and women – parents, sons and daughters – taken away from their families and work, denied their rights, and denied the people knowledge and access on their welfare and whereabouts. The reason for this is that they are critical of the government’s policies that contradict human rights and the people’s dignity. The unjust cost of their political dissent is the denial of their rights.
Before James was silenced by his abductors, James pleaded to the onlookers, “Saludsuden yo man dagitoy nu ania ti basol ko? (Please ask them what I have done wrong?). James did nothing wrong but be with the people in the assertion of their human rights and dignity. Nobody should be subjected to this grave violation and placed outside the protection of human rights and the law.
It has been five long painful years of searching for James. Misinformation about his whereabouts to deliberately derail the search has compounded the level of anxiety from not knowing where he is and in what state he is. His parents both died in 2010 without seeing him. His family and colleagues have been subjected to surveillance, threats and harassments in the search for him.
Inspite of the difficulties, the persistence of the Balao family, his friends, colleagues and human rights groups and the support from various local, national and international groups has been unwavering. It is a source of strength.
The task remains. The search must continue.
Last April, Judge Jennifer Humiding of the Benguet Regional Trial Court Branch 63 issued a report to the Supreme Court regarding the investigation of the case of James Balao. The report is part of the continuing case regarding the Petition for the Writ of Amparo for James filed in 2008. Judge Humiding recommended for the following:
- “The incumbent chief of staff of the AFP and the director general of the Philippine National Police to directly and personally monitor the efforts of the SITFG-Balao until its conclusion.”
- The conduct of parallel investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Commission on Human Rights. These parallel investigations are expected to provide a system of check and balance to the investigation being conducted by the AFP and PNP.
- “All the concerned officers and authorities shall make available all documents they have on JAMES BALAO and make accessible all the officers who had anything to do with the abduction, or who had knowledge of the abduction; as well as to be granted access to camps and safehouses that could give leads to the whereabouts of JAMES BALAO.”
- Regular reports regarding the investigation should be submitted to the Supreme Court.
This report comes from findings that not enough was done by the State to locate James – a clear portrayal of impunity in this country.
We vow to persist in the campaign and the search. If he is alive, we hope that he will receive news that we continue the search for him. This will provide him strength and hope wherever he is being kept or detained. If he is not, his family has every right to have him and to closure. Only our collective efforts will lead us to him and to justice.
SURFACE JAMES BALAO!
STOP ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES!
Atty. Jennifer Asuncion
Mobile number: 09175553118
Mobile number: 09189199007