On September 17, 2008, State security forces abducted James Balao in front of a church and a school in Tomay, La Trinidad.
Eight years since that day, the State continues to disown responsibility and desperately evade accountability for James’ enforced disappearance.
James was abducted because he was a member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance that has long been attacked by the State because of its assertion of people’s rights. He was among the members of the Cordillera Consultative Committee who facilitated the establishment of the CPA in June 1984, and serviced the Alliance’s needs in research and documentation, education and information dissemination, organizing and support-building during its formative years and up to the day he was enforcedly disappeared. He made invaluable contributions to elucidating the problem of national oppression, and the rights of indigenous peoples to ancestral land and to self-determination.
The State has done everything to mislead the people from the inescapable truth that the abduction was done as part of the State’s policy to quell people’s dissent against State abuses. He suffered the same violation as Jonas Burgos, Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeno, Manuel Merino, Leo Velasco, and the more than 200 desaparecidos during the term of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The abduction and enforced disappearance was part of the implementation of the National Internal Security Policy Oplan Bantay Laya that also resulted to the extrajudicial killings of more than a thousand activists.
The fact that they all remain missing to this day, and that no perpetrator has been convicted for these atrocities, are proofs of impunity in the country. They are also proofs of the State’s failure in its responsibility to protect its citizens.
During the eight years of our search for James, we have confronted contemptible and desperate lies and attempts of the State and its forces and institutions to turn the tables against those who have lost a brother, a friend, a colleague. Their statements, harassments against James’ family and members and leaders of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance continue up to now.
We continue to hold the State and its Security forces accountable and responsible. We are deeply frustrated that despite strong leads, motive, and evidence pointing to the military and police as perpetrators of this brazen violation, the investigation of the case has gone back to square one. Instead of efficiently conducting the search, the State had taken the deplorable role in the investigation, making the search and other mechanisms of redress, relief and rights protection, futile.
Despite these, we and his family remain unfazed as the search for James and for all desaparecidos is a search for justice.
We hope that as the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines prosper especially with the reaffirmation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). We hope that light and truth will be shed on the enforced disappearances and that State responsibility and accountability be exacted.
We continue with our commitment to leave no stone unturned. #
Windel Bolinget Imelda Tabiando
Chairperson Secretary General
Cordillera Peoples Alliance Cordillera Human Rights Alliance
0917 585 8876 0918 919 9007