Advocate’s Overview: Madrid’s Amnesty International


A friend from Spain, Angeles Aguayos, visited us recently in the city. A human rights worker of Madrid’s Amnesty International, her main business here was to talk with James Balao’s kin, who was abducted by alleged members of the Philippine National Police on September 17, 2008 in Tomay, La Trinidad. The crime site was few meters from PNP’s regional center, Camp Dangwa. While she joined an International Fact-Finding Mission on human rights violations in the country, she had just arrived from the Compostela Valley, and met with the Balao kin the next day for their part in the wider campaign to surface James Balao.

Amnesty International of Madrid had adopted as a part of their campaigns the call to surface James Balao. I witnessed one of their activities to this campaign when I visited their office last year in central Madrid; their office was a neighbor of Spain’s dominant political party. One of their most admired means used in their campaign was when they made postcards calling for the surface of Balao. After their information drive, people signed the postcards and had these sent to the office of the Philippine President Noynoy Aquino.

The people of Madrid are very supportive of human rights-based issues. Angeles and the staff of Amnesty shared how they reached the professionals, students, and other groups. These various sectors supported their campaign particularly after they explained how the case moved sooo (emphasis added) slow in the quest for justice to Balao.

A few months after his (James’) abduction, the court in Benguet had granted a writ of Amparo ordering the military to surface Balao. But Balao remains a disappeared up to now. Last year, a colleague of Angeles, Ivan Forero also visited the Balao kins. They agreed to the strengthening of the campaign to surface James. His words still reverberates in me: “Our meeting is very productive as we agreed on how to further solidify the campaign to surface James.”

Like Forero, the visit by Angeles made them realize concretely the depth and urgency of the human rights situation in the Philippines. They had directly experienced and seen the agony of the families of the victims of human rights violations. Forero and Angeles lived in a country where human rights violations can be appreciated well by immersing with the victims kin. And their actions as human rights defenders is laudable and greatly appreciated.

To make the serious concern and fired up emotions of the company after the meetings and discussions, Ignas and I accompanied Angeles thru the most frequented tourist sites in the city. Ignas and I also wanted her to see and remember the lighter side of Baguio.

We passed by the Wright Park where the horse-riding is enjoyed by visitors, we explained. As we wanted her to also see the political situation in Baguio, we dropped and had a walk at the Mansion House grounds. Explaining that it is the Malacanang of the North, she took pictures with us, all smiley. She bought souvenirs in the various stalls in Mines View as additional mementos. She too bought pasalubong at the Good Shepherd to complete her day. And solidarity ties between her group and my people is once again warmed and strengthened. #


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