By KIMBERLIE OLMAYA NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Today, September 17 is the 1,097th day of James Moy Balao’s enforced disappearance and on September 21 is the 39th year anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, both events are concrete pictures of the grim state of human rights situation in the country.In all these days, the Balao family, James’s friends and colleagues did not stop searching. They exhausted every possible means in their search. They scoured almost all army camps in Northern Luzon, petitioned concerned government agencies, sought the help of the halls of justice, marched the streets in condemnation and many other various activities yet to no avail.
Last June 12, the Balao family, along with local and international organizations, appealed to the Aquino administration to take action and surface James Balao reiterating that State security forces were the ones who took James. Around 8, 000 of postcards from all over the country and abroad were sent to Malacañang since June this year. However, the present administration has yet to heed the calls to surface James and stop enforced disappearances.
Historical accounts showed that during the dark years of Martial Law, there were hundreds of victims of enforced disappearance who until today are not yet found.
Aside from disappearances is the longer list of victims of various human rights violations that include extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and detention, torture and sexual abuse.
Media reports and documentation of human rights organizations show that these rights violations continues to date. James, Jonas Burgos, Karen Empeño, Sherlyn Cadapan and over 200 more cases are solid evidence to these.
Based on Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) reports, there are eight cases of enforced disappearances in the first year of the Aquino administration. The same report recorded 48 victims of extrajudicial killings, 29 torture cases, 151 cases of illegal arrests and 3,010 victims of forced evacuation from rural villages.
According to Karapatan, the imposition of the Oplan Bayanihan, the counter insurgency program of the Aquino administration, as a peace and development policy only fueled the rampant violations of human rights similar to the darkest years of martial rule.
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) Secretary General Jude Baggo said deployment of troops called Peace and development Teams in the interiors of the Cordillera under the Oplan Bayanihan only continued the rights violations committed by troops deployed under the Oplan Bantay Laya I and II.
He added that the troops continue to endanger and disrupt the lives of indigenous communities in the region by occupying barangay halls, day care centers and even the homes of community folk.
Baggo also highlighted that the troops also continue to vilify progressive and legitimate peoples organizations using the same materials and schemes used under the Oplan Bantay Laya of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration.
It can be recalled that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) came up with a power point presentation called “Knowing Your Enemy” where legitimate organizations were labeled as front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)-New People’s Army (NPA).
Baggo also reiterated that the Aquino administration despite strong pronouncements of upholding human rights failed to break the culture of impunity. He stressed that despite all the cases filed no perpetrator has been punished. He further explained that human rights violations continue because perpetrators are not brought to justice.
Amid the sorry state of human rights in the country, Baggo encouraged everyone to assert and defend their rights and to continue seeking justice for all the victims. “Facism and violence will never prevail over the truth,” Baggo pointed out in Iloco.In commemoration of these two events, CHRA together with people’s organizations held a whole day program at People’s Park here.
The activity included the regional launching of a video documentary entitled “Rimbaw” (To Overcome), which chronicles the struggles of families in Northern Luzon subjected to human rights violations, through the implementation of Operation Plans Bantay Laya I and II and the present Oplan Bayanihan.
“The documentary is also a narrative of courage mustered by these families and their communities in the assertion of their human rights,” the CHRA statement said.
The painting of a mural was also done simultaneously with the main program in the morning and poetry reading in the afternoon, participated by various writers and writers’ groups in Baguio City. # nordis.net