By KIMBERLIE OLMAYA NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY—Four years has already passed since James Moy Balao was abducted by heavily armed men a few meters away from the regional headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and has remained missing since. His family, friends and colleagues have not stopped demanding the government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines for his release and they vowed to continue the search for Balao and for justice anew.Balao just turned 51 years old last April 19. On his birthday his family, friends and colleagues together with the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) lighted 51 candles at the Baguio Cathedral grounds. They reiterated their demand for his abductors to surface him and for the state to respect human dignity, stop enforced disappearances and to break the culture of impunity.
CHRA Secretary General Jude Baggo said the lighting of candles is their form of protest and symbol of defiance to the continuing state terrorism under the present administration of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino.
He reiterated that there has been no drastic change in the state of human rights in the country under PNoy’s administration as cases of vilification, extrajudicial killings and human rights violations continue. He added that while Operation Plan Bantay Laya of the Arroyo administration has ended, the present administration’s Oplan Bayanihan is in reality continuing what OBL has been doing.
“If PNoy is really serious, he should end the culture of impunity and bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights violations,” he challenged.
The Balao siblings wrote a birthday letter to their manong (elder brother) that Joni Balao-Strugar the youngest among them read during the candle lighting activity with the hope that somehow James would get to know that they have not given up on him. She pointed out that since James’ abduction they have been celebrating his birthday on the streets as part of their continuing search for justice.
She further said that it has been very hard on her being the youngest when their parents died a few weeks apart in 2011 and with James still missing. Joni, with her other siblings Nonette and Winston hopes to find their manong and vowed not to stop demanding for his freedom and for justice.
“We remember you everyday and today, April 19, your 51st birthday we are reminding the government, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the President, the corrupt officials that until today you remain missing, that we are here on the streets again, with our statements, with our posters reminding them what the system did to you…We will not stop until you are here with us again. We will continue to remind the people of who you are and what the State has done to you. We will not stop until we find you,” the open letter read.
Dieter Schweizer of the German Filipino Friends also attended the candle lighting all the way from Germany. He shared that the Monday Demonstration Group has been including James in their protest actions against unjust labor laws and practices every Monday in Stuttgart, Germany for three years now.
Schweizer added that as part of their solidarity to the Balao family the Monday Demonstration Group also writes the Philippine government through the office of the President calling for the immediate surfacing of James. He also called for the government to punish perpetrators and to respect human dignity. # nordis.net