BAGUIO CITY — The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) received information from a “reliable and credible” source saying that missing activist James Balao is alive and is detained in one of the detention facilities of state security forces.
According to Beverly Longid, CPA chairperson, the information they received Thursday came from a “very reliable and credible” informant who is among the ranks of state security forces.
Longid also said CPA is still trying to get more information on the exact location of the said detention cell to identify the priority areas as far as inspection their group and the Balao family would conduct.
“Now that we know James is alive and in the custody of the state security forces, there is an urgency in the granting of the writ of amparo to allow the family and CPA to thoroughly inspect military and police camps including safe houses that we could possibly identify,” said Longid.
Longid also said it took CPA some time to verify the nature of the tip it received and still could not disclose the particular unit involved nor could they divulge the identity of their informant.
“While we think that James’ disappearance is a collaboration of various state security forces, at this point we cannot identify the exact unit involved, however we believe the surveillance of James before he was abducted was conducted by the Intelligence Service Unit (ISU) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and this is specifically connected to the Philippine army,” said Longid.
Despite the good news, the Balao family and the CPA iterated their appeal to the public for their continuous support and assistance for the surfacing of James.
“Time is of the essence now to save his life,” said Longid.
Meanwhile, Longid junked the theories of the Task Force Balao of the Philippine National Police (PNP) that Balao’s disappearance was either a result of a dispute among the Balao-Oclupan clan members or the own doing of the CPA.
“This is not only ridiculous but a clear attempt on the part of the government to divert leads that they have on the real perpetrators and to blur the motives behind James’ disappearance,” Longid said adding this case is not an isolated incident because CPA and its members have been targeted by attacks and harassment by government agents.
The writ of amparo case respondents represented by Atty. Gerik Paderanga of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) did not file a response to the allegations, which is required for any case. However, Galacgac allowed the hearing to push through Thursday, and even allowed Paderanga to cross-examine the witness.
According to Atty. Cheryl Daytec-Yangot, one of Balao’s legal counsels, the respondents’ lawyer had many not-so-smart questions, which she considers along with the rest of the legal team handling the Balao case as a delaying tactic.
According to Longid, there was even an attempt by the defense team to dismiss the case due to technicalities but when they failed, they asked for an extension and are going for delaying tactics.
“The solicitor general misses the point of the objective of the writ of amparo in helping victims of human rights violations. It is a petition to give protection to the victims and is not a criminal case,” concluded Longid.
The hearing was adjourned until the end of the month to give time for the respondents to file a response.
Show of support
Meanwhile, Arthur Balao, James’ father said the family appreciated supporters from different groups who were present during the first hearing of the writ of amparo suit Thursday.
Clad in white T-shirts and clutching tarpaulins with calls to surface James Balao, groups and individuals patiently waited outside the Benguet Regional Trial Court (RTC) while the case was being heard at the sala of Judge Benigno Galacgac.
Waiting supporters though, got furious when three unidentified men alleged to be secret agents of the AFP or PNP, were surreptitiously taking pictures of them.
Windel Bolinget of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and Daytec-Yangot confronted one of the men while the two others sneaked out with the camera.
The said man who did not give his name just said, “Sa kampo na lang tayo mag-kita,” (Let us just see each other at the camp).
Hearing the word “kampo,” referring to a military or police camp, convinced the CPA leadership that this man and his companions are military or police undercover agents.
According to Longid the CPA leadership takes this response as a direct threat to its officers and members. She said this had proven the military involvement in the abduction and killing of activists. # Cye Reyes