By ALDWIN QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — The family, clan, colleagues, as well as friends of missing Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) member James Moy Balao held a photo exhibit and information drive at the public market of La Trinidad, Benguet on enforced disapearances (EDs) and extra-judicial killings (EJKs) on Friday, the 213th day of his (James) disappearance.
Amid heavy rain, Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and CPA members and supporters distributed statements, displayed banners and delivered speeches on Balao’s abduction, EDs and EJKs. They reiterated the call to surface James Balao.
Balao would have celebrated his 48th birthday today, April 19.
In the congressional on-site hearing last March 12, 2009, the father of James, Arthur Balao asked members of the Committee on Human Rights of the House Representatives members Liza Maza of Gabriela Party List, Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna and Chairman Lorenzo Tañada III of Quezon at the University of the Philippines Baguio multi-purpose hall to ask President Macapagal Arroyo to act on the immediate surfacing and release of his son. Balao said they would like to have him on his birthday.
According to witnesses accounts, armed men who identified themselves as policemen announced arresting a druglord and grabbed Balao into a white vehicle in Lower Tomay, La Trinidad on September 17, 2008. Witnesses quoted Balao asking his abductors what had he done wrong to them while being dragged.
CHRA Secretary General Jude Baggo said that James has done nothing wrong but only helped his fellow Filipinos at seeking answers to the social inequities that has plagued the Philippine society for so long. He added that James stood up against government policies, laws and measures that has weighed down the masses in poverty and injustice. “He has contributed well for the defense and recognition of indigenous peoples rights,” Baggo stated.
Organizations and advocates active at addressing social issues and system change are being tagged as legal fronts of the revolutionary formation of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front of the Philippines-New Peoples Army (CPP-NDFP-NPA), said CHRA.”Because of this, they are prioritized as targets of the administration in its counter-insurgency drive Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2,” it added.
James’ sister, Joni Balao-Strugar renewed her family’s and clan’s plea to surface her brother the soonest time. Strugar said her brother is a simple and an honest man doing a research on their clan. She said that their parents and their siblings keep hoping they will be with James on his birthday.
CHRA added that on James birthday and the upcoming 25th Cordillera Day, more people will signify their support in the search for him and the search for justice.
Meanwhile, CPA Chairperson Beverly Longid said as the alliance hosts the 25th Cordillera Day in five provinces of the region namely Benguet, Mountain Province, Kalinga, Abra and Apayao on April 24, a resolution for the intensification of the Surface James Balao campaign will be facilitated for signing by the delegates. # nordis.net