By Aldwin Quitasol
SONGS, POEMS, AND TORCHES FOR JAMES BALAO. A year since the enforced disappearance of James Balao, relatives and friends light torches and sang songs to light their way and enliven their spirits in the continuing efforts to locate the missing activist, whom many suspect fell victim to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Oplan Bantay Laya. photo by Noel Godinez
BAGUIO CITY — The 17th of this month, marks one year since Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) founding member and activist James Balao was abducted by suspected military agents. The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), Balao’s family, clanmates and friends once more rallied mabtad! in search for James, and reiterated their demand for the government to stop enforced disappearances (EDs).
One elder in the crowd explained that, Mabtad, the Cordillera call for everyone to help in the search of a missing family member, villagemate, towns mate especially in time of conflict. It is a moral obligation by indigenous traditions for every ‘kailian’ to exert effort to bring home the lost or missing.
CHRA said 365 days has passed and still Balao is nowhere to be found. CHRA points at the adminstration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that continues to keep James away from serving his countrymen.
The group blamed Balao’s abduction to the implementation of Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya. They said the present government continues with impunity to employ terrorist acts like EDs and Extra-Judicial Killings (EJKs) to silence critics and members of legitimate progressive organizations.
“James is a good son, not only to his parents but to the indigenous peoples and the nation. He has given his time, skills and capabilities to help realize social justice, the respect of indigenous peoples rights and human rights. He worked to see to it that the lives of the people are uplifted. He linked arms with the others who shared his passion. He is a founding member of CPA and has continued, to the time of his abduction, to do what was right and true, and just,” CHRA said.
James is a good son, not only to his parents but to the indigenous peoples and the nation. He has given his time, skills and capabilities to help realize social justice, the respect of indigenous peoples rights and human rights. photo by Noel Godinez
Meanwhile, at the rally held at the People’s Park, a survivor of abduction and torture by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) narrated his ordeal and how he and his brother escaped from them.
Raymund Manalo shared his story to the crowd. He and his brother saw and experienced a most brutal and inhumane treatment under their military captors. Manalo bravely told of the torture they suffered and that it was ordered and supervised by ranking military officials like then AFP General Jovito Palparan. Manalo said they saw how the military killed their helpless fellow captives and their bodies desecrated and burned.
Manalo said their abductors told them whenever their parents and members of human rights groups go to the camps or courts to follow-up their whereabouts. They were transferred from one military camp to another.
Manalo added they were made into slaves. They were forced to work in the fields and homes of military officials. Manalo told the crowd that he was caught in his first attempt to escape. After being caught, he was again subjected to tremendous torture. He said his backed was even whipped with iron chains.
Under the circumstances, Manalo said he fought to keep sane and promised himself, “there is no way “ for him to allow himself and his brother to die inside the military camp without their parents seeing their bodies.
So when they were made to work in a farm of a certain Master Sergeant Donald Caigas, he planned another escape with his brother. “When the guards were dead drunk at one night, 1 year 8 months ago, they slipped free and boarded a bus to Cubao.”
“Nang makatakas kami ng kapatid ko, sinabi ko sa sarili ko na gagawin ko lahat para mapanagot ang may sala sa sapilitang pagdukot sa amin at sa pagpatay sa ibang mga biktima…nung makita ko si General Jovito Palparan sa hearing ni Melissa Roxas na biktima ng sapilitang pagdukot, ginawa ko sa kanya ang kaya kong magawa sa kasalukuyan na mataas na ganti, sinigawan ko siya ng :@*#@ mo Palparan!,” (When we escaped with my brother, I said to my self that I will do everything to bring to justice those responsible of EDs and killings and the other victims…When I saw General jovito Palparan in the hearing of another victim of enforced disappearance, Melissa Roxas, I did what I can in the height of vengeful emotion, I shouted @*#@ Palparan! at him) said Manalo.
Manalo added that when he was still a captive, Palparan inflicted terror on his life. “ Si General Jovito Palparan ay naging multo sa buhay ko, at ngayon na nakawala ako, magiging bangungot din ako sa kanya,” (General Jovito Palparan was a ghost in (haunted) my life, and now that I am free, I shall be his nightmare) added Manalo.
Jonilyn Balao Strugar, the younger sister of James expressed gratitude those who helped and continue to help in the search for his brother. Strugar said they shall not lose hope as more and more extend their solidarity and help. photo by Brenda Subido-Dacpano
CPA Secretary General Windell Bolinget reiterated the call of “Mabtad, Kaigorotan!” to surface James. Bolinget added that the Arroyo regime be held accountable for the Eds and EJKs and other human rights violations.
Jonilyn Balao Strugar, the younger sister of James expressed gratitude those who helped and continue to help in the search for his brother. Strugar said they shall not lose hope as more and more extend their solidarity and help. She said when she heard of Manalo’s testimony of soldiers telling them of their families’ search efforts, she thought maybe they wouuld be doing the same to James. “kuma ket baka ipapaabot da met lang kenni manong mi ti panagbirok mi kanyana, daytoy kuma ti mangpapapigsa kanyana…,”(if ever my brother’s abductors tell him of our search for him, this will make him stronger hopefully) said Strugar. # nordis.net