CAP-CPC open letter to Philippine President: "Surface James Balao"

H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace,JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
E-mail: corres@op.gov.ph / erermita@pop.gov.ph
Fax: +63 2742 1641 or +63 2929 3968

Dear H. E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,

I am writing to you in the name of the Centre d'appui aux Philippines - Centre of Philippine Concerns (CAP-CPC) in Montreal, Canada. This organization, made up of Filipinos and non-Filipinos, has been working for over 25 years to build solidarity and understanding between the people of the Philippines and the people of Quebec and Canada. We are contacting you because we are very concerned about the news coming out of the Philippines. We have learned that from July-September of this year, there have been seven (7) documented cases of enforced disappearances in the Philippines making the total cases of enforced disappearances close to two hundred since 2001.

One of the victims is human rights defender James Moy Balao, son of Arthur and Jane Balao of the Kankanaey and Ibaloi indigenous peoples of Benguet, outstanding alumnus of the University of the Philippines Baguio and founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA). He remains missing to this day.

According to reports we have received, Mr. Balao was abducted last September 17, 2008 in Lower Tomay, La Trinidad, Benguet in front of a church and school and a few meters from the Philippine National Police Regional Headquarters (Cordillera Administrative Region), Camp Dangwa. He was forcibly taken by five armed men who identified themselves as police and who immediately handcuffed him after they got down from a white Revo. Witnesses say that James pleaded to the bystanders before his abductors could muffle his mouth and drag him to the vehicle, “Ask them what I have done wrong!” .

Seventy two days have passed and we join thousands of others around the globe who are asking: where is James Balao? Why was he picked him up in this manner? Why are his whereabouts still unknown?

We believe that James Balao’s enforced disappearance is probably linked to the infamous Operation Plan Bantay Laya which unjustly brands legitimate people’s organizations as fronts of revolutionary organizations, of which the CPA is included. As a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance tagged by the State as a "sectoral front of revolutionary organizations", it appears that Mr. Balao has been unjustly targeted.

We sincerely hope that James Balao is still alive as sources from within the state security forces themselves have confirmed. We demand that he be surfaced in immediately.

We ask you, as President of the Republic of the Philippines, to:

-- Surface James Moy Balao. No person should be subjected to enforced disappearance. There is no justification for this violation. Military and police camps and all detention facilities should be made open for thorough searches by the family, human rights organizations and the Commission on Human Rights.

-- Conduct an independent investigation on James' enforced disappearance and bring those accountable to the bar of justice.

-- Immediately terminate Operation Plan Bantay Laya which tags members and leaders of civil society organizations as sectoral fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front of the Philippines- New Peoples Army. We call on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to sincerely implement the recommendations of United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston - “As Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, the President must take concrete steps to put an end to those aspects of counterinsurgency operations which have led to the targeting and execution of many individuals working with civil society organizations”.

-- Observe the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and other international human rights laws and declarations such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

-- Sign and fully implement the United Nations Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances

Malcolm Guy
for the CAP-CPC in Montreal, Quebec, CANADA


Canadian trade unionists hit criminalization of Philippine labour leaders

"MANILA, Philippines--Murder and arson charges against labor leaders? Very hard to believe, according to visiting Canadian labor organizers.

The Canadian Trade Union Mission to the Philippines has slammed the criminal charges against labor leaders in the provinces, saying such actions bars them from defending workers' rights.

In a press conference on Tuesday, visiting unionists Peter Leibovitch and Daniel Kinsella called on the government to ensure the safety of labor leaders from physical harm and legal harassment.

“This apparent abuse of the legal system appears to be a change of tactics to suppress activists and critics,” the two Canadians said in a briefing in Quezon City.

Kinsella, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, a government union, cited the case of Lawyer Remigio Saladero Jr. of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (May 1 Movement), who has been detained at the Calapan provincial jail.

“Saladero is a full-time labor lawyer and has diabetes, while some of his companions have polio and other serious illnesses,” he told reporters in an interview.

Saladero and 72 others have been charged with multiple murder, frustrated murder and arson in connection with alleged left-wing rebel activities.

“These are very serious charges and are too far-fetched for any reasonable person to believe ... I hope the President is aware of them,” he added."

Read more at Inquirer.net: Legal harassment of RP unionists hit - 11/25/08


CAP-CPC demands surfacing of James Moy Balao

The Centre d’appui aux Philippines / Center for Philippine Concerns (CAP-CPC) condemns in no uncertain terms the continuing disappearance of James Moy Balao. He has been missing since September 17, 2008.

James Balao is an activist advocating for the improvement of the conditions of the people in his community. He is a founding member of the Cordillera People's Alliance and the regional chapter of Bayan in the Cordillera region.

He is professionally a researcher of and for the people of the Cordillera. His selfless willingness to use his education and skills in the service of his family and his people has greatly contributed to the Cordillera's collectivity and connectivity.

It is reported that starting the first week of June this year, James and the rest of his family have been under regular surveillance by unidentified people. Vehicles with heavily tinted windows have been regularly seen tailing him and the family from their residence to wherever they went during the day. It is believed that his years with the legal progressive people's movement have made James the target of state terrorism.

This is totally unacceptable in a democratic society.

The Centre d’appui aux Philippines / Center for Philippine Concerns is an organization of Filipinos and non- Filipinos in Canada. It advocates for the promotion of and respect for human rights of all peoples.

The CAP-CPC therefore is one with the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and the human rights group Karapatan and the Cordillera Peoples Alliance in demanding for the surfacing of James Moy Balao.

The Centre d’appui aux Philippines / Center for Philippine Concerns demands that:

1. the Arroyo government create an impartial and independent body to investigate the disappearance of James Balao
2. the Arroyo government allow the UNITED NATIONS Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) under the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights to conduct an investigation in order that the truth be found.

The HR Desk of the CAP-CPC
Ref: Tony


Prosecution is not a political tool


HONG KONG, China, November 11, 2008 Four activists, including a labor lawyer, were arrested and detained in the Philippines on separate occasions in October and November. Irregularities in filing charges against them, and the manner in which their cases are being handled, raise questions as to whether public prosecutors are adhering to procedures or just acting as political tools. (Photo: Noel Neri (far left) and Jobert Pahilga (far right) with Remigio Saladero, Jr. and Rachel Pastores in an Oct. 16, 2006 press conference on attacks against lawyers. PHOTO by dabet castañeda)

Prosecutors have a huge responsibility not only to prosecute suspects in criminal offenses, but also to protect those accused of illegal acts. Stringent rules on this are stipulated in the Philippines Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, particularly in Rule 110, which include the rights and legal protections available to the accused.

The point of these rules is to ensure that criminal allegations are based on factual evidence. It is the duty of prosecutors to ensure probable cause before making decisions on the security and liberty of accused persons. Their role is to balance supremacy of the law with protection of the rights of the accused. They are not adversaries of the accused.

A person charged of a crime should be properly informed of the nature of the offense, his alleged participation in committing the crime "be it direct or indirect" and the facts of the case should provide "sufficient ground to hold him for trial.

When police forcibly took labor lawyer Remigio Saladero Jr., a member of the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center, from his house in Antipolo City on Oct. 23, into custody, he had no idea of the charges against him. He briefly disappeared after the police refused him permission to contact his family. His arrest also illustrates the arbitrary and irregular manner in which police take suspects into custody.

Saladero was shown an arrest warrant in connection with a murder case that took place in March 2006 in Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental. The warrant bore a different name and address than his. Even if he were the person named in the warrant, issued to the wrong address, he would still have had no way to defend himself or respond to the allegations. In fact, he never received a subpoena.

Apart from the murder charge, Saladero was accused of arson and conspiracy to commit rebellion in connection with an incident in Lemery, Batangas, on Aug. 2 this year. This involved the burning of a site owned by Globe Telecom, a telecommunications company. In this case, Saladero was charged along with a number of other known activists.

Two of Saladero's co-accused, namely Romeo Aguilar, the coordinator of Katipunang Damayan ng Mahihirap and Rogelio Galit, the spokesperson of Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid sa Kabite, are unwell and suffer from diabetes. Aguilar and Galit were charged with arson and murder respectively. How prosecutors were able to establish sufficient ground and probable cause of their involvement in the crimes defies rational explanation.

Aguilar appeared in a wheelchair to give an interview to the media in late October, in which he denied any part in burning the site. He said he was in hospital the day the arson allegedly took place, suffering from swollen feet due to diabetes.

When police arrested Galit from his house in Silang, Cavite, on Nov. 3, he was reportedly bedridden. Due to his diabetes, Galit's leg requires amputation, which is scheduled in the coming days.

These two are among 72 people, 30 of whom are activists and leaders of progressive organizations, charged with murder in the March 2006 incident. The allegations against these persons conflict sharply with their own stories denying involvement, and raise serious questions as to how prosecutors identified them.

The profiles, affiliations and work backgrounds of persons charged and arrested illustrate a continued pattern of targeted attacks against activists in the country. The practice of filing highly questionable and incomprehensible charges in court has increased, although killings have sharply dropped. This illustrates the de facto use of the prosecution system against those critical of the government.

The plight of these activists and their colleagues, forced to endure detentions and trials on questionable charges, illustrates the misuse of the prosecution system and suggests political motives.

Today, observers perceive prosecutors as accomplices of the police in filing fabricated charges in court. Their judgment and reasoning are incomprehensible; their authority is both neglected and abused. The complicity of state prosecutors in allowing themselves to be used as a de facto political tool threatens the security, life and liberty of anyone who is critical of the government and therefore a potential victim of false accusations.


(Danilo Reyes is a staff member of the Asian Human Rights Commission, a regional human rights NGO in Hong Kong. He is responsible for the organization's work on the Philippines. Previously, he worked as a human rights activist and journalist in the Philippines.)



Fascist US-Arroyo regime wields new weapon against people's movement

BAYAN Canada

Between Oct. 23 and Nov. 4, 2008, May First Movement [Kilusan Mayo Uno (KMU)] Legal Counsel Remigio Saladero, Jr., and three local leaders of people's organizations were arrested in four different incidents. The three include Nestor San Jose of Anak Pawis party list and PISTON, Crispin Zapanta of Bayan Muna party list, Rogelio Galit, a peasant leader from Anak Pawis party list. On November 6, Arnaldo Seminiano of KMU was also arrested and detained.

All five men, plus 67 others, all in all including 30 leaders of people's organizations, are in a repeatedly amended list charging them with various non-bailable criminal offences of multiple murders, frustrated multiple murders, and arson around the burning by the New People's Army (NPA) of the Globe Telecom cell site in Lemery, Batangas Aug. 2 this year and their ambush of the military in Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental in Mar. 3, 2006.

That the charges are absurd should need no stating. Generally speaking, why would leaders of legal organizations have to be involved in planning NPA actions when the NPA are more than capable of that themselves? More specifically, how could a very busy legal counsel for KMU and law professor have time to involve himself in such stuff? Finally, how could a sick and bedridden man be involved in such actions? Only an organization like the Philippine government and its illegitimate President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), could be so contemptuous of people that they could imagine they could pull such a fast one.

That might be why, as provincial prosecutor Josephine Caranzo-Olivar admitted October 27, 2008 in a court proceeding regarding Atty. Saladero's case that no preliminary investigation was conducted when the names of the 71 were added to the amended information. No inquiry was held to determine if there was probable cause because it was all foolishly made up. Add to that, those in the list were not informed that they were on such lists.

So what we have here is the criminalization of dissent made possible by a total lack of due process.

In addition, the list includes 8 of the 9 grassroots activists who were abducted and tortured last August 31, 2008 in Tartaria, Cavite by elements of the Calabarzon Philippine National Police's (PNP) Regional Special Operations Group. Also included in the complaint are other human rights victims themselves such as Arman Albarillo, who lost both his parents after they were murdered by military forces, and Orly Marcellana, who's wife Eden Marcellana (Karapatan ST Secretary General) was killed in Mindoro by soldiers under Gen. Jovito Palparan. Albarillo has been a consistent complainant in the impeachment cases filed against Mrs. Gloria Arroyo.

Arrests like these are not new. Those of us living in Canada remember the case of Representative Satur Ocampo. Last spring, Canada was graced by the visit of Rep. Ocampo for Bayan Muna party list, the late Rep. Crispin Beltran for Anak Pawis party list and Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan for Gabriella Women's party list. These three honoured congresspersons toured the major cities of Canada to meet with overseas Filipinos and Canadians to update them on the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines. The highpoint of the tour was a presentation to the Standing Committee of the Canadian Parliament. Many parliamentarians expressed their concerns at the continuing violations of human rights in the Philippines. And as if to underline this point, even before Rep. Ocampo had left Canada, the Philippine Government had charged him with multiple murders. Rep. Ocampo continues to battle such harassment.

The difference this time is that the government is using mass arrests. As Bayan-Canada Chairperson Dr. Chandu Claver explains, "They had thought that they could terrorize the Filipino people into silence by abducting (like James Balao and 192 others) and killing the leaders and activists (like Alice Omengan and 909 other martyrs). But this bloody campaign has failed very miserably. Now they are resorting to trying to stifle the voice of the people through the mass arrests of the people's leaders using grossly bogus charges of non-bailable offenses. Mass arrests and persecution have always been in the gruesome toolbox of modern despots from Hitler, to Marcos. With this new move, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is striving very hard to join that ignominious league."

We demand:

- the release of all political prisoners
- all politically motivated and trumped up charges against the leaders and members of people's organizations be dropped
- the thorough investigation of all political killings and disappearances in the Philippines and the prosecution and punishment of all those guilty of such no matter how high they may be placed in the state
- Canadian Members of Parliament denounce the use by the GMA regime of mass arrests to silence opposition