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

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