Celebrating Cordillera Day on an Easter Sunday in Montréal

Montréal, Québec -- This year's Cordillera Day coincides with the Roman Catholic Church's Easter Sunday. Held each year on April 24th, Cordillera Day is a cultural celebration of the struggles of the indigenous people in the Cordillera region of northern Philippines.

Here in Montreal, Cordillera Day has been celebrated for decades. This year's event was organized by the Centre for Philippine Concerns (Centre d'appui aux Philippines), Migrante Quebec, and Bayan Canada. Dr. Chandu Claver, Chairperson of Bayan Canada, presented a recorded message of solidarity.

The theme of the celebration was "Live out our glorious history of struggle; fight for life, land and honour."

The occasion started with a special Easter Mass by Rev. Fr. Artemio Calaycay with the choir singing Ang Bayan Ko. In his homily, Fr. Calaycay shared his thoughts about peace. He said that the biblical concept of peace is not just the absence of war, conflict or chaos but the "lifting up" of the sorry state of an individual or of the community. He explained, "The Philippine government should continue working for lasting peace as the Filipino people are already tired or systemic corruption, or rising cost of basic commodities, and of human rights violations."

The celebration also included a Skype conference with Luis Jalandoni and Coni Ledesma of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Jalandoni shared updates on the peace talk negotiations between the National Democratic Front (NDF) and Philippine government. Jalandoni said that the Aquino regime continue to exhibit unpeaceable attitudes and actions which has already victimized labor leaders, peasant and social activists and intensified the militarization of civilian communities in the rural areas. The NDF also celebrates its 38th founding anniversary of the revolutionary alliance on April 24.

To heighten the spirit of the Easter celebration, the native American drumming and singing group called ODAYA rendered a contemporary performance. The group is composed of women from different tribes of Canada whose mission is to share the joy and beauties of Indigenous cultures.

There were also cultural presentations by the Cordillera cultural group, PINAY and the children of Filipino Parents Support Group.

Founded in 1982, the Centre for Philippine Concerns is composed of Filipinos and non-Filipinos in Montreal, Quebec supporting the Filipino people's movement for National Democracy through advocacy and public education. The organization is also aligned with Bayan-Canada, Migrante-Canada and the International League of People's Struggles.

Migrante-Quebec is composed of different organizations. PINAY, a Filipino Women's Organization, works to empower and organize Filipino women in Quebec, particularly Filipino domestic workers. Most of its members are migrant workers under the Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP). For two decades Pinay has brought together domestic workers and their supporters together in the struggle for basic rights and welfare.

Other members are the Filipino Parents Support Group, Filipino Workers Support Group, Aklan Association of Montreal and the Cordillera Organizing Group.

And just like in many other Filipino celebrations, Pinoy foods, such as arroz caldo and pancit, were served after the Mass and cultural performances.

Contributed by Joyce Valbuena


On the occasion of James Balao's 50th birthday: Stop Enforced Disappearances!

Dear friends,
We are sharing with you the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance statement on the 50th birthday of James Balao, a victim of enforced disappearance since September 17, 2008.  We continue to call for his surfacing and freedom to this day.


Audrey Beltran
Deputy Secretary General
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance


Statement on the 50th Birthday of James Balao:


“Happy 50th birthday James.  Wherever you may be, we keep the hope that you are still alive.  We want you to know that we love you and we’re waiting for you to come home.  You’ve turned 50 today and we, Nonette, Winston, the whole family and your friends miss you so much.
To the State, the military and its agents, stop enforced disappearances.  We want our loved ones brought back to us.“

- Joni Balao, youngest sister of James Balao

Today, April 19, James Balao’s 50th birthday marks the 942nd day when he was abducted by five heavily armed members of the State security forces in Tomay, La Trinidad.

Since that day of his enforced disappearance, we have joined his family, friends and colleagues in the search for him.  Not a day has passed that we do not remember him and call on the State for his surfacing and freedom.

We do so especially now that more light has been shed on the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos.   A month ago, the Commission on Human Rights investigation led by Commissioner Jose Mamauag stated in its report that the abduction and enforced disappearance of Jonas is “not a simple case of kidnapping done by some individuals within the military, but is, in fact, a part of the entire counter-insurgency program of the past administration wherein both military and police forces played a crucial role in its enforcement.”

James like Jonas became a victim of enforced disappearance because of his political beliefs and service to the people.  The Cordillera Peoples Alliance, of which James is a founding member has been unjustly labeled by the State as a sectoral front of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New Peoples Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and thus has been among the targets of the State security forces in the implementation of Operation Plan Bantay Laya (Operation Plan Freedomwatch).  There have been 205 cases of enforced disappearances under the Arroyo regime, all marked with impunity as no perpetrator has been held accountable to date.

The tagging of members and leaders of people’s organizations as sectoral fronts of revolutionary organizations continue to this day under President Benigno Aquino III’s Operation Plan Bayanihan which is patterned after the United States Counter-insurgency Guide.  Since July, there have already been 5 cases of enforced disappearances.

We strongly assert that this policy has to be immediately abandoned by the government if it were sincere in upholding and respecting the rights of the people.  Aquino has to pay heed to the call of the people for the delivery of justice.

We call on the Aquino government to surface James Balao, and other victims of enforced disappearance and see to it that the perpetrators of human rights violations, including former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are brought to the bars of justice.

James has always been steadfast in the defense and assertion of human rights.  The search for him, 942 days after his enforced disappearance is arduous but we will not cease.  We owe it to him, his family and the people he served to continue the search, hold the State accountable, seek for justice and build a society where no one will be taken from one's family because of one's principles and service to the people.#

For reference:
Jude Baggo
Secretary General
Tel: +63 918 919-9007, +63 999 681-1128

-- cordillera human rights alliance
55 ferguson road, baguio city, philippines
telefax: +63. 74. 443. 7159
telephone:  +63 74 304 4239cp:  +63 918 919 9007
email: chra.karapatan@gmail.com


Stop the Harassment of Cordillera Health Workers

Please sign the petition (see link below) to Stop the Harassment of Cordillera Health Workers in the Philippines. Petition forwarded by CAP-CPC member Rev. Shaun E. Fryday.

+ = + = +

We, the undersigned call on Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to effect an immediate, independent, transparent and thorough investigation on the harassment of staff and volunteers of Community Health Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (CHESTCORE) of the Philippines. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/stopharassmentofhealthworkers/


Prospects for Peace in the Philippines - an Easter mass/cultural celebration

When: Sunday, April 24, 2011, 2 pm to 5 pm
Where: 6767 Cote-des-Neiges (6th floor), Montréal, Québec

An Easter event/mass featuring cultural celebrations in honour of Cordillera Day, held each year on April 24th to celebrate the struggles of the indigenous people in the Cordillera region of northern Philippines.

The event will include a SKYPE video messages from Dr Chandu Claver, Chairperson of Bayan Canada.

Keynote speakers, also via SKYPE, will be Luis J. Jalandoni and Coni Ledesma of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), which is engaged in Peace Talks with the Government of the Philippines (GPH). Jalandoni is Chairperson of the NDFP Negotiating Panel and Ledesma is a member of the NDFP Panel who has just returned from the Philippines. The NDFP will be celebrating its 38th anniversary on April 24th.


Remembering Luing this April 12, 2011

April 12 is a sad day, the day an old friend, Maria Luisa Posa Dominado, Luing for short, disappeared from our lives violently, snatched from her comrades and loved ones to prevent her from doing her ongoing work for human rights and social change.

She and her companion Nilo Arado were brazenly abducted by armed men on the evening of April 12, 2007 on a public road on the outskirts of the city of Iloilo, Philippines; another companion was shot in the neck and left for dead. The perpetrators have never been found.

We saw first hand during our visits to Iloilo as documentary filmmakers how impunity works, how public officials take no responsibility for crimes like this that happen under their watch. The climate of impunity surrounding Luing’s disappearance, and that of hundreds of others, reigns to this day.

As long-time friends of the Filipino people, we join thousands around the world in demanding that this impunity end, that those responsible for the abductions of Luing, Nilo, and the disappearances and assassinations of so many others be brought to justice.

Luing was not an everyday friend. We saw her sparingly, every few years. She is among our cherished community of inspiring people, present, reliable, totally and tirelessly committed: to her people, her family, to social justice, and a better world. Luing is a person we are proud to know and even if she cannot be there in person, her daughters, friends, comrades and the countless people she touched are continuing and multiplying her efforts and her work.

April 12 is also the birthday of my own mother, Clara. She died in 1986, too young, at only 56. She lived in a different context, her commitments were closer to home, to family and friends. She is also sorely missed and continues to live through us who knew and loved her.

Marie Boti and Malcolm Guy
Montréal, Québec, April 12, 2011

Morong 43 plaintiffs unfazed by Arroyo and military reaction to civil case

“Whatever it takes, we are determined to make those torturers pay for their crimes.”

With sheer determination in their faces, six of the Morong 43* who filed a civil suit against Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo**, et al said that the cases they filed last April 4, 2011 is their contribution to end the culture of impunity in the Philippines.

“My colleagues and I are utterly unfazed by what Col. Baladad and Col. Parlade are rattling in the media. They should do better than to recycle old arguments that we are members of the NPA (New People's Army, an armed opposition group -- ed.). Our message is clear and strong, human rights violators must be made accountable for their crimes,” Gary Liberal, R.N., one of the plaintiffs said.

Liberal added that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the top military officials named in their complaint are delusional for thinking they can get away with their crimes. “We enjoin all victims of human rights violations under the Arroyo administration to file a case and pursue justice.”

He ended that Macapagal-Arroyo and her cohorts should brace themselves for more lawsuits from their victims. “This is our contribution to end impunity in this country,” Liberal said.

Reference (April 11, 2011): Carlos Montemayor, RN - +63 922 499-6237 / (+632) 929-8109

* the name given to 43 Filipino health care workers illegally arrested and imprisoned for several months by the Philippine military

** former President of the Philippines


Rallies & meetings for peace and against unjust wars, Montreal April 9, 2011

1. Peace in the Middle East, Discussion with Reverend Chris Ferguson
CAP-CPC members and friends are invited by Rev. Shaun Fryday for a time of discussion and reflection on peace in the Middle East with Reverend Chris Ferguson, former representative of the United Church (UC) and the World Council of Churches at the United Nations. Exchange will involve KAIROS document inviting dialogue between all religious traditions seeking peaceful settlement in Palestine and the position of the UC of Canada on the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.
When: Saturday, April 9, 2011
Time: 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Where: Beaconsfield United Church, 201 Woodside Road (off Sherbrooke), Beaconsfield, Québec
for more information: BUC office - 514-695-0600; e-mail - bu1[at]bellnet.ca

2. Rally to protest the war in Libya and Afghanistan
When: Saturday, April 9, 2011
Time: 12:30 pm to 3:00 pm
Where: Président-Kennedy and de Bleury (Métro Place des Arts), Montréal, Québec
organized by Échec à la guerre and other organizations, join the CAP-CPC contingent