Balao Family Files Amparo Petition

With members of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), the family of missing activist James M. Balao, through counsel National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL), filed a petition for a writ of amparo at the Benguet Regional Trial Court.

Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) — With members of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), the family of missing activist James M. Balao, through counsel National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL), filed a petition for a writ of amparo at the Benguet Regional Trial Court.

The petition was filed Oct. 8 against President Gloria Macapagal–Arroyo and officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) .

The 29-page petition pleads for the court to issue a writ of amparo ordering the respondents to immediately surface and release James Balao and stop inflicting further harm on him.

The petition also sought the issuance of an inspection order to facilitate the inspection of police and military defense facilities and safe houses where Balao may have been kept in custody.

The petition further pleads for the issuance of a production order directing officials of the PNP, AFP and other concerned agencies to produce documents relevant to the petition particularly the order of battle that includes the name Balao and his dossier in the AFP and PNP offices.

It also seeks for the issuance of a protection order for witnesses to the abduction of Balao.

The writ of amparo is a legal remedy for any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened. The Balao family’s pettion is a first filed here in the courts of Benguet. It was raffled to Regional Trial Court Branch 63, the sala of Judge Benigno Galacgac, on Oct. 9.

Respondents included Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Interior Secretary Ronald Puno, Presidential Chief of Staff Norberto Gonzales, Gen. Alexander Yano, Gen. Jesus Versoza,Brig. Gen Reynaldo Mapagu, Police Dir.. Edgardo Doromal, Maj. Gen. Isagani Cachuela (Commanding Officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Intelligence Service Unit based in Baguio City), and Police S/Supt. Eugene Martin.

Balao, 47, a founding member of CPA and president of the Oclupan Clan Association of Benguet, was abducted Sept. 17 by armed men suspected to be soldiers.

Consolidated reports from the CHRA revealed that initial eyewitness accounts confirmed that James was seized and forced into a vehicle by five military-looking men in civilian clothes at approximately 8:00 a.m. while walking in front of the St. Therese Church and School in Lower Tomay, La Trinidad, Benguet.

In the same documentation, witnesses also said that onlookers were told that the men taking Balao were police officers and that the procedure was normal because Balao was a drug pusher.

CHRA Spokesperson Jude Baggo said, “This lie has kept the witnesses from coming forward sooner. It is feared that other witnesses with vital information that could help surface James may not be come forward for the same reason.”

Since his disappearance, Balao’s relatives and friends have been engaged in a search that has brought them to different military camps, installations, jails and detention centers. Instead of being helpful, military and police officers have been “cold and hostile,” they said. This all the more firms up fears that James is a victim of enforced disappearance, they further said.

A growing community concern and outcry against the abduction has fed the search and campaign to surface James. Petitions, resolutions and letters of appeal from local government and non-government organizations, leaders and officials of communities around Luzon, and most especially human rights organizations here and abroad continue to be sent to concerned national government officials and military commands.

Most recent is the Oct. 10 resolution of the regional and national offices of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) “strongly condemning” the enforced disappearance of James Balao, continuing the investigation through the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) Regional office, and requesting the AFP and PNP for assistance. ??In a separate document, CHR Chairperson Leila De Lima issued a memorandum to the regional office of the CHR directing it to investigate Balao’s disappearance and to submit a report to the Office of the Chairperson, copy furnished the Legal and Investigation Office, within 15 days from completion, and to submit a report within five days upon receipt of the memorandum if there is already an ongoing investigation.??Among those who have sent statements and letters of support are a group of Filipino academicians in the US, friends in Germany, Amnesty International, the Uniting Church of Canada, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, and Mountain Province Gov. Maximo Dalog.

It has been almost a month since and weariness is taking its toll on the family; but with the growing support of friends and concerned groups and individuals, they remain hopeful as they continue to appeal for the safety and return of James, CPA said in its public appeal and statement of gratitude. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat)

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