Representatives of Protestant churches and indigenous peoples all over the world condemned the abduction of missing activist James Balao, an indigenous Ibaloi of Benguet, have called for a speedy investigation, and urged the government to locate and surface him.
BY ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Posted by Bulatlat
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms. North of Manila) – Representatives of Protestant churches and indigenous peoples all over the world condemned the abduction of missing activist James Balao, an indigenous Ibaloi of Benguet.
Fifty participants from various regions of the world gathered at the Igorot Lodge of Camp John Hay here on October 21 to 26 for the International Consultation and Social Visions of Indigenous Peoples, the first international gathering of indigenous peoples sponsored by the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC).
The conference also condemned atrocities committed by various states against indigenous peoples who struggle to keep their lands from forces of so-called development aggression.
“We have heard a litany of abuses committed against indigenous peoples. Worst of these are the killings and enforced disappearances, the latest of which is the case of (James) Balao,” read their strongly worded joint statement.
For many years, Balao is active in advocacy for indigenous peoples rights.
Some participants to the international consultation also joined the international solidarity mission that held a dialogue with the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the region and conducted interviews of witnesses to the abduction.
The participants deemed that police or military elements could have perpetrated the abduction based on the traits of the persons involved and the precision of the operation against Balao.
The participants to the international mission are pushing for an expeditious investigation on the enforced disappearance of Balao and have urged government authorities to locate and surface him at the soonest possible time.
An American Indian said high government officials have to answer for the disappearance. “This (abduction) is not a small operation. It is carried out by powerful forces,” said Dr. Richard Grounds, a member of the Euchee Indians of Oklahoma, U.S.A.
“We join the Balao family in their call to surface James,” added Grounds, who is a co-chair of Cultural Survival, an organization actively involved in the campaign for the recognition of Indian rights in his country.
Grounds claimed that the abductions of political activists are ‘a shame to a government that claims to be democratic.’ He was one of those who joined the international solidarity mission that met with Gen. Eugene Martin of the Regional PNP, October 23.
Churches condemn human rights abuses
The WCC has consistently condemned extrajudicial killings and other atrocities among indigenous peoples as contained in its position papers presented to the Universal Periodic Review, a new United Nations Human Rights Council mechanism.
Dr. Deenabandhu Manchala said, “This is a part of our program against atrocities and discrimination of indigenous peoples, which has been going on for two decades.”
He said that the WCC adopted their support for indigenous peoples’ issues during their 7th Assembly in Vancouver, Canada in 1987.
The largest and most represented gathering of Protestant and Orthodox churches, the WCC has 342 member churches in 110 countries with headquarters based in Geneva, Switzerland. (Northern Dispatch/Bulatlat)