Indigenous Asian Lawyers Urge Gov’t to Surface Balao

Lawyers from various Asian countries added their voices to the call for the government to surface James Balao in a conference held at the Club John Hay in Baguio City.

Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) – Lawyers from various Asian countries added their voices to the call for the government to surface James Balao in a conference held at the Club John Hay here.

“We strongly urge the Philippine Government to make public his (Balao) present legal status, if he is in the custody of state security forces, as indicated by some reliable sources,” said the Asian Network of Indigenous Lawyers (ANIL) in a statement Nov. 11.

Participated in by 25 indigenous lawyers, the conference was sponsored by Tebtebba Foundation, an indigenous peoples’ international center for policy research and education based in this city.

Balao, an Ibaloi native of Benguet, was abducted by alleged policemen on Sept. 17 in Lower Tomay, La Trinidad, Benguet. His whereabouts remain unknown despite a petition for the writ of amparo his family filed in a court in Benguet.

A lawyer from India, Babloo Loitongbam, said that they will utilize international venues for the case of Balao.

Bringing case to UN

“We will submit our statement to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, said Loitongbam, who is a member of ANIL.

Also the executive director of the Human Rights Alert in India, Loitongbam explained that this UN mechanism was established in the 1980s and began its work tackling cases of enforced disappearances in Latin America.

Loitongbam said that the mechanism has been proven effective in bringing the issues to the attention of the concerned governments after deliberation by the said working group. Loitongbam has been a human rights lawyer in his native country since 1992.

Diplomatic “appeal”

Another ANIL member added that they will raise the issue of Balao’s disappearance through a diplomatic “appeal” to the Philippine Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal.

“We will communicate to the Philippine Embassy that they should act on the case of Balao’s disappearance,” pointed out Shankar Limbu of Nepal, who has been a lawyer for eight years now.

This is an expression of their solidarity with human rights advocates outside their country, added Limbu, who is the secretary of the Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP).

Lawyer Cheryl “Chyt” Daytec-Yangot, a human rights lawyer based in this city explained that their statement is part of ANIL’s human rights advocacy.

She added that ANIL is composed of indigenous lawyers in the region consistently rendering free legal services to indigenous peoples.

ANIL pointed out in its statement that there is reasonable ground to believe that the enforced disappearance of Balao is linked to his non-violent resistance to the Arroyo administration’s program of “aggressive harnessing of natural resources in the indigenous cultural communities’ ancestral domains under its mining revitalization program.”

The human rights lawyers’ group also urged the government to become a party to the UN Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances. Northern Dispatch / Posted by

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