The Episcopal Church in the Philippines has asked the United States Congress, particularly the Committee on Appropriations, Sub-Committee on State, Foreign Operations to look into the abduction of its member James Balao and other human rights abuses in the country.
BY ALDWIN QUITASOL
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Posted by Bulatlat
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms. North of Manila)?The Episcopal Church in the Philippines has asked the United States Congress, particularly the Committee on Appropriations, Sub-Committee on State, Foreign Operations to look into the abduction of its member James Balao and other human rights abuses in the country.
In a testimony, Rev. Canon Brian Grieves, the Episcopal Church’s senior director for Mission Centers, and Alexander D. Baumgarten, international policy analyst in the church’s government relations office, submitted a five-page testimony dated March 18, regarding the human rights situation here in the Philippines and the U.S. military assistance to the Philippines.
The Church’s testimony aired the urgent concern on the continuing widespread human rights abuses in the Philippines.
The church highlighted the case of Balao who was abducted in September 2008. Balao is a founding member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), an international wide organization dedicated to struggle of the Cordillera People and of the indigenous peoples of the world.
The testimony read, “Over the past three years, the military has been publicly denouncing the CPA as a ‘front organization’ for the Communist party and accusing James of being a leader in the Communist party in the Cordilleras. As a result, CPA members are being assassinated, abducted, and tortured.”
According to eyewitnesses, Balao was forcibly taken by five armed men. He was held at gunpoint while violently dragged into a white van. One of the men told the onlookers that Balao is a wanted drug dealer and they are arresting him.
Four months earlier, Balao reported to his family and friends that he was under constant surveillance. Balao noted on his journal that he was being followed by men in different vehicles.
Balao at that time was doing a research and documentation about his clan’s geneology as president of the Oclupan Clan Association; and serving as a mediator for parties to clan and tribal conflicts.
Balao is still missing until today as the military continues to deny they have a hand in his abduction.
“The Episcopal Church has strong ties to our partners in the Philippines dating back to 1898. The Episcopal Church in the Philippines now numbers more than 150,000 members in more than 400 parishes. While Episcopalians are a small portion of the Christian community, our many institutions, including medical centers and schools for all ages, serve the country in important ways and give us important insights into the people and their concerns. In 1994, our General Convention passed a resolution urging the U.S. government to adopt a foreign policy for the Philippines which promotes the protection of human rights …and to terminate direct and indirect military aid,” the testimony said.