By ALDWIN QUITASOL
Human Rights Watch
Posted by Bulatlat
BAGUIO CITY ? Human rights advocates together with the family of a missing activist staged a rally at the Igorot Park here as part of the observance of the International day of the Disappeared on August 30.
Led by the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), the protesters reiterated their call for the surfacing of Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance founding member James Moy Balao. Balao was abducted on September 17, 2008 by suspected state security agents at Pico, La Trinidad, Benguet. He has been missing for 348 days.
The group expressed hope that the state shall extend its assistance to the search for Balao after the Benguet Regional Trial Court granted the petition for the writ of amparo filed by his family and the CPA.
The CHRA said that Balao is just one of the hundreds of activists who are victims of the Oplan Bantay Laya, Arroyo’s counter-insurgency program. According to Karapatan, from 2001 to present, there are 207 victims of enforced disappearances in the country.
“Each day of their absence is agonizing for parents and children searching for their sons and daughters or parents who have been stolen from them. The testimonies of those who escaped, like Raymond Manalo or those who were found or surfaced, like Melissa Roxas tell of what state security forces subject the victims of enforced disappearance to. Their accounts describe the dastardly inhumane physical and mental torture they went through,” CHRA stated.
CPA Chairperson Beverly Longid said enforced disappearances are part of the government’s scheme to neutralize critics and activists. She said that the Gloria Macapagl Arooyo regime labels legal progressive people’s organizations like the CPA and its members as fronts of the revolutionary Communist Party of The Philippines-New People’s Army -National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP).
“This has classified the members and leaders of these organizations as enemies of the State and legitimized the political persecution and attack against the members and leaders of these organizations,” Longid added.
CHRA Secretary General Jude Baggo said that in the implementation of the said policy, the government has wrongly and systematically denied the basic rights to life, liberty and security of the people, thus, fuelling the revolution that it seeks to crush.
Baggo added that the government justifies the abductions and killings by stating that the victims are terrorists.
The CHRA added that enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings derail the peace process between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the NDFP. The group said the disappearance of and filing of false charges against NDF consultants are blatant violations of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
The group also held Arroyo accountable for enforced disappearances.
“We demand justice for victims of enforced disappearances and all human rights violations. Perpetrators – abductors, captors and the masterminds should be brought to the bar of justice and should be meted out with appropriate punishment. We have not lost track of the days since James went missing. We will not lose hope and lose track in searching for the path towards finding him and other victims of enforced disappearances and claiming justice for them,” the CHRA said.