Kin, Colleagues Continue Search for James Balao

Northern Dispatch
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BAGUIO CITY — The 17th of this month marks one year since James Balao, Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) founding member was abducted by suspected military agents. The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), Balao’s family and friends called for mabtad and reiterated their demand for government to stop enforced disappearances.

One elder in the crowd explained that mabtad is the Cordillera call for everyone to help in the search of a missing family member, village mate, towns mate especially in time of conflict. It is a moral obligation by indigenous traditions for every kailian to exert effort to bring home the lost or missing.

The CHRA blamed the implementation of Arroyo’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya for Balao’s abduction. The group said that the present government continues to employ terrorist acts like enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings to silence critics and members of legitimate progressive organizations.

“James is a good son, not only to his parents but to the indigenous peoples and the nation. He has given his time, skills and capabilities to help realize social justice, the respect of indigenous peoples rights and human rights. He worked to see to it that the lives of the people were uplifted. He linked arms with the others who shared his passion,” the CHRA said.

At the rally held at the People’s Park, Raymond Manalo, a survivor of abduction and torture by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) narrated his ordeal and how he and his brother escaped from them.

Manalo said they were transferred from one military camp to another. He said they were made into slaves. The torture survivor said he fought to keep sane. The Manalo brothers managed to escape after 18 moths of captivity.

Jonilyn Balao Strugar, the younger sister of James expressed gratitude those who helped and continue to help in the search for his brother. Strugar said they shall not lose hope as more and more extend their solidarity and help. She said when she heard of Manalo’s testimony of soldiers telling them of their families’ search efforts, she thought maybe they would be doing the same to James. “If ever my brother’s abductors tell him of our search for him, this would make him stronger,” said Strugar. Northern Dispatch/Posted by

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