By Anne Ednalyn Dela Cruz
Two victims of human rights violations who were former campus journalists were given tribute by fellow campus journalists from College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) during the 70th National Student Press Convention in Negros Occidental last April 25.
Former CEGP-Visayas vice president and former editor of Vital Signs, the campus publication of Velez College, Rachelle Mae Palang, and James Balao, former editor of The Outcrop, the student publication of the University of the Philippines-Baguio, were awarded the Gawad Marcelo H. Del Pilar for 2010, the highest citation given to CEGP alumni.
Rachelle Mae Palang: In the Service of the People
Rachelle Mae Palang was Velez College’s Vital Signs editor-in-chief for three consecutive years. In 2005, she was elected as the vice president for Visayas of CEGP.
During her term as vice-president of CEGP, she communicated with student publications across the Visayas islands and worked hard to reopen student publications that were closed by school authorities. She also led campaigns to end all forms of restrictions on press freedom and against students’ rights violations.
She served CEGP-Visayas for two years before she left to volunteer for a three-month medical mission in the hinterlands of Negros.
Former CEGP National President Vijae Alquisola shared that it was Rachelle’s passion and dedication to her work that made her worthy of the award. “We recognize her selfless sacrifice. As vice president, she performed her duties and responsibilities well. We respect, nay, support her decision to serve the masses. We admire her determination to fight for what she thinks is right and just,” Alquisola said.
Palang was killed in September 2008 during an alleged encounter between New People’s Army guerrillas and the 79th Infantry Battalion in Negros Occidental.
James Balao: Amplifying the Issues and Struggles of Indigenous Peoples
James Balao, on the other hand, was The Outcrop’s editor-in-chief during school year 1981-1982. He was also the founding member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) in 1984. But even before the CPA was established, Balao was already a researcher with the Cordillera Studies Program (CSP).
Balao was known for his published articles in The Outcrop during his term; he wrote mostly about politics, human rights, and culture.
“We chose to award the Gawad Marcelo H. del Pilar to James Balao because first, he served as editor-in-chief of The Outcrop. His writings reflected the situation and experiences of our brothers and sisters in Baguio. Second, he fought for his beliefs. He truly served the indigenous peoples,” said Alquisola.
In September 2008, James Balao was reported missing. Two years and eight months have passed, and yet there is still no word regarding his whereabouts.
The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), in a statement, blamed the intelligence unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the state in general, for Balao’s disappearance. They also believe that Balao’s abduction is part of the implementation of the Arroyo government’s counterinsurgency program dubbed as Oplan Bantay Laya.
Call for Justice
Families of the victims and members of the guild continue to seek for justice for the death of Rachelle Mae Palang, as well as the other guilders and writers who have been killed, and for the disappearance of James Balao, and other victims of enforced disappearances.
The awards given to the two were received by newly-elected CEGP-Visayas Vice President Idyll Peroramas for Rachelle Mae Palang and U.P. Baguio – The Outcrop for James Balao. (Bulatlat.com)