James Balao, a member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) has been missing since September 17, 2008, the day he was abducted by suspected state security forces in La Trinidad, Benguet. Below is the letter written by his siblings.
Dear Manong James,
We love you.
We remember you everyday and today, April 19, your 51st birthday we are reminding the government, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the President, the corrupt officials that until today you remain missing, that we are here on the streets again, with our statements, with our posters reminding them what the system did to you.
Some few weeks ago, a close friend saw your photo on the shelf, and asked us where you are. We answered he’s just somewhere. And this friend answered, “ada lang man dayta dita” ( ” he is just around.”) Joni made him repeat to make sure we heard him right and he repeated the same words. With mom and dad’s death, we felt very frustrated and angry that they were not able to see you. The words, “James is just there” adds to a certainty of hope for us. But the same words also broke our hearts. “He is just around.”.. the thought that you must just be so near yet so unreachable, so far…
We need you here with us. But we know you need us much much more. We love you so much James. We hope to find you.
It has been four frustrating years that you have been kept from us. The culture of impunity continues to this day that we have not found you. The Supreme Court last December even denied us the Writ of Amparo that we hoped we could use in search for you. President Aquino has not changed things. We continue to hear of those like you who speak about social justice and indigenous peoples rights getting arrested, killed or disappeared.
Today on your birthday, we, your family and friends, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance are here today Manong James, demanding for your freedom and for justice.
The birthday greetings are also coming from other friends. If you only knew James… Your freedom is being fought for every Monday in Stuttgart, Germany by the Monday Demonstration Group, in Spain by the Amnesty International in Vallecas and the United States of America, the Desaparecidos here in the country and many other groups and by people we have come to know in our search for you and for justice.
We will not stop until you are here with us again. We will continue to remind the people of who you are and what the State has done to you. We will not stop until we find you.
Happy Birthday Manong. Be strong.
We love you,
Joni, Winston and Nonette
We pray that the winds and the people with hearts send our words to James