- The Filipino people, particularly the Commission on Human Rights
James Balao, born 1961 and the eldest of four children, is one of the founding members of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), established in 1984 during the pit of martial law. A graduate of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Baguio, he has devoted a lifetime to studying and fighting for the rights of the indigenous folk of the Cordillera, particularly rights pertaining to ancestral domain.
In 1986 he was on the staff of Pons Benagen and helped write the draft of the articles on indigenous folk in the Constitution. At the time of his abduction, he was president of the Oclupan Clan Association, and one of his tasks was to look into the registration of clan properties.
At 7:00 am on 17 September 2008, James Balao left his residence in Fairview, Baguio City to go to his family's residence in La Trinidad, Benguet. A few minutes before he left, using SMS (short message service), he informed his family that he would be coming to La Trinidad that day.
James never reached his destination and could not be located by family or friends since leaving for Benguet. They could not contact him by any means. He was last seen near the Tacdian Elementary School in La Trinidad.
James is of medium build, 5'7 to 5'9 foot tall. He was last seen wearing a black jacket, brown pants, black hiking boots and eyeglasses. He was carrying a yellow and blue backpack with a red travelling bag. He belongs to the indigenous tribes of Ibaloi and Kankanaey of Benguet.
Prior to his disappearance, sometime in the first week of June 2008, James had already told his family that he was under surveillance. He said he observed a blue and white van following him every day as he left his house.
CPA information claimed that James was listed in the dossier of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP's.) He had been described as the head of the Education Bureau of the Communist Party of the Philippines' (CPP) in the Ilocos and Cordilleras regions.
The Balao family, after having been assisted by the local human rights group and their lawyers, traveled to various headquarters of the military and the police in the province of Ilocos Sur. They hoped that the victim would be found in their custody, but to no avail.
They went to the Philippine Army's headquarters in Lagangilang, Abra and to the Regional Police Office (RPO) in Ilocos in San Fernando City, La Union, but they still could not locate James in any of these places.
In the Philippines, the family members of a victim of an enforced disappearance have to assume the responsibility themselves to locate their loved ones in police or military headquarters or camps. Some victims, though, are later found to be found in the custody of security forces. Once again in James' case they were not successful.
(excerpts from http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2008/3026/ and http://karapatangpantao.multiply.com/journal/item/18)
(Update (November 10, 2008): Petition expanded to show concern for indigenous people around the world)
• To the authorities concerned, to release or surface Balao unconditionally;
• To the (Philippine) government and its relevant agencies, to exert every effort in investigating his case so as to make accountable those responsible for his disappearance and, more importantly, to trace his whereabouts if state security forces are unavailing;
• And to all alumni of UPB and concerned citizens of the country, to raise their voices against human rights violations and state-sponsored violence such as this.