STATEMENT ON THE OCCASION OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE  DISAPPEARED                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              August 30, 2009

We have not lost track of the days since James Moy Balao was abducted by five armed State security agents last September 17, 2008 in Lower Tomay, La Trinidad. It has been 348 days of searching, waiting and demanding for the State to surface him.

We had hopes that the government shall assist us to search and surface James with the Benguet Regional Trial Court’s issuance of the Writ of Amparo for him, which ordered the government to respect James Balao’s constitutional rights, to cease from inflicting harm on him and to release him. However, the government ignored this and worse, its legal minions even appealed to deny the writ that simply should provide protection for James.

We have exhausted all means to find him and we continue to seek for ways to search for him.

Today, there is still no trace of James!

James’ name belongs to the long list of names of the others too whom the State have tried to silence through enforced disappearance under the policy Operation Plan Bantay Laya. Among those who remain missing to this day are Jonas Burgos, Luisa Posa-Dominado, Nilo Arado, Karen Empeno, Sherlyn Cadapan, Romulos Robinos, Gloria Soco, Prudencio Calubid, Celina Palma and Leo Velasco. There are about 200 families ceaselessly searching for their loved ones until they are found.

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 the State security forces subject the victims of enforced disappearance to. Their accounts describe the dastardly inhumane the physical and mental torture they went through. Raymund Manalo recounted that while he and his brother were being forced to admit that they were members of the New People’s Army, they were flogged with chains and wood until their bodies gravely weakened. That they were kept in a dingy cell with their hands and feet tied, with no food. That they were pissed on and beated repeatedly. That he almost died when they poured gasoline over him and attempted to burn him alive. Melissa Roxas in her affidavit described how her captors deprived her of sleep, food, and how they repeatedly banged her head and choked her while she was being interrogated by a certain ‘Tatay’. The exhumation that yielded the charred bones of Manuel Merino in an abandoned military camp in Limay, Bataan is also a dreadful possibility in the range of what could have happened to those who were enforcedly disappeared.

Today, August 30, on the occasion of the International Day for the Disappeared, we strongly remind the public of this reality that the GMA regime shamelessly continues to deny and perpetrate. We all should continue to exact State accountability for the Desaparecidos.

Enforced disappearances have taken place in the government’s scheme to neutralize all political dissent even those allowed within the very limited democratic space defined by the State. Under Operation Plan Bantay Laya, the GMA regime labels legal progressive people’s organizations like the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), its members and network as sectoral fronts of the revolutionary organizations Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (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.

In the implementation of this policy, the government has wrongly and systematically denied the basic rights to life, liberty and security of the people, thus, fueling the revolution that it seeks to quell. The government further tries to justify the abductions or killings of victims by stating their involvement and tagging them as terrorists. They should remember that one’s human rights are not lesser because of his or her political belief.

The enforced disappearances executed also derail the peace process between parties involved in the armed conflict to become substantive. The enforced disappearances of the NDFP consultants to the peace process directly go against the confidence building measures the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) should be doing if it were sincere on walking the road to peace. These are blatant violations of international humanitarian laws and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

Today, we call on the public to join us in the reiteration of our demand to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to surface James and all victims of enforced disappearances. As the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,she is accountable for the enforced disappearance of James and the other victims with the implementation of her state security policy.

We call on the government to abandon Oplan Bantay Laya. It should cease from classifying legal progressive people’s organizations as sectoral fronts of revolutionary organizations. It should stop violating human rights.

We demand justice for victims of enforced disappearances and all human rights violations. Perpetrators – abductors, captors and the masterminds, should be brought to the bars 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.