September 17, 2013 marks the 5th year of the enforced disappearance of James Balao, founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance.
Since that day, his family, friends, colleagues and human rights organizations searched for him trying to leave no stone unturned.
The continuous enforced disappearance of James portrays the injustice and impunity in our country. Despite difficulties, the family, friends and colleagues of James will continue the search. Peace and human rights advocates will not cease in calling for the immediate surfacing of James. We will search for him with the ever-heightening rage against injustices and human rights violations.
*Rimbaw (To Overcome) is a 32 min documentary on victims of human rights violations and their families.
On April 19, 2013 together with the Balao family, we are calling on friends, colleagues, and human rights advocates to fold a paper crane with a short message for James. It will be his 52nd birthday and we continue to call for his surfacing and for justice. On April 19, it would be 1677 days since his enforced disappearance. We enjoin you to post a photo of the crane in the Surface James Balao page in Facebook. The photos will be collected and mounted in an online exhibit to show the continuing call for the surfacing of James Balao and other desaparecidos and for an end to enforced disappearances. We encourage those who will join us to post the paper crane on their own Facebook walls or use it as profile pictures.
We also encourage that letters of concern regarding the continuing enforced disappearance of James Balao be sent to the Office of the President, the Commission on Human Rights, the Department of National Defense, and the Philippine National Police.
James Balao who was then 47 years old, a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance was abducted in the morning of September 17, 2008 in Tomay, La Trinidad Benguet. He is among the more than 200 men and women who have been victims of enforced disappearance with the implementation of Oplan Bantay Laya or Operation Freedomwatch under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In letters sent to his family prior to his abduction, he informed them that he was being followed and watched by State security agents.
In October 17, 2008, to mark the one month of the enforced disappearance of James, his family, friends and colleagues, folded one thousand paper cranes to symbolically call for his surfacing. The last two pieces of cranes to complete the 1000 cranes for James was added by Mrs. Edita Burgos, mother of Jonas Burgos and by Mr. Arthur Balao, father of James Balao.
A thousand paper cranes or senbazuru (千羽鶴) is an old Japanese tradition we have adopted to call for the surfacing of James Balao who is also of Japanese descent. According to the original tradition, anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted what one yearns for. It is our continuing hope that James and other desaparecidos will be united with their families, and for justice to be served.
This campaign will last until September 17, 2013, the 5th year anniversary of James’ enforced disappearance. We also encourage everyone to still make paper cranes even after April 19 and even if we’ve reached a thousand paper cranes.
We are hoping for your participation on this day.
Sincerely,Audrey Beltran Deputy Secretary General Cordillera Human Rights Alliance