DE QUIROS ON JAMES BALAO

The search for James Balao continues with more vigor and determination.

When I was a 12 year-old high school student in the 1980's, he told me and some other young boys and girls in a leadership training, "If you are not a part of the solution, then you are a part of the problem." He said he did not know who said it first, but that he was impressing it upon us. It became one of my oft-quoted quotations (In fact, it is quoted somewhere in this blog.) and I recite it every now and then to my students. James remained true to the calling to be part of the solution, dedicating the best years of his life to serving the masses.

Conrado de Quiros,
my favorite Philippine Daily Inquirer Columnist has a take on the disappearance of James Balao. I am reproducing his
article here.


On Friday, James Balao will have been gone for a month.

On Sept. 17 last month, James left his home in Fairview, Baguio City, at 7 a.m. He was wearing a black jacket, brown pants, hiking boots, eyeglasses and a visor. He was carrying a yellow and blue backpack and a traveling bag. He was on his way to his family’s residence in Trinidad Valley. He hasn’t been seen since.

Eyewitnesses would later say he was kidnapped in Tomay, La Trinidad. He was standing on the roadside, when a van pulled up in front of him and several men jumped out and cornered him. They handcuffed him and pushed him inside the van. One man turned to the crowd of onlookers and shouted, “’Wag kayong makialam, drug pusher ’to, dadalhin namin sa Camp Dangwa.” [Don’t interfere, this is a drug pusher, we’re taking him to Camp Dangwa.]

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.

UP Baguio says of him: “We are proud of James Balao. He … best realizes the wisdom of UPB’s focus on Cordillera studies, which the university, struggling to find its footing within the UP System and its relevance to the region in the early 1980s, decided to take. James’ decision to forego opportunities to distinguish himself and establish a brilliant career in various academic and professional areas for which his many talents and gifts amply prepared him in favor of a selfless and socially responsible commitment to regional development and social wellbeing, is a grand affirmation of UPB’s institutional vision. [He has made] academic work and public service programs responsive and sensitive to Cordillera concerns.”

This is the person who was abducted last month. UP Baguio names operatives of the Intelligence Security Unit (ISU) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as the perpetrators. Since his abduction, I’ve had several friends call, email, and text me vouching for the complete integrity and high-mindedness of this man. Like Jonas Burgos, he is an epic loss to society, or since “society” is an abstraction, he is an epic loss to all of us who dream of a better world to leave to our children. If he is a drug pusher, it is only in that he pushes the kind of drugs doctors use, including potent, experimental ones to revive a country in extremis. I join James’ kin and friends in hoping he is still alive, despite being held in some hellhole by his captors.

It’s time we said “Enough!” Enough of the killings, enough of the abductions, enough of the disappearances, enough of the harassment, enough of the surveillance, enough of the sowing of fear, enough of the terrorism, enough of the culture of mayhem, enough of the reign of impunity!

At the very least that is so because we are the only country left in this part of the world that’s still fighting a war against communism. At a time when the communists are no longer poised to overrun the country, at a time when the communist ideology no longer sounds a siren’s call to the youth on campuses, at a time communists all over the world have come to terms with parliamentary, rather than armed, struggle. Indeed, at a time when the very government of this country is desperate to hock, pawn and sell the national patrimony to the only communist power left in this world, which is China. You can’t get any more hysterically hypocritical than that.

It’s a cynical war waged by cynical persons to keep their cynical selves in power. It has no other purpose than that. It exists to hide the real threat to this country, which is dictatorship, and to unleash the forces needed to prop it up, which are fear and violence. It’s a cynical war that’s claiming a cynical toll on the innocent.

But more than the innocent, it’s taking its toll on the country’s best and brightest. Jonas Burgos is one of them. James Balao is another. They are people who have been given abundant abilities and endowments. Burgos has the illustrious name of his father to carry and Balao the glorious traditions of his tribe to do so. They could have become “successful” professionals, with enough trophies and testimonials to proclaim the fact. Instead, they chose to serve the people—how powerfully that phrase continues to resonate among those who have internalized it!—conscripting their talents and energies for the benefit of their communities. With only the laughter in the eyes of the children and the gratitude in the faces of their parents to proclaim their successes.

If that is what it means to be a communist, then let us all become communists. If that is what it means to be an enemy of the people, then let us all become enemies of the people.

But what insanity that Norberto Gonzales, the creep who once tried to hire an American company to lobby the US Congress to change the Philippine Constitution, should have the power to decree who is an enemy of the Filipino people and who is a friend to them. What insanity that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the illegitimate president who wants to enter into illegitimate deals with China to kill off the Philippines, should have the power to decree who lives and who dies.

On Friday, James Balao, pride of UP Baguio, pride of the Cordillera, and pride of the Filipino nation, will have been gone for a month.

Post a Comment