(In November 2008, indigenous lawyers from Asia came together in a human rights training organized by Tebtebba headed by Victoria Tauli Corpuz, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Chairperson. Noting that indigenous peoples all over the world are exposed to the same perils and problems brought about by globalization and its development paradigms that are essentially oppressive of indigenous peoples, they decided to form a network of indigenous lawyers. Calling themselves the Asian Network of Indigenous Lawyers, they declared their solidarity to work for the promotion of IP human rights. One of the first things the group did was to issue an official statement on the enforced disappearance of James Balao, a staunch IP rights activist. An article on this statement was published by Bulatlat.)
It is brought to the notice of the Asian Network of Indigenous Lawyers (ANIL) that Mr. James M. Balao, founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) has been abducted by a group of armed men in civilian clothes claiming to be policemen on 17 September 2008 in La Trinidad, Benguet and that his whereabouts are still unknown to date.
A petition for a writ of amparo filed by Mr. Balao's family with the assistance of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) is pending before the Regional Trial Court in La Trinidad, Benguet. ANIL is concerned that on the behest of CHRA and CPA, the Commission on Human Rights issued an order for the inspection of state detention facilities. But the military denied entry to Camp Aguinaldo.
There is reasonable ground to believe that the enforced disappearance of Mr. Balao is linked to his non-violent resistance to the Arroyo administration’s program of aggressive harnessing of natural resources in the indigenous cultural communities/indigenous peoples' ancestral domains under the Mining Revitalization Program, among others.
In this connection ANIL:
• Expresses its solidarity with the Balao family, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance and other organizations and individuals involved in the campaign to bring out James Balao;
• Reminds the Philippine Government of its international human rights obligations to ascertain the whereabouts of Mr. Balao and to ensure his safety and security:
• Strongly urges the Philippine Government to make public his present legal status, if he is in the custody of the state security forces, as indicated by some reliable sources; and
• Calls on the Philippine Government to become a state party to the UN Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance
*The above statement was signed for the Asian Network of Indigenous Lawyers (ANIL) by SHANKAR LIMBU of the Lawyers’ Association for the Human Rights of Nepalese Peoples (Nepal), BABLOO LOITONGBAM of Human Rights Alert (India) and CHERYL L. DAYTEC of the Cordillera Indigenous Peoples Legal Center (Philippines). For further information, please contact JENNIFER T. CORPUZ of Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples International Centre for Policy Research and Education)- Philippines. Her mobile number is +639175081678.