New Court Ruling Connects Philippine Government to Disappearances

James Balao (Photo source: Cordillera Peoples Alliance,

This month, a regional trial judge in Benguet issued a writ of amparo in the case of disappeared activist, James Balao. The judge ordered the government to “disclose where [Balao] is detained or confined [and] release [him] considering his unlawful detention since his abduction.”

Respondents in the case include President Macapagal-Arroyo, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Alexander Yano. A writ of amparo is essentially a petition to force the government to protect the constitutional rights of a citizen. In essence, the judge’s decision contradicts earlier statements in which the government denied knowledge of Balao’s whereabouts. It puts the responsibility squarely on Arroyo and the other officials named in the case.

Recently, I interviewed Bernadette Ellorin, the Secretary-General of BAYAN USA, on WBAI’s Asia Pacific Forum. We talked about Arroyo’s move to make changes to the Philippine Constitution. Listen to an excerpt of our interivew below.

Balao, the co-founder of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, was abducted by armed men last September 17. According to his brother, Balao was aware of being under survellience in the the weeks leading up to his disappearance. At the time, the government claimed he was a communist leader – a charge his family and friends deny.

This court decision is part of the larger trend of killings and disappearances under the Arroyo Administration. In 2007, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions issued a report that linked the Arroyo government to human rights violations. (Download the PDF report here.) And late last year, the United Nations Human Rights Committee concluded that the Arroyo government was involved in the 2003 murder of Eden Marcellana and Eddie Gumanoy in Mindoro.

Now, despite this significant ruling, the killings and disappearances continue.


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