Remember the Disappeared in the Philippines

By Leila Chacko, Country Specialist for the Philippines

August 30th marks the International Day of the Disappeared.   This would be an appropriate time for the Philippine government to answer questions regarding disappeared citizens, including indigenous people’s activist James Balao.  He is one of at least 200 to have disappeared in the Philippines over the last decade.

Balao disappeared from his home on September 17, 2008 when he was taken by armed men, claiming to be police. He has not been seen or heard from since.

Balao is a part of the Igorot ethnic group, an indigenous minority from the Cordillera region. He is a founding member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), a grassroots organization advocating for indigenous people’s rights. The military has called the CPA a communist organization, and called Balao a communist. The CPA feels Balao may have disappeared as a result of the government’s anti-terrorism measures (Operation Plan Bantay Laya), which has unfairly targeted legitimate organizations.