Cordillera leader missing since Sept 17, 2008

On the morning of September 17, 2008 at 7 AM James Balao left his residence in Fairvew, Baguio City, intending to go to his family residence in La Trinidad, Benguet.  He informed his family that he was going home that day through a text message at about 6:45 am.  He was not able to reach home and has not been in contact with his family or friends since, nor have they been able to contact him.


In the first week of June, 2008 Balao began reporting regular surveillance to his family, which increasingly heightened until his disappearance last week. He had often observed white and blue vans tailing him from his residence on his daily chores.


According to a reliable source, Balao is even listed in the AFP dossier as the head of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Education Bureau in the Ilocos and Cordillera regions.


Balao is of medium build, approximately 5'7-5'9, and was last seen wearing a black jacket, brown pants, a visor, black hiking boats and eyeglasses. He was carrying a yellow and blue backpack and a red travelling bag.


The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance believes that the surveillance and enforced disappearance of Balao was perpetrated by state security forces as a part of their operations under Oplan Bantay Laya, a policy of categorizing people's organizations and their staff and volunteers as "front organizations" and "supporters" of the of the NPA.  This policy has lead to the surveillance, harassment and intimidation,abduction and killing of members an leaders of progressive people's organizations all over the country.