Auckland Philippines Solidarity - message to friends and family of James Balao
Yesterday in the Cordillera region of the northern Philippines friends and family of James Balao gathered to mark his 49th birthday and the 580th day since his enforced disapperance. Philippine government security forces are widely believed to be responsible for his abduction. The organisers explain the programme:
"A message from the family, messages of solidarity, poems and prayers for James will be delivered and read during the short program. The program will culminate with the putting up of 49 prayer flags with messages for James within the Healing Gardens of the Sta. Scholastica Convent. The prayer flags are adapted from the concept of the Tibetan prayer flags which the people put up to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom. There is a belief, too, that messages written on the flags will be brought by the wind to its recipient."
Auckland Phillippine Solidarity sent the following message to be read at the gathering in Baguio City. Its a little odd to write something about yourself in the third person, but I thought it would be easier to be read aloud that way.
Greetings from Auckland Philippines Solidarity in New Zealand. In October 2008 one of our members, Joe Hendren took part in the International Solidarity Mission to Surface James Balao. Since his return Joe has written articles about the case and spoke at a public meeting about the disappearance of James.
APS calls on the Philippine state to Surface James Balao and all victims of enforced disappearances. APS calls for the abandonment of the campaign of political repression known as Opan Bantay Laya, and believes the Filipino people will only be safe once those responsible
for human rights abuses are brought to justice. The responsible authorities should also be held to account for their lack of real effort to find James, and their constant denial and cover-up of the
military's hand in the abduction of James and over 200 victims of enforced disappearances under the Arroyo watch.
We would like to send our aroha (love/compassion) to the family and friends of James, and the long efforts to locate him. There are now people all over the world who know the name of James Balao, and we are all hoping for his safe return to his community.
Kia Kaha (stand strong),
Auckland Philippine Solidarity, New Zealand (Aotearoa)