About James and his disappearance

"James Balao, one of the founders of a prominent Philippines Indigenous peoples' movement, has not been seen since September 17 [2008]. It's feared that he may have been the target of a political abduction by government forces.

"Balao set out by car from his home in Baguio City, in the northern part of Luzon island, in the early morning to visit his family 30 minutes away. He sent them an SMS message to say he was on his way, but never arrived.

"He had told his family that he had been under regular surveillance since June and that this surveillance had become more intense in the week before he disappeared. He described being followed by a blue and white van wherever he went.

"Balao works for the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) as a researcher on issues such as Indigenous land rights. He helped found the internationally renowned organization in 1984. In 1986, as a member of the Philippines Constitutional Commission, he drafted important Constitutional provisions on Indigenous peoples' rights.

 "A government security operation called Oplan Bantay Laya (Freedom Watch Operation) has categorized staff and volunteers of some non-governmental organizations in the Philippines as working for communist or anti-government forces. According to a reliable source, the army has James Balao on a secret list of senior members of the Communist Party of the Philippines."

(Text taken from the Amnesty International Canada website)