Stop toying with families’ emotions – group

FAMILIES of the Disappeared for Justice or Desaparecidos today, expressed outrage over the SMS or text message sent by an alleged member of the Philippine National Police in Cordillera – Quirino province, claiming that James Balao was among four rebels belonging to the New People’s Army who were killed in an encounter between them and the PNP.

“It’s a disgusting attempt by alleged state security forces to make us believe in this ludicrous story,” Lorena “Aya” Santos, the group’s deputy secretary general said.

On August 19, 2012, the brother of James Balao, Winston, received a text message saying, “James Balao s dead.” The texter identified himself as PNP Cordillera -Quirino Province.

When asked about the circumstances of James’ whereabouts, the texter did not reply. When Winston asked if he can call the number, the texter replied “emergency call, not on duty, try to call 09092564852.”

The Balao Family has been searching for James since he disappeared on September 17, 2008, four long years ago. He was abducted by unidentified armed men in La Trinidad, Benguet. James is a pioneer of the Cordillera People’s Alliance, a researcher and a staunch advocate for indigenous peoples’ rights.

Later that night of August 19, the family was able to call the same number. A certain Sgt. Maganto of PNP Cordillera Quirino Province on the other end of the line, said that James is an NPA (New People’s Army).

The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, upon receiving the information, called up the said municipality, only to find out that there was no encounter in the area, and that there was no Sgt. Maganto from Quirino Province.

“Lumang tugtugin na ito eh. What is clear is the people behind this are vainly attempting to wash off their hands from responsibility over James’ disappearance by branding him an NPA rebel.” Santos stated. She recalled that during the Commission on Human Rights hearing on the case of Jonas Burgos in 2007, the accused AFP officers on the case, were turning the tables on Jonas by alleging that he was a member of the NPA and that his ‘rebel’ colleagues were the ones who abducted him.

The human rights group lamented this attempt by heartless people at making this fiction look or sound true which is distressing to the Balao family. “These people who have convoluted minds have nothing productive to do but weave stories and play with families’ emotions. If they cannot help us in our search for our missing loved ones, then they should instead shut up,” Santos said.

James’ siblings Winston and Monette, yesterday sent a letter to different government institutions calling them to investigate the matter. In the letter, they stated there that “our search for our brother is painful but we will persist.”

“James abductors are desperate to end the long standing search for James but no amount of lie can stop the families of the disappeared from searching for their missing loved one. Families will only stop when the missing is finally found,” Santos said.

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