Military, police chiefs ordered to search for missing activist
MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court has ordered the heads of the Armed Forces of the Philippine and the Philippine National Police to “directly and personally” oversee efforts to locate Cordillera activist James Balao, who has been missing since September 2008.
In a resolution dated October 22 but released only on Friday, the court directed PNP Director General Alan Purisima and AFP chief General Emmanuel Bautista to monitor the efforts of the Special Investigation Task Force Group Balao “until its conclusion.”
The Court also ordered the National Bureau of Investigation and the Commission on Human Rights to conduct independent probes into the disappearance of Balao “as well as to take further action as may be appropriate.”
The court also ordered “all concerned officers and authorities to make available all documents they have on Balao and make accessible all the officers who had anything to do with the abduction or had knowledge of the abduction, as well as to grant access to camps and safe houses that could give leads to the whereabouts of Balao.”
The Supreme Court directives were the same recommendations made by Branch 63 of the the Regional Trial Court in La Trinidad, Benguet, which originally issued a “writ of amparo” or writ of protection in favor of Balao.
Balao, founding member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance and an advocate for indigenous people’s rights, was abducted by armed men believed to be state security agents in La Trinidad on Sept. 17, 2008. He would have turned 52 on April 19 this year.
His family filed a petition for a writ of amparo with the Benguet court in October 2008. Then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, several members of her Cabinet, the former heads of the AFP and PNP, and other incumbent military and police officials were named respondents.
In December 2011, however, Supreme Court reversed the RTC’s grant of the writ and instead ordered the PNP and AFP to continue investigating the case and gather more substantial evidence. The PNP later established the Balao task force to resume the probe.
The RTC, on the other hand, was ordered to monitor compliance with the high court’s directive and to submit a report.
Last April, RTC Judge Jennifer Humiding issued her report. She rebuked the task force, saying its investigative efforts fell “way below acceptable standards given today’s available technological and sophisticated measures.” She also lamented the lack of continuity in the probe, citing the succession of police officials that headed the task force.
In Baguio, candles flicker on 3-year-old disappearance case
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.