Even as they were accompanied by representatives from the Commission of Human Rights (CHR), members of the Balao family and officers of the of Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) were denied entry to military camps in Manila last Oct. 27.
BY CYE REYES
Posted by Bulatlat
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet (247 kms. North of Manila) Even as they were accompanied by representatives from the Commission of Human Rights (CHR), members of the Balao family and officers of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) were denied entry to military camps in Manila last Oct. 27.
“The government is putting obstacles to all our efforts to search for James. If they are not guilty, then why are they afraid to open their camps to us?”said Windel Bolinget, CPA secretary-general, who was with the Balao family together with members of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA).
The group visited the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Camp Aguinaldo and Fort Bonifacio.
According to Bolinget, they were not allowed to enter these camps because they did not have a court order to compel the AFP to allow them entry.
The Balao family and CPA have a pending petition for the writ of amparo.
“If the writ is granted by the court, the Balao family and CPA would be allowed to search for James in the military and police camps and facilities,” said Bolinget quoting the military officers.
The CHR, however, needs no court order because their mandate is directly from the Philippine Constitution, added Bolinget.
Art. XIII, Sec. 17 provides that the CHR shall, among other things, be able to “exercise visitorial powers over jails, prisons, or detention facilities.”
The group also visited Camp Crame of the Philippine National Police (PNP). Only the representatives of the CHR and Winston Balao, a sibling of James, were allowed to enter. They, however, were not allowed to go around the police facility.
Meanwhile, the second hearing for the Balaos’ petition for the writ of amparo has been scheduled for Nov. 27 as requested by the respondents represented by Gerik Paderanga of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) here last Oct. 30.
The petitioners asked for five days for them to submit a formal offer of exhibits and their position paper to the court. Paderanga, however, requested for more time to make and file their comments.
Judge Benigno Galacgac initially scheduled the next hearing for the 13th but due to another case, Paderanga had it moved to a later date.
Though disappointed by the extended time, the petitioners and aggrieved parties vowed to continue their search for Balao.
“I am really frustrated because the intention of the writ of amparo is to protect James’ life and security, and the longer it takes for it to be granted (the more) James’ life (is put) at risk,” said Bolinget.
According to Beverly Longid, CPA chairperson, that in as much as they want the court to act with the utmost urgency, their group does not have any control because there are rules to be followed.
“We just hope that they would look at the merits of the case and not dwell on issues of technicalities and legal standing,” added Longid.
Rex Lampa, one of the members of the legal team handling Balao’s case, said, “In cases like the writ of amparo, summary proceedings are adopted and any dilatory pleadings are prohibited because of the urgency to provide protection to the victim.”
Paderanga on the other hand said in an interview that it is not easy for them to do all the court requirements because they have lots of respondents including the president.
The respondents’ answer to the petition, which is required in all cases, was just filed during the second hearing.
The answer includes the request to drop Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo among the respondents of the Balao petition citing that the president has immunity from any kind of suit as long as she is in power.
Balao was abducted by heavily armed men who identified themselves as policemen on Sept. 17. The petition for the writ of amparo was filed Oct. 9.
While the hearing was ongoing, CPA members and other militant organizations held two separate programs, one at the Benguet Capitol steps and another in front of the La Trinidad public market to appeal to the public to be involved in the call for the immediate surfacing of Balao. The Balao family hails from La Trinidad. Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat.com