Daughter’s search for ‘desaparecido’ dad
I ONCE heard President-elect Rodrigo Duterte call his daughter “drama queen.” My father would probably say the same about me. I was not raped, but my father has been a desaparecido for nine years now, which has brought out the drama queen in me.
I am Aya Santos, daughter of Leo Velasco, a missing peace consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF).
My father was abducted in February 2007 in Cagayan de Oro City by several men wearing black jackets with “CIDG” printed on the back. They were on board a gray L300 van into which they shoved my father like a pig. I never saw him since then.
Nine months after his disappearance, my mother, Elizabeth Principe, was abducted and detained for one and a half years for charges she didn’t commit. She was eventually released, but she has gone into hiding because the threats to her life continue.
I have searched for my father in military and police camps and sought remedies in court. But all I got was this response from an officer of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines: “We have been after your father for a long time. He is No. 2 in the NPA. But unfortunately he is not with us.” This reply only confirmed the government’s motive to get my father.
Former president Gloria Arroyo and incumbent President Aquino have been so determined not to let out the truth about the desaparecidos, even to their families. Aside from my father, there were 12 other peace consultants and staff who disappeared during the Arroyo regime; under the Aquino regime, 30 more have been added to their ranks. The attempt to cover up the crime and the unwillingness of the Aquino regime to talk peace with the NDF have made hard the search for our loved ones. I have lost hope of finding my father.
But with the incoming President’s willingness to talk peace with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/NDF and to release all political prisoners, I might have a chance to find my father. This is why I am asking President-elect Duterte to help me find him and the other desaparecidos who worked for change in our country. I am prepared to accept the worst no matter how tragic it might be—but I want to know how he may have suffered and died and where his remains are. I just want to know the truth.
We look forward to the promised change under a Duterte presidency. And for us victims of human rights violations, change is getting justice and an end to the state practice of enforced disappearances.
—AYA SANTOS, Families of Desaparecidos for Justice c/o Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), [email protected]
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