The family and friends of desaparecido Leopoldo Ancheta remembers him as a loving father, husband, brother, and a dedicated activist. As they marked his 59th birthday – also the 158th day of his disappearance –they voiced out their call to government abductors to surface him and vow to never stop seeking justice.
BY DEE AYROSO
Glenda Ancheta-Macario, teary-eyed and with a trembling voice, sings: “Father, don’t fade away from me, for you will always be, my sweetest memories… a friend so dear to me.”
Russel Acosta’s “Don’t fade away from me” was given a deeper meaning, sung by Glenda for her father Leopoldo “Do” Ancheta, on Nov. 29, his 59th birthday which also marked the 158th day of his disappearance.
Do was abducted last June 24 in Tuktukan village, Guiguinto town in Bulacan province, south of Manila. A report by Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) said witnesses saw armed men force Do inside a silver Revo van with no plate.
Do is an official of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) at the time of his abduction, and is covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) signed between the government and the NDFP. The military denied having him in custody. Do has since been missing.
“Nananawagan po ako sa lahat na sana makita na namin si Lolo. Happy birthday, Lolo (I’m appealing to all to help us find Grandfather),” said Pauline Claire, Glenda’s 10-year-old daughter. On the fateful day of his abduction, Do even took his granchildren Pauline and her brother Patrick Carl, 8, to a mall in Metro Manila. He was abducted hours later in the late afternoon.
Glenda, Do’s only child, was working in the United Arab Emirates when she learned of her father’s abduction. “Para akong na-stroke, namanhid ang kalahati ng katawan ko, sa sobrang emosyon na para kong maloloka,” (It was like having a stroke. Consumed by emotion, half of my body was numb, I felt like going crazy.) said Glenda.
Even though she had been abroad for only two months, she decided to cut her contract short to go back home and search for his father.
“Ilitaw si Leopoldo Ancheta!” (Surface Leopoldo Ancheta!) chorused the Ancheta family and friends, along with the Families of Desaparecidos for Justice (DESAPARECIDOS) at a gathering held in Quezon City last Wednesday.
Community and labor organizer
Do’s brother, Romeo, said that Do became an activist when he was a high school student during the pre-Martial Law days. In the 1970s, he became a member of the Katipunang Kabataang Demokratiko (KKD or Organization of Democratic Youth), and organized among communities. He was instrumental in the formation of the Makabayang Anak ng Obrero (MAO or Patriotic Sons and Daughters of Obrero) in Obrero village in Tondo, Manila.
Romeo recalled that Do was always in the frontline during rallies and had weathered teargas and police dispersals. When Martial Law was declared, many of Do’s comrades were arrested, abducted or killed, but Do eluded arrest.
“Inakyat ang bahay namin noon ng Metrocom, di nila nakita o nahuli si Do,” (The Metrocom raided our home, but they were not able to arrest Do) Romeo said.
As Do went into hiding from 1974 up to 1979, he became a low-profile organizer in factories in Novaliches, Marikina and Quezon City. As the protest movement gained ground in 1980, he joined labor leaders like Bert Olalia to found the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement), and also the transport organization Pinag-isang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytors Nationwide (PISTON or Federation of Associations of Drivers and Operators Nationwide).
Romeo said his brother eventually went underground in the early 1980s.
Message from The Netherlands
At the Nov. 29 gathering, Glenda received a phonecall from Luis Jalandoni, NDFP chief negotiator in the peace talks who is based in The Netherlands. Jalandoni had met Do when he worked for two years abroad as staff of the NDFP. He did organizing work among Filipino seamen in Holland.
“Simple lang ang kanyang pamumuhay. Wala siyang kotse ngunit nakuha niyang bisitahin ang mga barko sa 40 kilometrong-habang daungan ng Rotterdam. Kinaibigan din niya ang mga bumibisita sa barko at mga chaplain sa daungan. Pinangalagaan at kinandili din niya ang mga mandaragat mula sa iba’t ibang nasyonalidad,” (He led a simple life. He did not have a car but he was able to travel the 40-kilometer stretch of the port in Rotterdam. He also befriended the visitors in ships and the port chaplain. He looked over the welfare of seamen of different nationalities.),” Jalandoni said.
In the NDFP statement, Jalandoni condemned the enforced disappearance of Do, and other NDFP officials and staff and their relatives who were all abducted in June, namely Rogelio Calubad and his son Gabriel, Prudencio Calubid and wife Celina Palma and niece Gloria Soco, and NDFP staff Ariel Beloy.
He said the NDFP had proposed the formation of a joint fact finding mission to investigate the disappearances. The NDFP proposal was sent in July to the government monitoring Committee for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). There had been no response from the government, said Jalandoni.
The Ancheta family filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus with the Supreme Court in August. It was assigned to the Court of Appeals which denied the petition in October. The petition named among the respondents now retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, who was then commander of the 7th Infantry Division which covers Central Luzon.
“Hanggang sa ngayon, limang buwan nang nakakaraan…di namin alam kung ano na ang nangyari sa kanya. Pero ayaw kong mawalan ng pag-asa, ayaw kong isipin na wala na siya! Hindi ako bibitiw! Alam ko na buhay pa ang kapatid ko at lumalaban para sa kanyang buhay, sa karagdagang hininga upang kami ay muling magkita-kita,” (Up to now, five months later, we don’t know what happened to him. But I don’t want to lose hope, I don’t want to think that he’s gone. I will not let go! I know that my brother is still alive and he is fighting for his life, so that we will see each other again!) said Romeo at the gathering.
“Ito lang ang paalala ko sa mga dumukot sa kapatid ko: Sa bawat pagdukot, pagpatay at pagtorture sa mga militante, may isa o dalawa o higit pa ang papalit upang ituloy ang pakikibaka hanggang sa makamit ang tagumpay,” (I would just like to tell my brother’s abductors that for every activist disappeared, killed or tortured, one or two or more will take his place to continue the struggle until the final victory) Romeo added.
Karapatan records show that there are already 207 victims of enforced disappearance during the six years under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The number is highest for 2006 with 93 abducted and disappeared.
As the Ancheta family gathered and vowed to find Do and seek justice for desaparecidos like him, then like Glenda’s appeal in her song, surely Do will not “fade away.” (Bulatlat.com)