The disappeared NDFP consultants

Lorena "Aya" Santos, a human rights volunteer, is not alien to the difficulties faced by victims and their families. Her father Leo Velasco has been missing since February 2007. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat)
Lorena “Aya” Santos, a human rights volunteer, is not alien to the difficulties faced by victims and their families. Her father Leo Velasco has been missing since February 2007. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat)

With the new administration, Aya is hoping she and other relatives of the disappeared would get a chance to know the truth.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat

MANILA – As a volunteer for human rights alliance Karapatan, Lorena “Aya” Santos is in the thick of the campaign for the release of political prisoners.

When she saw Ma. Concepcion Araneta-Bocala in Manila last week, Aya could not help but cry. Araneta-Bocala reminds her of her father Leo Velasco, also a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Unlike relatives of other NDFP consultants who eagerly waited for the release of their loved ones, Aya has only memories to embrace. State security forces abducted Velasco on Feb. 19, 2007 in Cagayan de Oro City. He remains missing to this day.

With the new administration, Aya is hoping she and other relatives of the disappeared would get a chance to know the truth.

No closure yet

For the past nine years, Aya has been searching for her father.

After Velasco was abducted, Aya joined a fact-finding team in Cagayan de Oro. They were able to talk to two witnesses– a security guard and a street vendor. After a week, the two could no longer be located.

Aya also went to military camps, hospitals, courts and other government agencies. All the persons in authority told her they do not have her father.

Relatives of seven other NDFP consultants and staff are going through the same ordeal as Aya’s.

For ten years, Elizabeth Calubad has been searching for her husband Rogelio, also NDFP consultant and their eldest son Gabriel. The two were abducted by suspected military agents on June 17, 2006 in Calauag, Quezon.

Calubad was forced to raise her daughter and granddaughter all by herself.

If Calubad is searching for her husband and her son, Erloreb Mendez is looking for his parents Celina Palma and Prudencio Calubid who were abducted by military agents on June 26, 2006 along Maharlika Highway near Sipocot, Camarines Sur.

NDFP staff Ariel Beloy and Palma’s niece Gloria Soco, who hitched a ride back to Manila, were also taken by the perpetrators.

Like Mendez, siblings Malaya and Bayan are searching for their father Federico Intise and mother Nelly Intise. The couple has been missing since Oct. 26, 2006, together with Gloria Cañaveral. They were last seen in barangay Calumpan, General Santos City.

Other NDFP consultants and staff who are victims of enforced disappearances are Cesar Batralo, Leopoldo Ancheta and Philip Limjoco.

Batralo was taken by state security agents four days before Christmas of 2006. His daughter then was only five years old.

Meanwhile, Ancheta was abducted on June 24, 2006 in barangay Tuktukan, Guiguinto town in the province of Bulacan and Limjoco was abducted in Dau, Pampanga on May 8, 2006.

All participants to the peace talks should have been immune from arrest, detention, abduction and other forms of harassment according to the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) signed by the government and the NDFP in 1995.

Moreover, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) also prohibits human rights violations including enforced disappearances.

Truth Commission

As the peace panels of both parties reaffirmed Jasig, CARHRIHL during the first round of the resumption of formal talks, relatives of the disappeared see a ray of hope.

Desaparecidos, of which Aya is part of, is calling for the creation of a Truth Commission that would look into the cases of enforced disappearances.

The commission, according to Desaparecidos, should be composed of individuals with credibility and integrity. They should be given access to military records and military camps and safe houses to search for the disappeared.

The Truth Commission is among the wish list of human rights organizations in the People’s Agenda submitted to the Duterte administration.

“We only want to know what happened to our loved ones,” Aya said.

For now, she takes solace in looking at the photograph of her father on her desk and sharing stories about him to her four-year-old son. ()

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