Stop the empty bragging; we want the “big fish”, rights victims tell BS Aquino

News Release
25 March 2014

“We want the real “big fish” arrested, the real perpetrators of crimes against humanity,” said victims of human rights violations in reaction to BS Aquino’s overweening pride in the arrest of communist leaders Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria.

Families of victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances lambasted Malacanang statements that repeatedly called Tiamzon and Austria as the “big fish.”

“Walang dapat ipagmalaki si Pang. Noynoy Aquino kasi ang hinuli niya ay yung kaaway NIYA, hindi ang kaaway ng mamamayan,” (Pres. Noynoy Aquino has nothing to be proud of because he only captured HIS enemy – NOT the people’s enemy), Desaparecidos secretary general Aya Santos stated. “We want Jovito Palparan, Joel Reyes and Mario Reyes arrested and jailed. It is not enough to increase the reward for the so-called “Big Five”. The question remains, where are the fugitives?”

“The Aquino government is mistaken to think that he can quash the revolutionary movement by illegally arresting its leaders. Until injustices, state violence and repression continue, more Filipinos, especially the oppressed, are ready to join the movement to seek social justice,” Santos said.

Santos is the daughter of Leo Velasco, missing NDFP consultant, who was abducted by suspected government forces in 2007. Her father is likewise protected by JASIG. Velasco remain is still missing to date. In 2012, Pres. Aquino offered a reward of P2 million each for the arrest of the so-called Big Five, among them, Palparan, the Reyes brothers, and former Dinagat Island Rep. Ruben Ecleo Jr.

“We want plunderers, corrupt politicians and butchers punished, not the people who are part of the peace negotiations with the government. They are the real enemies of the people. They are the big fish,” said Ernan Baldomero, Hustisya vice-chairperson.

Ernan is the son of Fernando Baldomero, first victim of extrajudicial killing under the Aquino government.

“They arrest and detain critics and those who challenge the status quo, disregarding demands for justice and genuine reforms for the people.” Baldomero said Pres. Aquino’s stance on the arrest of Tiamzon and Austria, while letting the fugitives remain scot-free “is sickening”.

“We are appalled by Pres. Aquino’s empty bragging, using Tiamzon and Austria as trophies while simply shrugging off people’s clamor for the arrest of Palparan and the Reyeses who committed crimes against the people,” said Baldomero.

“The government has no right to talk peace if it continues to arrest and detain the other party to the negotiations. If BS Aquino wants to address the roots of the armed conflict, the killing, abduction, arrest and torture of dissenters of the government’s anti-people policies should end,” Baldomero added.

Groups Hustisya and Desaparecidos joined calls to resume the peace talks. ###

Aya Santos, Secretary General, Desaparecidos (09088121982, 024354146)
Ernan Baldomero, Vice-Chairperson, Hustisya, (0905-4732505)

Anti-disappearance law, a failure—Desaparecidos

“That dog doesn’t hunt,” said Lorena P. Santos, secretary general of Families of Desaparecidos for Justice, referring to the Anti-Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance Law as another farmer-activist in Roxas City, Isabela was reported missing since February 28.

Romulo de la Cruz is the sixth victim of enforced disappearance since the law was enacted in December 2012. “BS Aquino should also apologize to the public for the persistence of this heinous crime despite the law,” Santos said. Based on Karapatan’s documentation, there are now 20 victims enforced disappearances under the BS Aquino regime.

Dela Cruz was a member of Agbiag Matusalem Association-Roxas Isabela (AMA-RI), a local farmers’ organization affiliated with a progressive Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon iti Isabela (Dagami).

De la Cruz’s son and relatives, with the assistance of AMA-RI members, immediately reported the abduction to the San Manuel police station. The police inspected the site of the incident and declared that the case is “outside their jurisdiction because Dagami has ‘several rival organizations’.

“Where else will victims and their families seek help when government authorities are not cooperating? The authorities don’t seem to know the law,” Santos said.

“The Aquino government takes pride on the Anti-Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance Law as the first in Asia. Yet, not one perpetrator has been prosecuted. Not even the poster boy of impunity, Gen. Jovito Palparan who was already served with a warrant of arrest more than two years ago,” Santos added.

Coming from his son’s wedding, de la Cruz was driving a motorcycle together with one of the wedding sponsors. His son Romy and his wife were on another motorcycle behind Romulo’s when a van suddenly cut them. A man, whose face was covered with a handkerchief, alighted the van and pulled Romulo off the motorcycle. The man said he was a member of the National Bureau of Investigation. The man pushed Romulo inside the van and sped away. Dela Cruz remains missing as of this writing.

Santos noted the BS Aquino government, despite the anti-enforced disappearance law, has not yet signed and ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICCPED), an instrument of the United Nations to prevent enforced disappearances. The ICCPED was adopted in 2006 by the UN General Assembly. ###Image


Open Letter to President Benigno S. Aquino

Today is Tatay’s 7th year of disappearance. My father, Leo Velasco, disappeared under the Gloria Arroyo government. On that day, February 19, 2007, Tatay was walking along Pres. Aguinaldo St. in Cagayan de Oro. He stopped to buy a stick of cigarette when a gray Mitsubishi L300 van suddenly stopped and men grabbed him.

I never saw him since then.

DSC_0354I was shattered to find out Tatay was abducted. The first few hours of trying to find Tatay was excruciating. I worried thinking he was being tortured. Days passed and still there was no sign of Tatay. We went to military camps, police headquarters, asked assistance to the Commission on Human Rights, International Committee of the Red Cross and so on. Still, Tatay remain missing.

My parents, being consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines for the peace process knew the risks of fighting for the principles they believed in. Having comrades who were killed, tortured, imprisoned, disappeared, Tatay knew he might end up like them. He had told me about these risks, trying to build up the courage in me. He was aware that someday I might lose him in the same way.

So, every year since that day I write Tatay a letter, hoping it would reach him wherever he is—in some dark detention cell perhaps?

But this year, my letter is addressed to you, Mr. President. For after seven years of disappearance, Tatay is most probably not alive anymore. My logical mind tells me this. But, my hopeful heart says otherwise.

Since day one, I held Gloria Arroyo responsible for the disappearance of my father, and many others. But today, I am holding your government accountable for the continuing disappearance of Tatay and nine other missing NDFP consultants, and hundreds more of desaparecidos.

Your government remains indifferent to victims like us who seek justice. The Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law may be enacted. Yet, none of the perpetrators were actually prosecuted. The notorious rights violator Ret. Gen. Jovito Palparan remains at-large. I doubt if I will ever get justice for my father under your regime.  You have even closed all doors for the continuation of the peace negotiations between the NDFP and your government, a venue for us relatives of missing NDFP consultants to address our concerns. This makes our quest for justice even dimmer.

Today, my only desire is to know what had happened to Tatay, to get his remains, and put him in a proper resting place. I know that even this is too much to ask of you, Mr. President because to surface my father and the other missing persons will reveal a lot of dirty secrets in the military institution. But, you owe us. I’m sure anyone who has humanity would understand the kind of pain we families of desaparecidos are going through.

Aya Santos
Daughter of Leo Velasco
February 19, 2014