Tatay

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
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