Open Letter to President-elect Rody Duterte from a daughter of a desaparecido

June 8, 2016

Dear President Duterte, 
I once heard you call your daughter drama queen. My father would probably say the same for me. I was not raped, but my father is a desaparecido for nine years now, which brings out the drama queen in me. 

I am Aya Santos, daughter of Leo Velasco, a missing peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). 

My father was abducted in February 2007 in Cagayan de Oro City, by several men in black jackets with “CIDG” written on the back. They were on board a gray L300 van where they forcefully threw my father inside 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 released, but still in 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 a response from an ISAFP officer saying, “We have been after your father for a long time. He is number 2 in the NPA (New People’s Army). But, unfortunately he is not with us.” This reply only confirmed the government’s motive to get my father. 

The past two presidents, Gloria Arroyo and Noynoy Aquino, were so determined not to let out the truth  about the desaparecidos, even to their families. Aside from my father, there are 12 other peace consultants and staff who disappeared under the Arroyo regime; and 30 more under the Aquino regime.  The attempt to cover-up the crime and unwillingness of the Aquino regime to talk peace with the NDFP made it hard for us to seek for our loved ones.  I have lost hope of finding him. 

But with your willingness to talk peace with the CPP/NPA/NDFP and to release all political prisoners, I might also have a chance to find my father. This is why I am asking you, Mr. President, to help me find him and the other desaparecidos who worked for change in our country. I am prepared to know his fate no matter how tragic it is—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. And for us victims of human rights violations, change is getting justice and an end to the State practice of enforced disappearances. 

Aya Santos
Daughter of missing Leo Velasco
Families of Desaparecidos for Justice