Daughters of peace consultants hope Pope Francis stands by their quest for justice

Aya Santos and Niki Gamara
Aya Santos and Niki Gamara
Pope Francis spoke of love; the familiar kind of love that Aya Santos and Nikki Gamara’s parents spoke of—the love for the poor and the oppressed. Both women saw hope that they may find an ally with His Holiness Pope Francis in their quest for justice. 


Aya Santos and Niki Gamara
Pope Francis spoke of love; the familiar kind of love that Aya Santos and Nikki Gamara’s parents spoke of—the love for the poor and the oppressed. Both women saw hope that they may find an ally with His Holiness Pope Francis in their quest for justice. 

Nikki, in a letter to His Holiness’ visit, told the Pope, "I have even written hundreds of letters and appeals addressed to the authorities but were only piled up over with insensitivity and impunity. Now, I am writing this another one. But this one, I think, is most special. Because attached herewith is neither a case file nor a notarized document, but a renewed hope that another one, His Holiness, nonetheless, will join our struggle to free my father, to free all political prisoners, to find justice for all the victims of human rights violations and, most of all, to bring about dignity, justice and genuine peace to every Filipino family, to our society."
"I write to you, Pope Francis, to please help me in my search for my father. I long for him, as any daddy’s girl would. I wish to see him, hug and kiss him. I want him to meet my two-year-old son, who could not pronounce "lolo" (grandfather) but says "wowo" instead. But if he is not in this world anymore, I want to give him a proper burial and pray to God at his grave to send my father’s kisses from heaven to my son during his sleep or while at play," Aya wrote to Pope Francis. "Please help me in my search for justice. I feel that even if my mother Elizabeth has already been freed from jail, both my parents deserve justice to the wrong that was done to them and my family," Aya added. 
The parents’ love for their children moves them to provide their children the best things in life. More importantly, the parents create a better world for their children to live in. It is a very special kind of love from a parent his/her offspring, which drive them achieve a kind of society where children can grow up and develop to their fullest potential, without the threat of violence, oppression and hunger. It is LOVE which gives hope that someday our world will be better. 
Couples Leo Velasco and Elizabeth Principe and Renante Gamara and Amelita Bravante-Gamara gave their children this kind of love—a love that went beyond their selfish wants to send their children to the best and expensive schools or shower them with latest fashion and gadgets. Instead, it is a love that valued justice, peace and care for others. It was not an easy love, for they had to sacrifice a good comfortable life to be able to change the world for their children. It is a love full of sacrifices for they knew that their beliefs may cost them their freedom or even lives, for questioning the status quo and trying to change it. 
With the theme of the Pope’s visit, "Mercy and Compassion," Aya and Nikki are set to join activities of families of political prisoners and victims of human rights violations. Together, they will call on the Pope to stand with them in their demand for freedom of political prisoners and justice for victims of state violence. 
Leo Velasco was abducted on February 19, 2007 by armed men wearing jackets with letters CIDG (an abbreviation of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) written on their backs. He was never seen since then. Eight months after, his wife, Elizabeth Principe, was nabbed by joint elements of the army and police. She was held incommunicado for three straight days. On the third day, she was presented as a high-ranking member of the New People’s Army facing seven different trumped-up criminal charges. After one and a half years, she was released after all her cases were dismissed. 
Both Leo and Elizabeth are community health workers in far-flung communities who wanted to treat sick and poor farmers and their children. Later, they realized that they could not fully cure their diseases until the chronic illness of the society—poverty and hunger—are cured. 
On April 3, 2012, trade union and urban poor organizer Renante Gamara was abducted and eventually slapped with cases of kidnapping and murder. He is detained at the Camp Crame Custodial Center. Within that year, his wife Amelita Bravante was charged with multiple murder cases, along with other union and urban poor organizers. Later, the Court revoked her warrant of arrest. The Bravante-Gamara couple has long been working with the workers and urban poor in defense of their right to decent wages, decent housing and job security. 
Leo Velasco, Elizabeth Principe and Renante Gamara gained the status of being peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in its peace talks with the Government of the Philippines. 
During the search for Leo Velasco, and the detention of Principe and Gamara, their daughters took up the cudgels and fought (and still fighting) for their freedom and justice. Their children’s love, the kind of love they took from their parents, sustained them and gave them courage to face the government who treated their parents as enemies. 
Aya Santos, together with his brother Francis Principe, faced the courts with their mother, defended her, assisted her in prison and campaigned for her release. The search for their father Leo continues. 
Nikki Gamara, daughter of Amelita and Renante, is doing the same for her parents who face false criminal charges. For Nikki, it has been a three-year battle for her father’s freedom. Her love for her father and her desire for his freedom has not waned. Nikki took the battle on the streets as well as in courts. She spoke in front of the media to call on the BS Aquino government to release her father. While also involved in the struggle for job security, Nikki regularly visits his father in Camp Crame to update him on what is happening outside his cell. 
It is not out of anger to the BS Aquino government that they are fighting. It is because of love that people want to strive for justice and peace. Just as when Jesus died on the cross, as the Church teachings say, it is because of his love for his people. It was the ruling class, the Romans, which nailed Jesus to the cross.  Just as Velasco, Principe, Gamara, and Bravante and many others were persecuted for working with the poor. ###