DAVAO CITY— If Christmas wishes could be granted, Bayan Intise, 25, wanted to see his father and mother again.
His father, Federico and mother Nelly were last seen on October 26 three years ago in Purok Puting Bato in Barangay Calumpang in General Santos City, where his father had been doing community works.
According to the human rights group Karapatan in Socsargen, Federico and Nelly Intise and a colleague named Gloria Canaveral, were last seen with a certain Rex Solon, reportedly a former New People’s Army (NPA) turned military asset. The three disappeared and were never found up to this day.
“I am still hopeful that we will see them,” said Bayan, who never stopped searching for his parents in the last three years.
His parents joined the list of 13 people missing in Southern Mindanao since 2001 until November 30, 2009.
Intise said it’s hard for him and his sister because they don’t know whether their parents were still alive or not. “You never know for sure because there are no bodies found,” he said.
He and his elder sister Malaya were informed of their parents’ disappearance only 15 days after their parents were reported missing. It was also the only time they learned that their father was a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) for the peace talks with the government.
Intise believed the military was behind the disappearance of his parents. He said it was unfair because his father, as an NDF consultant, was supposedly protected under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig), an agreement between the NDF and the Philippine government granting NDF consultants protection from arrests to pave the way for the peace talks. He also said his mother, who worked for a non-government organization, was only there for a visit.
He remembered when he was still four or five years old, he and his mother were kept for several days in a house full of soldiers. Handcuffed and blindfolded, his mother was crying. Soldiers were interrogating her. After a time, the soldiers transferred them to another place where he saw his father and uncle sitting at a distance. Both were sweating and shivering, their bodies bore marks of torture.
As soon as he learned his parents were missing, Intise said he feared the same thing was happening again. They searched all the jails in General Santos city and went as far as North Cotabato, Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo. They also filed cases at the Commission on Human rights and Philippine National Police in General Santos but they did not find them.
He said this is the third time they will celebrate Christmas without their parents. He said he missed his mother’s dishes so much because she was a very good cook. His fond memories of Christmas included her caldereta, biko, spaghetti and others. Even if their Christmases before were not really that lavish, her mother’s knack for cooking brought delicious food on the table. He said her mother used to hold catering services to non-government offices as a “sideline” to help meet the family’s financial needs.
Their house used to be so noisy during Christmas because their mother loved videoke singing. She used to sing the songs by Carpenters, her favorite.
Since his parents disappeared, he lost interest in Christmas. His sister refused to set up a Christmas tree two years after their parents disappeared. His sister also avoided Christmas songs and found excuses not to listen to them. Intise himself preferred staying home instead of hanging out with friends.
Although they tried to live their lives as normal as anybody else, he said it would have been different if their parents were around.
“If they were here, there’s someone you could ask if you have questions,” he said. “Or, when you are confused, someone would explain things to you.”
He said his father did not force them to understand his job. But their visit to the poor communities where their father used to work opened their eyes to reality.
Intise said mingling with families and relatives of other victims enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings helped them cope.
“You can get strength from them,” he said, referring to members of the alliance group Hustisya-Kabanay “I begin to realize that if they can do it, so can I.”
During the second Mindanao Human Rights Summit in Davao City, Intise mustered the courage to speak for the first time before hundreds of people.
“The government, itself, is pushing the people to fight,” he said, “They (government officials) violate their own laws and policies; and trample on the people’s rights.”
He said he and other families and relatives of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings will continue to seek justice and make the Arroyo government accountable. (Grace S. Uddin/davaotoday.com)