Despite her three-day ordeal, Elizabeth Principe was in high spirits.
“Tumakbo na lang kaya ako? Dalawa lang bantay ko, andami ninyo,” she kidded her daughter as Elizabeth and some supporters from Karapatan walked from the National Capitol Region office of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police to nearby PNP Custodial Center inside Camp Crame. She was flanked by a lady police officer, a certain SPO4 Garcia, and one other cop. Aya, Elizabeth’s daughter, laughed heartily, and reminded her mother that they are in the biggest PNP camp in the country.
A couple of hours ago, Elizabeth was as tense as can be. She was in the custody of the Intelligence and Security Group (ISG) of the Philippine Army when presented to media. For almost three days, she had been blindfolded, incessantly interrogated, psychologically tortured. She did not have much sleep. Her wrists ached from being bound for a long time.
Gen. Alexander Yano, Army head, called the press conference in Fort Bonifacio to proudly present to media their latest “big catch.” Elizabeth, according to the general, was the secretary of the Communist Party in the Cagayan Valley region. She has been wanted for rebellion charges, among other things.
PNP Deputy Director General Jesus Versoza, who was also present at the presscon, declared that they are checking on intelligence reports that Elizabeth had something to do with the failed rebellion of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV last November 29. Elizabeth was arrested a day before Trillanes and company seized a posh Makati hotel as an act of rebellion from the Arroyo government.
But Elizabeth was defiant. Her captors were momentarily stunned when upon being presented to media she lost no time shouting at the top of her voice: “Mabuhay ang Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas! Mabuhay ang rebolusyonaryong kilusan!”, then went on to say that she was blindfolded and intermittently interrogated for 48 hours before being surfaced.
Later, in the company of what appeared to be more congenial custodians at the CIDG, Elizabeth related to us that after that act of defiance at the presscon, one of her captors whispered to her: “Nakasigaw ka kanina ah. Kapag nakalaya ka, papatayin ka na namin.” To which she retorted that they may kill her if they wish because she is ready for whatever happens to her.
Her police handlers did not quite know what to make of Elizabeth. A frail-looking, middle-aged woman of about five feet, she hardly looks the part of a “top NPA leader.” In fact, one of her two guards, an affable guy from Naga, admits that Elizabeth looks no more like a “nanay” who is a “good cook”. A chauvinist remark, of course, but he had a point. Elizabeth could have been my mother or my aunt.
She is, in fact, a mother, to Aya of Desaparecidos. She is also a wife to another revolutionary, the NDFP consultant Leo Velasco, who remains missing for almost nine months since being abducted in Cagayan de Oro.
Elizabeth could also have been missing to this day. Since the surfacing and detention of peace activist Angie Ipong in Pagadian City, no other revolutionary of Angie’s stature has been abducted and subsequently surfaced by the military. Other NDFP consultants like Rogelio Calubad (abducted with son Gabriel) in Bicol, Prudencio Calubid, Philip Limjoco and Leo Velasco were abducted in various parts of the country and remain missing. Meanwhile, up to 186 activists and ordinary people have been abducted by suspected elements of the military and have yet to be surfaced.
“Siguro pasalamat tayo (sa ginawa ni Trillanes sa Makati). Kailangan ng gobyerno magpapogi kaya ibinibintang din nila sa akin ‘yung nangyari sa Makati,” said Elizabeth. She believes that if not for government’s efforts to link Trillanes’ protest act to the revolutionary Left, the military would not have bothered to surface her.
Aya, meanwhile, is happy that at least her mother is alive. Members of Desaparecidos who were with Aya at the CIDG were equally happy, some were in tears. At last, they said, one of the missing has been found.
Photo by Sarah Raymundo