“We appeal to the soldiers who charged Vanessa to drop the case. You see, she’s already paralyzed.” — Victor delos Reyes
By MARILOU AGUIRRE-TUBURAN
DAVAO CITY, Philippines — For 57-year old Victor delos Reyes, whatever road his child chooses — even if it’s the road less traveled — he will not oppose it, saying “As a father, I will have to respect it.”
He and his wife already accepted, albeit uneasily, that however parents would want their children to be, the latter will always have their own decisions to make, dreams to pursue.
Delos Reyes’s fourth child, Vanessa, was a communist New People’s Army fighter in the hinterland of Davao Oriental. She was a member of the underground organization Kabataang Makabayan in her college days. Though her family was disappointed that she didn’t finish her last year in college, they have learned to accept it.
And the family’s acceptance and support was put on test, one year since Vanessa was captured by government forces. “I’m feeling much better now compared before when we’re overwhelmed with worry,” delos Reyes said.
In May 29 last year, Vanessa was wounded in an encounter with government troops under the 10th Infantry Division of the Eastern Mindanao Command in Aliwagwag village, Cateel town, Davao Oriental. With a bullet hitting her spinal column, she was left badly wounded and rendered incapable of fighting. In the words of human rights activists, Vanessa delos Reyes was a hors de combat, and now a political detainee, one among the 300 nationwide.
At the time of her capture, Vanessa was airlifted from the district hospital of Bislig, Surigao del Sur and brought to Davao City’s Southern Philippines Medical Center (formerly Regional Hospital) for immediate medical treatment.
But the wound has kept her paralyzed waist down. She can no longer stand and walk sans support. Her condition requires a lifetime of treatment. And since then, she has undergone two major operations.
For a father, seeing his child with such condition is emotionally tasking. And with armed security forces guarding Vanessa in the hospital, delos Reyes finds the situation rather uncomfortable.
“Every time we go out of the room, I feel like I’m floating. We’re not used with escorts,” delos Reyes said adding, “with her condition, I don’t think that’s necessary. But after a year, we’ve no choice but to get used to it.”
From Monday to Friday, delos Reyes takes Vanessa to the rehabilitation (room) in the hospital’s ground floor through a wheelchair. Delos Reyes practically assists Vanessa everyday while her wife attends to their small agri-business.
“With her situation right now, who says she’s a threat to security?” Rocky Balili, a member of Pi Sigma fraternity, said. “She can’t even stand on her own. So there’s no reason she can’t be granted freedom,” he added.
Balili, Vanessa’s fraternity brother, said they have been calling for the immediate release of Vanessa through an international online campaign and fundraising initiated by the fraternity/sorority’s Davao City chapter.
“It is really our hope that Vanessa will finally be granted freedom,” Balili, who considers Vanessa, a Deltan warrior, said.
“She’s a Deltan warrior because among all our sorority sisters, she’s one among the few who took a different path in realizing our organization’s objective. She has taken the Pi Sigma Delta’s orientation of serving the people with dignity to a higher level,” Balili said.
Balili said Pi Sigma Delta is paglingkuran ang sambayanan ng may dangal when translated in Filipino. The Deltan warrior, he added, is a term coined by one of the founders of Pi Sigma Delta sorority who’s already overseas. Vanessa was a sorority member when he was a student at the University of Southeastern Philippines-Mintal.
Efforts to free Vanessa
“We appeal to the soldiers who charged Vanessa to drop the case. You see, she’s already paralyzed,” Victor delos Reyes said.
Vanessa de los Reyes was charged with four counts of frustrated murder.
Fe Salino, co-convenor of the Free Vanessa Movement, and herself incarcerated thrice by government authorities during Martial law years, condemned the criminal charges slapped against Vanessa.
The Free Vanessa Movement (FVM) has been calling for Vanessa’s “unconditional release on humanitarian grounds.” It’s composed of Vanessa’s family and friends and human rights advocates.
Salino said the doctor has advised for Vanessa’s transfer to a “private rehabilitation center,” adding that, “her condition is very risky. She could easily be infected with other forms of diseases.”
“Because of financial constraints, Vanessa’s family alone can’t afford to shoulder all the expenses. They badly need our help,” Salino said.
FVM has recently initiated a dinner for a cause event, including selling of t-shirts, to raise funds for Vanessa’s medical, paralegal and other expenses. Cause-oriented groups and Vanessa’s fraternity brothers and sorority sisters have also been extending help.
“My family’s very grateful for their overwhelming support. Without them, we don’t know what to do, whom to turn to,” Victor delos Reyes said.
FVM demands that “Vanessa and over 300 political prisoners nationwide be granted general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty for their incarceration due to their political beliefs, for acts in pursuit of these beliefs.”
Vanessa, from the words of FVM, is “a young spirited woman who evolved from being a simple University student into woman revolutionary in her search for the solutions to the social injustices that glared at her everyday.” (Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday.com