Families of Desaparecidos and EJK Victims light thousand candles on All Souls’ Day to call for end to state violence -www.tfdp.net
On November 2, 2017, All Souls’ Day, about 50 families of victims of involuntary disappearance and extrajudicial killings lead a gathering of more than a hundred religious, human rights advocates, and activists in lighting thousands of candles and offering prayers for victims of state violence.
While most Filipinos remember their dearly departed on All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, families of desaparecidos have no closure as to the fate of their loved ones and no graves to visit. Members of the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) traditionally gather to remember their loved ones. This year, they spend All Souls’ Day with the families of victims of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) under the government’s war on drugs at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Memorial Center in Quezon City.
“The families of victims of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings are one in holding the State accountable for these heinous and violent transgressions of human rights,” Nilda Sevilla, FIND Co-chairperson said. “Together, they must break their silence – demand truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-repetition – in order to break impunity,” she added.
According to the group, the event dubbed as “Libong Kandila at Panalangin para sa Libu-libong Biktima ng Karahasan” aims to remember victims, assert the truth about the human rights situation in the country, and urge the Duterte administration to stop perpetrating violence against the people.
“The government in the past few weeks denies that there are EJKs committed under the war on drugs. We light thousands of candles to symbolize our assertion of the truth. Thousands were killed. Many innocent lives were wasted. Many of our fellow Filipinos witnessed rampant violations of due process under the bloody war on drugs. Ano ang tawag mo sa patayan at karahasan ng pamahalaan? Paglabag ‘yan sa karapatang pantao,” pointed out Emmanuel Amistad, Executive Director of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP).
During the mass at the said gathering, Fr. Flaviano ‘Flavie’ Villanueva, SVD, Mission and JPIC Coordinator of SVD Central underscored the sanctity of life. “Ang bawat buhay ng tao ay nagmula sa Diyos. Dahil nagmula sa Kaniya, ang buhay ay sagrado. Ito’y dapat kalingain at pagyamanin. Ngunit kung ating babastusin, binabastos din natin ang Diyos.”
He added, “Marami na ang buhay na nawasak at naulila. Ipagdasal natin sa araw ng mga kaluluwa ang kaluluwa ng mga taong sumisigaw ng katarungan at naghahangad ng kapayapaan. Stop the killings! Start the healing!”
“As religious and consecrated persons, we believe that the wheels of justice should take their course following the proper procedure and operate within the bounds of the law. We demand that the concerned government agencies continue apprehending those involved in drug trafficking but not through extrajudicial killings,” said Sr. Regina Kuizon, RGS, Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) Co-Chairperson.
One of the relatives of the EJK victims under the war on drugs lamented, “Marami na pong buhay ang nasayang, marami po ang mga inosenteng nadamay. Kung ang otoridad ang lumalabag ng karapatan natin, kanino pa tayo aasa?”
“The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) strongly condemns the rampant cases of extrajudicial killings and State-sponsored violence,” Aileen Bacalso, AFAD Secretary-General said. “Likewise, we also urge the administration to fully implement the Republic Act 10353 to put an end to cases of enforced disappearance in the country. The inaction of the current administration signifies a travesty of justice and a manifestation of the longstanding culture of impunity in our society,” she added.
The activity is also part of the group’s series of events leading to the commemoration of the International Human Rights Day on December 10, 2017, even as they pledge to mobilize thousands of people to protest against State-sponsored violence.
The group concluded their event with a candle procession.