United by the common pain of loss and injustice, families of victims of involuntary disappearance were joined by the families of victims of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) on Holy Wednesday to intensify their call for justice, which for years has eluded them.
An annual event of the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND), the Kalbaryo ng Kawalan ng Katarungan for the past years had always highlighted the cross the families bear. This year, according to Nilda Sevilla, Co-chairperson of FIND, the event showed their strength and unity as more families of the disappeared and EJK victims are coming out in the open to become staunch human rights defenders (HRDs).
Forming a human chain in front of the Centris Mall along EDSA corner Quezon Avenue, they emphasized the significance of the May 13 national elections in their fight for justice. “Let us ensure that no perpetrator of human rights violations and supporters of Duterte’s brutal drug war will be voted into office. Do not vote for candidates who have blood on their hands,” Ellecer Carlos, spokesperson of iDEFEND and son of a surfaced desaparecido said.
“As human rights violations against the poor and critics of this administration escalate, it is crucial that we elect candidates who, based on their track record, will prioritize all human rights for all,” Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) Executive Director Emmanuel Amistad stressed.
Meanwhile, Senator Leila de Lima, in a statement read during the event, urged the families of victims not to lose hope. “Like you, I am also a victim of injustice but I believe that one day through our persistence and collective action, justice will be served.”
The opposition lawmaker has been detained for more than two years now in Camp Crame on what her supporters describe as trumped-up illegal drugs charges meant to silence her criticisms against EJKs and the war on drugs.
As they come together, the families demand that government: conduct prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation of the killings and disappearances even prior to the filing of formal complaints; ensure accountability of perpetrators; strengthen the rights against enforced disappearance and EJKs; grant reparation to all victims of human rights violations; enact the human rights defenders protection law; and address the roots of insurgency and illegal drugs.
“We have no illusions that these demands will be fulfilled by the same people who snatched our loved ones from us. Our vote on May 13 will be a protest vote against impunity and injustice,” Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso, Secretary General of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) said.
Elaborating on the political character of the families’ Lenten call, Sevilla reminded the gathering that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was a violent act of the State. “The struggle for political power underlay King Herod’s plot to eliminate Jesus Christ whom he tagged as a subversive – a threat to his enduring reign,” she pointed out.
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