Every Undas or All Souls' Day (Nov. 2), when Filipinos troop to cemeteries to remember departed loved ones, I always think of the families of desaparecidos.
Where do they go to offer flowers and light the candles for their dead whom they didn’t bury? I think of Edith Burgos, whose son Jonas was last seen on April 28, 2007 at the Ever Gotesco Mall. I think of University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno who were last seen on June 26, 2006 in Hagonoy, Bulacan.
There are many more: Father Rudy Romano, a Redemptorist priest who served landless peasants and displaced settlers and the six workers of Paper Industries Corporation of the Philippines namely Joseph Belar, Jovencio Lagare, Romualdo Orcullo, Diosdado Oliver, Artemio Ayala Jr. and Arnold Dangkiasan.
The list is long according to Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND).
“For the families whose loved ones were made to disappear by their own governments, remembering the disappeared is a painful and torturous ordeal. They have no graves to visit, no tombs to light candles and no place to offer flowers. Even silence is an elusive desire to pray as the cry of their disappeared loved ones for truth and justice occupies their memories,” said Darwin Mendiola, AFAD project coordinator.
This All Souls' Day, I think of the 3,000 or more who were recently killed in President Duterte’s war against drugs.
Last Saturday, the family of 34-year-old Florjohn Cruz laid him to rest 10 days after he was killed in a round-up of suspected “pushers” in Caloocan City last Oct. 19. A cardboard with words, “Pusher at Adik, Huwag Tularan” was found near his dead body.
Like many others who were killed the last three months since Duterte took power, the family said Cruz, a singer-musician, a hockey player and a dean’s lister in a computer school, had been hooked in drugs but he never engaged in drug pushing, He didn’t have a gun which belied police allegation that he was killed because he shot the arresting policemen.
It’s double tragedy for the Rosales family who are still mourning the killing of their son Petronio Rosales Jr last October 26 while waiting for a ride in front of a restaurant along Yakal Street in Barangay San Antonio, Makati.
JR, as Petronio is known to relatives and friends, had been living in the United Kingdom and came home when his sister Lauren was killed while riding in a jeepney last July. The killing was reported as related to the government’s campaign against illegal drugs. The family vehemently protests saying Lauren, an executive assistant in a food company, was never into illegal drugs. The culprits were never known nor arrested.
JR, an IT expert, was reportedly following up Lauren’s Social Security Service benefits before going back to UK when he was killed last week.
A retired policeman, Alfredo Jebulan, is very angry. His son, Yani, a student at Our Lady of Fatima University in Caloocan, was shot to death by riding-in-tandem men wearing bonnets at around 12 midnight Oct. 29 2016.
He said his son was not into drugs.
He wrote a letter to President Duterte raging: “My point is, if I will know that one of your policemen has the hand for the cause of the death of my son, God forbids, I will let heaven and earth befall upon him. I know you don’t tolerate this but let me be very very frank, if they know how to kill people, so am I. This goes to you too Gen. Dela Rosa Sir. I’m begging you Help me solve the unnecessary death of my son PLEASE or I will be the one to do it without your help.”
Jebulan’s letter is being shared in social media. But that is all.
The killings continue. Enjoying “very good” satisfaction rating for his first 100 days performance dominated by killings unprecedented in the country’s history, Duterte vowed to kill more.
"I tell you, I will triple it. 'Pag hindi nasunod ang gusto ko, to get rid of my country (of the drug problem), you can expect 20,000 or 30,000 more (deaths)," Duterte said last week.
News reports of killings, either by police officers or by vigilantes, have become a daily norm. People are no longer shocked.
Poet Marne Kilates wrote in Facebook: “SAD. REALLY sad to see friends and acquaintances of apparently considerable intellectual capacity slip into the Pied Piper's parade of lightweight flute music, or more frighteningly, into the discombobulated rationalizations for what really is the rantings of a deranged leader canonized by electoral process and the subsequent adulation and fawning of mass insanity.”
“They forget," Marne rued, “in the process, the most basic features of a civilized community and a working democracy: the Rule of Law, Due Process, and Human Rights, Human Rights, Human Rights.
They bristle and scamper away at the mere mention of these civilized concepts, like the aswangs of folklore when shown a crucifix. They are afraid of these concepts because they don't know how to deal with them. Or these remind them that they are in fact in the wrong and would not admit it. They have regressed into the state of the not-so-noble savage pre-Enlightenment and pre-Renaissance, rushed across time and plunged into the all-gaming, all-dominating, and all-deceiving neo-fascist Gehenna of the Dark Internet.”
We have lost our sense of outrage. We should be in a state of mourning.
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