MULTIMEDIA

Alleged drug war victims exhumed as lease on graves expires

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 17 2021 11:07 PM

On a Friday morning with the sun beating down, a solemn procession made its way to various cemeteries in Metro Manila. 

Instead of burying loved ones, the party was there to exhume the bodies of the dead. 

Friends and family were violently taken away from them the past few years. Allegedly, all were victims of extra-judicial killings committed during the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs.

Lease contracts, which normally only bind the living, still apply to these dead as money for permanent graves is hard to come by. 

The alleged victims and their families are mostly impoverished, the ones affected the most, critics of the drug war say. 

Even in death, the alleged victims are never truly at rest as the 5-year lease on their graves, their supposed final resting please, are coming up. 

This is the why the bodies are being exhumed. 

This is where Fr. Flaviano “Flavie” Villanueva and Project ARISE come in. 

The initiative aims to provide dignified care and healing to families of victims of extrajudicial killings. 

They do this in 4 steps. First, Project ARISE coordinates with program offices and compiles pertinent documents. After this, they handle the exhumation and priests bless the remains. The remains are then cremated and put in an urn and brought finally to its resting place. 

The latest Project ARISE initiative, its third since being founded in 2016, comes a few days after the International Criminal Court approved the investigation of President Rodrigo Duterte and his war on drugs. 

Here are some scenes:

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Fr. Flaviano “Flavie” Villanueva speaks to the relatives of alleged drug war victims at the Tala Cemetery in Caloocan on Friday. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Fr. Villanueva carries the exhumed remains of Reymart Mabute after the lease on his grave expired at the Tala Cemetery. According to his partner, the then 19-year-old Mabute was out to buy milk and diapers, when a gunman shot him right on his nape on September 9, 2016, the height of President Duterte’s war on drugs. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

A worker dons a personal protective suit as they prepare to exhume the remains of alleged drug war victims at the Manila North Cemetery on Friday. Several remains were exhumed today after the leases on their graves expired. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Fr. Villanueva reads a prayer with the bereaved families before the exhumation. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Fr. Villanueva prays over a grave with the bereaved families before the exhumation. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Workers place the remains into a body bag at the Manila North Cemetery on Friday. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Workers carry the exhumed remains of an alleged drug war victim at the Manila North Cemetery. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

A relative of an alleged drug war victim wipes her tears as they exhume the remains. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

26-year-old Kristina walks among tombs as the remains of her uncle are exhumed at the Manila North Cemetery. Then 30-year-old Alvin Arbuis, died on August 16, 2016, and was among the alleged victims of President Duterte’s campaign against drugs. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Workers label the body bag that will contain the exhumed remains of alleged drug war victims at the Manila North Cemetery. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

The reflection of 26-year-old Kristina is is seen on a plastic barrier as she travels with other bereaved relatives of alleged drug war victims during the exhumation of their remains. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

56-year-old Maria watches as the remains of her son are exhumed at the Navotas Cemetery on Friday. According to Maria, then 22-year-old Aljon was among the group of boys picked up by masked men on motorbikes, and was later found dead under a bridge on September 20, 2016. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Fr. Villanueva, along with workers, carry the exhumed remains of Aljon Deparine at the Navotas Cemetery. According to the mother of Ajon, the then 22-year-old was among the group of boys picked up by masked men on motorbikes, and was later found dead under a bridge on September 20, 2016. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Workers carry the remains of alleged drug war victims at the Navotas Cemetery. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Fr. Villanueva along with workers carry the exhumed remains of an alleged drug war victim at the Navotas Cemetery. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Relatives of alleged drug war victims gather to pray around the exhumed remains of their loved ones outside the Navotas Cemetery. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News