MANILA, Philippines – As couples celebrated Valentine's Day on Wednesday, February 14, families of the victims of the government's war on drugs gathered in a mass at Sto. Niño Parish Church in Caloocan City to offer prayers to their slain loved ones.
Many of the bereaved parents, widows, and orphans who attended come from Bagong Silang in Caloocan, one of the most gravely affected communities in Metro Manila in terms of the fatalities.
"As the beginning of Lent also coincides with Valentine’s Day, the season’s call for recollection brought the families together for a meaningful remembrance of their lost loved ones," said the CSO-CHR Consultative Caucus on Human Rights in a press statement.
Photo by CSO-CHR (Consultative Caucus on Human Rights)
"Deaths caused by EJK causes greater pain for these families: even as they search for justice, many of these families continue to struggle with poverty and the trauma of violence."
One of the most controversial cases in the community was a case of a vigilante killing, dubbed "the Caloocan massacre," on December 28, 2016, that left 7 people dead, including a pregnant woman and 3 minors.
Photo by CSO-CHR Consultative Caucus on Human Rights
Teenagers Jonel Segovia, 15; Sonny Espinosa, 16; Angelito Soriano, 16; Edward Villanueva, 18; and Kenneth Lim, 20, were at a friend's house after being invited for a party when masked men arrived and sprayed bullets.
In an Inquirer report, police said they were eyeing the possibility of a "gang war," but the mothers of the victims claimed the "vigilantes" were targeting a certain Jay-R Santor whose parents owned the house where the party was.
Three relatives of the supposed target were also killed.
"For Catholics, the Season of Lent also calls for penance. Even as the government has promised improved transparency and accountability in this nth iteration of Tokhang, there are still numerous cases of questionable deaths from the previous version of the “war on drugs,” which this government must be accountable for," CSO-CHR said. – with reports from Eloisa Lopez/Rappler.com