Undas 2017: 'Drug war victims crying for justice'

MANILA, Philippines – "Hindi magiging tahimik ang ating mga kapatid na mga pinaslang. Sila ay laging magpapaalala sa atin, tuwing November, tuwing kanilang death anniversary, na kamtin ang katarungan."

(Our slain brothers and sisters will never be in peace. They will always remind us, every November, every time it is their death anniversary, to seek justice for them.)

Father Gilbert Billena, spokesperson of the group Rise Up for Life and for Rights, made this call on the eve of All Saints' Day, November 1.

All Saints' Day, also called Undas in the Philippines, is the day for remembering the dead in this predominantly Catholic country. 

Undas this year comes as President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs, which has run for more than a year, has killed more than 14,000 people in both police operations and vigilante-style killings. (READ: Church to hold EDSA march vs killings on November 5)

Billena talked about this in a Mass for victims of drug war killings at San Isidro Labrador Parish in Bagong Silangan, Quezon City, on Tuesday morning, October 31.

Billena explained that even in the Book of Revelations in the Bible, martrys, even though in heaven, still prayed for justice for themselves.

'May katapusan din ang lahat'

The priest said justice for drug war victims – even if not today or tomorrow – is sure to come.

"Alam natin na may katapusan din ang lahat. Katulad noong Martial Law, maraming pinatay at pinaslang, ngunit may katapusan din ang diktadurya. At naniniwala tayo na may katapusan din ang ganitong klaseng pamamaraan at pang-aapi ng estado sa mga mahihirap at mga biktima," Billena said.

(We know that there's an end to everything. In the case of Martial Law, when many people were killed, the dictatorship also came to an end. And we believe there will also be an end to this kind of persecution by the state against poor victims.)

PRAYERS FOR JUSTICE. Families pray for justice at the Mass on October 31, 2017, for victims of drug war killings in Quezon City. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

PRAYERS FOR JUSTICE. Families pray for justice at the Mass on October 31, 2017, for victims of drug war killings in Quezon City.

Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

In a statement also for Tuesday's event, families of drug war victims said the death of their loved ones is not the will of God. (READ: On eve of Undas, mothers seek justice for slain teenage sons)

"Pinaslang ang aming mahal sa buhay, at batid namin na kailanman ito ay hindi kalooban ng Diyos. Itinakda ito ng kapangyarihan ng kapulisan, ng awtoridad, ng mga taong may baril dahil sa giyera kontra droga," the families said in a joint statement.

(Our loved ones were killed, and we know that this will never be the will of God. This was imposed by the power of the police, of the authorities, of people who have guns because of the war on drugs.)

"Sisindihan namin ang mga kandila bilang simbolo ng aming mithiin para sa katarungan." (We are lighting candles as a symbol of our hope for justice.) – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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