12/11/2023, 18.37
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A grave (and memorial) for the victims of Duterte's war on drugs

The Diocese of Kalookan has allocated cemetery space for the burial of people killed in the former president’s controversial campaign that left 27,000 dead. Some families cannot afford cemetery fees. This place should be a reminder that such a tragedy “should never be allowed to happen ever again,” said Fr Villanueva. “A shrine is not only for heroes,” Bishop David noted.

Manila (Philippines) – Fr Flaviano Villanueva wants to build a memorial to those killed during Rodrigo Duterte's brutal war on drugs, as well as provide real help to poor families who have seen their loved ones killed in extrajudicial killings and lack the means to give them a burial.

This Philippine clergyman, who has always spoken out against human rights violations committed by the former president in the name of the war on drugs, launched the initiative today together with Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.

The Diocese of Kalookan is part of Metro Manila, a huge urban area. The diocese is setting aside an area of 36 square metres, free for at least the next 40 years, in La Loma cemetery to build a memorial to accommodate between 100 and 400 columbaria with three urns each.

Fr Villanueva and Bishop David led the inauguration ceremony today, which took place in the presence of prominent anti-Duterte opposition figures, including former Vice President Leni Robredo and former Senator Leila de Lima, who was recently released from prison.

Many of the families of those summarily executed in police raids are unable to pay cemetery fees, which can reach about 4,500 pesos a year (about US$ 75).

Some victims were exhumed and evicted from their last resting place last year; hence, the idea of the memorial, reports the Rappler online news website.

“It should stand as a momental landmark that these are victims of the government’s systematic killings that should never be allowed to happen ever again,” said Fr Villanueva. “A shrine is not only for heroes, it’s also for us, so we don’t forget,” Bishop David said.

Human rights groups estimate that 27,000 people were killed during Duterte's war on drugs. An investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) is underway to determine whether the killings were state policy.

Photo: Facebook page of the Diocese of Kalookan

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