“We fight not only for our sons and husbands. We do this for the killings to stop. So that there will be no more victims.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Saturday is a rest day for some, but for Purisima Dacumos, 50, it was a busy day. She attended a meeting in the morning with mothers from Rise Up for Life and for Rights and attended the annual Confessio Peccati (confession of sins) organized by the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines in the afternoon.
Dacumos was joined by other mothers and relatives of the victims of war on drugs in the said activity where the government’s campaign against illegal drugs was one of the 14 stations in the penitential walk held in Sampaloc, Manila last Saturday, March 30. The 14 stations reflected the social issues including the government’s so-called war on drugs.
Before, Dacumos did not join any rally or activity after her husband, Danilo, was killed by policemen in civilian clothes, inside their house in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City, on Aug. 3, 2017. It was her choice, she said, not to go after the perpetrators because no witness was willing to testify.
It was after she met members of Rise Up that she became aware of her rights and learned that she could not stay silent forever.
“That is where I draw my strength, from the families and other mothers. I felt that I was not alone – I was not the only one who’s suffering injustice and there are thousands of us out there,” she told Bulatlat in an interview.
The power of numbers
No one also would want to testify on the killing of Irma Locasia’s son, Salvador. He was reportedly killed in a police operation on Aug. 31, 2018. Many witnessed how Salvador was taken by the police in a funeral, said Locasia.
She said witnesses asked for her understanding why they could not testify. “They told me that they have their own families to take care of; that’s why they could not testify against the perpetrators,” she said in Filipino.
It affected her immensely, she said, especially that her only son whom she called as Bong-bong, helped in taking care of her husband who is bed-ridden due to a stroke.
She felt helpless after her son’s death, she said. She would cry often and refused to respond to any interview by the media.
It was also when she met members of Rise Up that she gained strength to cope and move one. In fact, she is now the coordinator of Rise Up in Bagong Silangan, Quezon City. She said talking to other mothers and relatives somehow soothes her pain. “Knowing that you are not alone helps a lot,” she said in Filipino.
Philippine withdrawal in ICC is not the end
Llore Benedicto, 64, said the withdrawal of the Philippine government from the International Criminal Court (ICC) will not end their quest for justice.
“Isn’t it good that in the ICC proceedings, Duterte will have a chance to explain (about the anti-illegal drug campaign)? Unlike us, our children and their husbands, they did not have the chance to explain. They were killed instantly,” she told Bulatlat in an interview.
“It was unfair,” she added.
Benedicto, Locasia and Dacumos, were among the families who filed mass murder charges against President Duterte in the ICC through the help of Rise Up and the National Union of People’s Lawyers.
Benedicto lost her two sons, Crisanto, 33 and Juan Carlo, 31 on May 11, 2017. They went missing and their bodies were later found at the Archangel Funeral parlor in Parañaque. The police claimed that her sons were killed in a police operation in Technohub in Quezon City.
According to the police report, her sons were involved in a holdup incident at Tandang Sora. “The police claimed that my sons fought back that is why they got killed. They sustained multiple gunshot wounds; there are also a gunshot wounds in the head and legs. Pinuruhan sila , (They made sure my sons were killed.)” she told Bulatlat adding that her sons were in the barangay’s watch list.
Meanwhile for Dacumos, if Duterte has nothing to hide, why withdraw from the ICC?
“Maybe it is better that he also withdraws from the presidency. Why withdraw from the ICC if this government is not doing anything illegal?” she said.
But their quest for justice will not end with the withdrawal of the Duterte administration from the ICC. One way or another, they believe that they will get the justice their sons and husbands deserve.
Grieving is not yet over for these mothers, however, they also know that they could not just mourn and wait for justice to come. That is why they are fighting for justice.
“We encourage mothers and wives to come out and speak. There will be more abuses if we will only falter,” she said.