By RAYMUND VILLANUEVA and JOSEPH CUEVAS
Government forces may have invented another practice against families of victims of deadly police operations: funeral arrest.
Families and human rights workers have been kept inside a funeral parlor in Antipolo City since Wednesday night, March 10, by the Philippine National Police (PNP).
As many as 23 are being detained by the police inside the premises of the Antipolo Funeral Homes.
The families went to the funeral parlor last Tuesday to claim the remains of some of the victims in last Sunday’s bloody police operations across four Southern Tagalog provinces.
The funeral parlor not only refused to release the bodies but the family members were instead detained by the police starting nine o’clock Wednesday evening.
“Our clients just want to retrieve the bodies of their slain loved ones and give them proper burial according to their wishes. It is not you or anyone else who will decide on that matter. The families have complied with all the authorities’ requirements for the retrieval of the bodies and paid the bills to the funeral homes. Yet the funeral homes is still withholding the bodies,” NUPL Lawyer Kathy Panguban said.
Families have complied with all the necessary requirements for the release of the remains and have paid for the funeral services.
Members of the human rights group Karapatan Timog Katagalugan who responded to their pleas for help are likewise being detained.
Representatives of the Commission on Human Rights national office were also barred from entering the facility by combat fatigue-clad police officers.
According to initial reports, the families were ready with their documents and monies to claim the remains of the victims but were refused.
Police personnel on the ground have refused to explain why the families and human rights workers are being detained.
The detainees were threatened with mass arrests, sources told Kodao.
Atty. Jun Oliva and Atty. Kathy Panguban of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers are negotiating with the police for the release of those detained and for the transport of the bodies to the Philippine General Hospital for autopsy procedures.
Previous ‘funeral arrests’
In several previous instances, the police have refused to immediately release the bodies of violently killed activists and civilians to their families.
In August 2020, the Quezon City Police District took several days to release the remains of slain National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Randall Echanis to his family.
Last Christmas eve, police also prevented the families of three Baras, Rizal mango orchard workers killed in a police operation from claiming their remains for several days.
The remains were also kept by the same Antipolo Funeral Homes, a seeming PNP-Rizal favorite for victims of bloody police operations.
In Iloilo province, the police also prevented the release of the remains of several Tumandok victims of a bloody police operation last December 30 to their families for several days.
A more bizarre incident happened at the internment of month-old River Nasino whose remains were spirited away by Bureau of Jail Management and Penology personnel that led to wild chase from Pandacan, Manila to the city’s North Cemetery last October. With reports from Bulatlat Reposted by