State forces’ practice of holding remains shows ‘appalling inhumanity’ – rights groups

“The appalling inhumanity of the State does not end with their gruesome, extrajudicial killings: they continue to deny the remains of their victims from death to funeral while putting their families to the torturous experience and misery of having to beg on their knees for the remains of their own loved ones.”

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL 
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Victimized twice over.

This is how Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan described the plight of families of four individuals who were killed in what is now known as Bloody Sunday.

It took four days before police and military finally released of the remains of urban poor activists Melvin Dasigao and Mark Lee Corros Bacasno, and the Dumagat farmers Puroy Dela Cruz, and Randy Dela Cruz.

“The appalling inhumanity of the State does not end with their gruesome, extrajudicial killings: they continue to deny the remains of their victims from death to funeral while putting their families to the torturous experience and misery of having to beg on their knees for the remains of their own loved ones,” Palabay said in a statement.

As of this writing, the families of the four are leaving the Antipolo Funeral Homes to transport the bodies to the Philippine General Hospital for independent autopsy.

Karapatan has called this as a modus operandi of the police as there have been the same cases where the remains of slain activists were not immediately turned over to their respective families.

In 2020, Bulatlat has reported such incidents of the police. Some of the remains were even buried under false names. Families had to seek assistance from human rights groups to help them retrieve the bodies as authorities were adamant in keeping the bodies from their grieving families.

Such practice violates the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), a joint agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which guarantees respect for the basic rights of combatants and non-combatants for both sides.

In January 2020, two peasant activists, Emerito Pinza and Romy Candor were buried under the false names of ‘Leo San Jose Dela Cruz’ and ‘Bipar’ respectively.

They were killed in combined police and military operations on Jan. 19, 2020 in sitio Balot Kahoy, barangay San Antonio, Kalayaan, Laguna.

Jay-ar Mercado, an indigenous people’s organizer and member of Bigkis at Lakas ng mga Katutubo sa Timog Katagalugan (BALATIK) was killed by suspected elements of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Battalion on Jan. 31, 2020 in Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro. The military got hold of his remains from the funeral parlor and buried it without the family’s consent. The family was able to locate and exhumed the body on Feb. 5. 2020 in a local cemetery.

Dioscorro Cello, Rey Macinas, and Alex Perdeguerra were killed in an armed encounter in barangay San Antonio, Kalayaan, Laguna on Aug. 4, 2020. Their bodies were initially brought to Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba, Laguna. The families were informed that their loved ones were interred at Green Lawn Memorial Services. When the families came to retrieve their loved ones’ bodies, they were told that the police took the bodies again “to bury them.” After several days, families and members of human rights group Karapatan in the Southern Tagalog region were able to locate the bodies of Macinas and Perdeguerra, which were buried in Antipolo, Rizal. Cello’s body was found in Tuy, Batangas.

The police also held the body of Mario Caraig, a New People’s Army guerrilla who was killed by the police on Aug. 12, 2020. According to Karapatan-ST, the police were “wildly uncooperative” and repeatedly questioned his sister, Floriza, relationship to him. Floriza had to procure a Certificate of No Marriage to certify that Caraig had no other family.

The police snatched the remains of peace consultant Randall Echanis after the family had taken his body to St. Peter’s Chapel. The police claimed that there was no “release order” yet. This despite his wife, Linda positively identifying his husband in the funeral parlor.

On October 16, 2020, on the day of River Emmanuelle’s burial, the police ordered the driver of the hearse carrying her body to depart from the funeral house, leaving behind her grieving family. River is the three-month-old daughter of political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino.

The police also held the remains of five farm workers namely: Vilma Salabao, Wesley Obmerga, Carlito Zonio, Jhonatan Alberga, and Niño Alberga. It took three weeks before the families were able to claim their bodies. The police claimed that they were NPA fighters who were killed in a shootout in Sitio Malalim, Barangay San Juan, Baras, Rizal province on Dec. 17 last year. A fact-finding mission by Karapatan-ST revealed that the five were caretakers and workers at a private mango farm in barangay San Juan, Baras. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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