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Gathering support for the families affected by the “war on drugs” in the Philippines
Injustices experienced by the poor under the Duterte regime don’t end with death by extrajudicial killings. Five years have passed since the launch of Duterte’s war on drugs, and many of the affected communities are retraumatized by grief, now compounded by their lack of resources to renew the grave leases of their loved ones whose lives were quickly ended by an unjust war. The families victimized by the war have expressed worries about losing their departed in anonymous mass graves. Dignity should be inherent to human life. People deserve respect, while living, and also in death.
Public cemeteries of Manila are as densely populated as the city itself. So-called “apartment tombs” are stacked up to 10 “floors” high. The capitalist rules of the housing market continue in the afterlife as graves are commodified. Graves owned privately are akin to having a landlord. The entombed will be evicted if their left-behind are unable to renew the expiring five-year lease of the grave. After lease expiration, the graves are opened, the remains exhumed, and placed into a sack which are then deposited in a mass grave. Nanay*, who lost both her son and husband to the war explains the predicament that she is facing:
"Kapag wala kang pera at hindi mo na kayang mabayaran (ang upa ng nitso), o wala nang kamag anak yung namatay na mag aaasikaso... aalisin yung buto tapos isasama na lang sa ibang mga buto ng tao, sa isang lugar na parang malaking balon. Doon mo nalang pwedeng tirikan ng kandila."
(If you really have no money, and if you’re unable to renew the lease of the grave, or if the victims don’t have kin to care for the grave, they would take out the bones from the niches and put them with other bones into a place which is like a well. It is by this mass grave that you can light your candle offering for the departed.)
Families would hope to buy a private grave so that their departed will no longer face the threat of eviction during death, but the cost is prohibitive for the bereaved. Being able to afford a private tomb for her husband and son is highly unlikely for Nanay*.
Without the resources to afford a private grave, families are faced with two options:
- Renew the grave lease which amounts to about PhP7,000 each, including processing costs. This extends the lease for another five years.
- Cremate the remains of their loved one which costs approximately PhP45,000, including permits, transportation, and the urn.
Cremation remains taboo in the predominantly Catholic Philippines. It is important to honor families' preferred mode of interment to prevent further harm and trauma caused by EJKs on the bereaved.
How You Can Help
Respond and Break the Silence Against the Killings (RESBAK) and Program Paghilom have launched an online donation drive for those who wish to extend their pakikiramay (condolences) to help lift the families’ experience of enduring grief. The means for the livelihood of families affected by the "war on drugs" are dampened even more by the pandemic. Their capacity to afford the renewal of the final resting place of their loved ones is looking more impossible with each passing day.
Your donations will grant victims of an unjust war to at least have a final resting place and dignity after death.
Cash donations can be made to/via:
Who Will be Receiving Help
100% of donations will go to the Pakikiramay Fund or directly to the mothers, widows, and orphans who need support.
About the Campaign Organizers
Respond and Break the Silence Against the Killings (RESBAK) is one of many organizations at the forefront of raising awareness about the effects of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. RESBAK is composed of artists, academics, and members of the community affected by the drug war. To learn more about RESBAK, please visit us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. For inquiries, please email [email protected].
Program Paghilom's mission is to enable widows, orphans, family members, and communities of extrajudicial killing survivors to heal and rebuild their lives. As of October 2021, Program Paghilom has supported at least 45 families bereaved affected by the "war on drugs" and by the eviction of their loves ones from their graves.
MARAMING SALAMAT PO!
Photos in this campaign by Raffy Lerma.
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