De Lima urges public to remember young EJK victims on ‘Niños Inocentes’

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In line with the commemoration of Niños Inocentes or the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Senator Leila M. de Lima today called on her countrymen to remember and pray for justice of the young individuals killed amid the rash of extrajudicial killings in the country.

De Lima, former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson, said the traditional celebration of the Holy Innocents’ Day is also a chance for the Filipinos to pray for the healing of the families of EJK victims and an end to the violence in the country.

“Ipanalangin po natin na makamit nila ang hustisya, at ang paghilom ng malalim na sugat na iniwan ng trahedya sa kanilang pamilya. Ipanalangin nating matigil na ang karumal-dumal na patayan at karahasan sa ating bayan, para sa isang maaliwalas na bukas para sa lahat lalo na sa mga bata,” she said in a statement.

As part of the Christmas season, the Catholic Church celebrates “Niños Inocentes” every year in various parts of the world. It commemorates the innocent children who were killed by order of King Herod of Judea, fearful of being overthrown by the prophesized Messiah, to ensure Jesus Christ’s death.

De Lima said the celebration calls to mind, if not mirrors, the fate of the innocent children in the Philippines who have been literally caught in the barrage since President Duterte launched his all-out war on drugs last year.

“Sa nakalipas na isa’t kalahating taon, naging pamilyar ang ganitong malagim na pangyayari sa ating bansa sa ilalim ng pamamahala ng rehimeng Duterte. Sa madugong kampanya laban sa droga, inudyukan at patuloy pa ring inuudyukan ng gobyernong ito ang laganap na patayan kung saan napakarami nang inosente, kabilang ang mga bata, ang pinaslang,” she said.

Of the estimated 13,000 casualties in war on drugs, De Lima lamented the innocent children who were killed are simply regarded by the present government as mere “collateral damage.”

De Lima said she is saddened that the young individuals cannot anymore celebrate Christmas season with their respective families simply because the present administration chooses violence to “solve” the drug menace in the country.

“Noong nakaraang taon, hindi na nagawang makapagdiwang ng Pasko ng 7-taong gulang na si Saniño Butucan, 5-taong gulang na sina Danica May Garcia at Francisco Mañosca, at ng 4-taong gulang na si Althea Fhem Barbon,” she recalled.

“At dahil hindi pa rin ipinahinto ng rehimeng Duterte ang patayan sa harap ng kabi-kabilang panawagan na itigil na ito, pagluluksa ang hatid ng Pasko ngayong taon sa pamilya ng 14-taong gulang na si Reynaldo de Guzman, 15-taong gulang na si Charlie Jean Du at ng batang nasa kanyang sinapupunan, 17-taong gulang na si Kian Loyd delos Santos, at 19-taong gulang na si Carl Arnaiz,” she added.

Based on news reports, cops killed 17-year-old student Kian Loyd delos Santos for allegedly fighting out with the arresting officers during a drug raid in Caloocan City last Aug. 16.

Two days after the death of De los Santos, police have also been accused of summarily executing 19-year-old Carl Angelo Arnaiz for purportedly robbing a taxi driver.

Three weeks later, the body of 14-year-old student Reynaldo de Guzman, who was last seen accompanying Arnaiz, was found in Gapan, Nueva Ecija with 30 stab wounds while his head was wrapped in packing tape.

Last September, De Lima through Senate Resolution (SR) No. 499 urged the appropriate Senate Committee to investigate the successive reports of killings of children either by police or vigilantes.

This year, the growing public outrage on unjust executions of children and teenagers even led to a renewed call by several human rights groups, such as Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch, for an independent body to investigate the unlawful killings in the country but to no avail.

Months before AI’s call, United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteurs, through a Joint Statement, made urgent appeal to the Philippine government to address severe, multiple human rights violations including against human rights defenders and children who continue to be at high risk in a climate of prevailing violence.

A staunch critic of injustices happening in the country since Duterte assumed presidency, De Lima vowed to protect human rights of women and children even while in detention for trumped-up drug charges fabricated by the present administration.

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