Karapatan asserts call to release remains of Bloody Sunday victims to their families

The Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army have no right to refuse to tender the remains of the victims of the Bloody Sunday raids from their families, human rights watchdog Karapatan asserted on Thursday, as the Antipolo Memorial Homes in Rizal have continued to refuse to turn over the bodies of urban poor activists Melvin Dasigao and Mark Lee Corros Bacasno as well as Dumagat farmers Puroy Dela Cruz, and Randy Dela Cruz to their respective families, who were padlocked inside the funeral parlor’s premises from Wednesday night until noon today.

“This murderous regime doesn’t even have a shred of mercy for the families of those they have killed! State forces already killed their loved ones and now they can’t even properly grieve their deaths. They did this to Randall Echanis when they snatched his body from his family while they were making funeral arrangements.  They did this to Baby River when they snatched her away from their family during her funeral march. This is clearly a modus operandi to torture their families — but we won’t let them get away with it this time,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

The families of Dasigao, Bacasno, and Dela Cruz together with their legal counsels from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers arrived at the Antipolo Memorial Homes yesterday, March 10, to process the release of their four victims’ remains. Despite being able to process the necessary papers and payments for release, the funeral house along with police officials have refused to release the remains and threatened to arrest the families, the paralegals, and the people assisting them when they asserted their right to claim the bodies.

Around 7 p.m., the gates of the funeral parlor were padlocked supposedly upon the orders of the funeral parlor’s owner, according to the police, preventing anyone from going in or out of the funeral premises. At around 1 a.m. earlier today, a fire truck along with two 6x6 military trucks, three police mobiles, and various motorcycles arrived outside the funeral parlor; more than 20 units of the Philippine Army led by a certain Captain Bauya also arrived in the area. Following a long standoff with the police and the military, the families and the paralegals were only able to come out of the funeral parlor’s premises around 11:30 a.m. but they were still unable to claim the remains.

Palabay questioned the owner’s supposed decision to put the funeral parlor under lockdown throughout the night: “Was it really the owner who made the decision to lock the families and their paralegals inside the funeral parlor, or is it the police calling the shots in order to intimidate and harass the families as well as to orchestrate their nakaw-bangkay modus operandi again? We are calling on the owner of the Antipolo Memorial Homes to tell the truth and to stop this cruelty by allowing the families to rightfully claim the remains of their loved ones.”

“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. They are being victimized twice over, and we can’t even imagine the horror of suffering this cold-blooded injustice against them and their families. We call on the police and the military to end this madness. Release the bodies now!” the Karapatan official ended.