QUEZON CITY — On May 25, Thursday, the remains of 6 extra-judicial killings (EJK) victims will be formally turned over to their families at the Sacred Heart Parish – Shrine, Quezon City, with Ambassador of the Netherlands to the Philippines Ms. Marielle Geraedts as the ceremony’s guest of honor. This will be the 12th turnover of EJK victims’ cremated remains under Program Paghilom’s Project Arise.
Of the said six EJK victims, four had death certificates declaring gunshot wounds to be the cause of death; one listed “natural causes”; and one more had an incompletely accomplished death certificate.
It [also] sends a glaring signal to the ICC that there is such an endeavor, a unique endeavor taking place.
“The international community has always been on the watch for what Program Paghilom has been doing… It [also] sends a glaring signal to the ICC that there is such an endeavor, a unique endeavor taking place,” explained Fr. Flavie Villanueva, SVD, founder and president of Arnold Janssen Kalinga Foundation Inc. (AJKFI), which launched Program Paghilom in 2017.
The priest also noted how Amb. Geraedts “has always been a partner in mission” when it comes to human rights, especially with regards to the plight of the EJK widows and orphans who are part of Program Paghilom. He mentioned the Tulip Award, an annual award the Dutch government confers to honor human rights defenders. In 2021, Fr. Villanueva was the first Filipino to receive the award for his work in protecting and championing the rights of EJK victims and their families.
School Director of Saint Jude Catholic School Fr. Roland “Raqui” Aquino, SVD will preside over the liturgical ceremony, which will include the blessing of the urns containing the EJK victims’ cremated remains, as well as messages from surviving EJK family members and Amb. Geraedts.
3 steps of Project Arise
Princess Cabangon, whose father Pablo was shot in his home in 2016 in a case of “palit-ulo” (fall guy execution) and Marie Tion, whose spouse was shot and killed in 2018 while out drinking with friends at a local store, will both speak at the ceremony.
“Just as we are still celebrating Easter, the lives of the widows have gone through a period of the Paschal mystery. From the suffering, there was this central event of dying. From groping in the dark, they are now embracing the reason for their rising up, their faith becomes more real,” added Fr. Villanueva.
He noted: “Not only do they celebrate Easter, they also look forward to the coming Pentecost.”
Under Program Paghilom’s Project Arise, EJK family members can save their loved ones’ remains from being lost forever in mass graves after the leases on their public cemetery apartment tombs expire. The remains are then exhumed, examined in collaboration with forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun, cremated, and turned over to the families.