EDSA Simbang Gabi: 'Killings put to shame our Christian nation'
MANILA, Philippines – Amid the daily killings and other pressing issues that have marked the year, an activist priest prays that Filipinos find "true Christmas," which is "an aspiration for peace."
"Our deepest aspiration as humans is for things money can't buy," said activist and running priest Father Robert Reyes on Thursday, December 15. "Our deepest aspiration during this period is what we do deeply need now – peace."
Together with Father Dante Funelas, Reyes led the kickoff of the traditional 9-day novena mass during the Christmas season.
The mass, organized by the Coalition Against Marcos Burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (CAMB-LNMB), was held at the People Power Monument along EDSA. It was part of their series of protests against former President Ferdinand Marcos' interment at the Heroes' Cemetery. (READ: Simbang Gabi kicks off with Anti-Marcos mass at EDSA monument)
But Reyes intended his homily to cover the issue of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) that has haunted the country way back during the Martial Law regime and now under President Rodrigo Duterte.
"EJKs put to shame the very fiber of our Christian nation – a nation that professes faith to life-promoting God," Reyes said in his homily.
Right to life not a question
He also hit the approval of the death penalty bill in the House of Representatives' committee on justice last December 8.
"The value of life cannot be subject to legal dispute," he said.
"No to Marcos burial is just one issue. No to what kills the human spirit, the democratic spirit to speak, assert and express oneself, this we must fight for," he added.
Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Chito Gascon, who attended the mass, vowed to continue upholding human rights amid the challenges they faced this year under Duterte's hardline stance on killings.
"We continue to be hopeful, us, the human rights defenders. Despite all of the difficulties and problems that we are seeing and encountering, our message is a message of hope that we must always affirm for dignity that is in every person," Gascon said in an interview before the mass.
Gascon said they felt disappointed that the visit of the United Nations special rapporteur for summary executions, Agnes Callamard, was aborted after the government reportedly cancelled the trip since she did not accept the conditions set by President Rodrigo Duterte.
He, however, urged the government to offer a standing invitation to Callamard so that it may present to her the results of its investigation into EJKs.
Since Duterte launched his all out war on drugs, there have been 3,671 number of unexplained death incidents and 2,886 deaths under investigation. (READ: IN NUMBERS: The Philippines' 'war on drugs') – Rappler.com