27 August 2017

When Heaven Wept

English Translation of the Homily at the Funeral Mass for Kian Lloyd De los Santos
By Most Rev Pablo Virgilio S. David, DD, Bishop of Caloocan
Santa Quiteria Parish Church
Diocese of Kalookan
Caloocan city

Dear brother priests in the Diocese of Caloocan, especially the parish priest of Santa Quiteria Parish, Fr. George Alfonso, MSC, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart here present today, the other guest priests, the De los Santos family, brothers and sisters in Christ, thank you for joining us in this Funeral Mass for the eternal repose of KIan Lloyd de los Santos.

Every human being has parents, even if some parents might choose not to acknowledge them. Jesus too was a human being; he too had parents. He acknowledged Mary and Joseph as his parents.

It is normal for a son or daughter to bury a dead parent. What we are doing today is not so normal; it is the parents who are burying their child. It's a reversal of roles. It is not right.

It is not easy to condole with parents who have lost a child. You cannot just say, "I know what you are going through," if you have never lost and buried a child who is at the prime of his youth and is just learning to weave his dreams. In such circumstances, it is better to keep quiet.

But there is one mother who can truly condole with Lorenza today--the Blessed Mother Mary. She has the right to say to Lorenza, "I know what you feel; I also lost my son. Like your son, he was also arrested, beaten up, and murdered, even though he was innocent."

For us Christians, Jesus is not just a human being. We profess faith in him as a Son of God. And so even God the Father in heaven has a right to say to Zaldy today: "I know what you feel; I also lost a son. I gave him up, for love of you." That is the reason why I chose the famous John 3:16 for our Gospel today. "For God so loved the world, He gave us His only Son so that all who believe might not perish but might have eternal life."

That must be also the reason why it's not just KIan's family that is weeping today. Heaven too is weeping. The weather is dark and gloomy. The rain poured down very early this morning. All the agony and sorrow of heaven pours down whenever God in heaven loses a single one of His children.

Lorenza and Zaldy, you are not alone. We have here with us today the other parents who have also lost a son or daughter to the cruel drug war. Your son Kian was actually not the first among the very young victims of the drug war. Just here in our vicinity in Caloocan, Malabon and Navotas, I can cite more than a dozen of them:

1) Nercy Galicio, 16 years old, from Bgy. Tumana, Navotas. He was shot in head on April19, 2017

2) Arjay Suldao, 16 years old, also from Navotas. He was abducted and murdered on March 20, 2017

3) Alvin Preda, 19 years old. He was murdered at Kapak Liit, in Caloocan on March 29, 2017

4) Allan Lastimado, 18. He was abducted by masked men at Market 3, shot along R10 in Navotas on May 3, 2017

5) Raymart Siapo, 19 years old. He was abducted by masked men and shot in Bangkulasi, Navotas on March 29, 2017

6) Irish Nhel Glorioso, 18 years old. He was also abducted by masked men on his way to market 3, shot along R10 Navotas on June 8, 2017

7) John dela Cruz, 16 years old. He was shot by masked men outside their home along R10 near bus terminal Navotas on january 26, 2017

8) Liezel Llimit, 16 years old. She was Shot and killed by unknown assailants near Pescadores, Malabon on June 20, 2017

9) Troy Villanueva, 17 years old from Libis Nadurata, Caloocan, abducted and killed. His body was found floating at creek on June 6, 2017

The most gruesome cases happened to the former neighbors of the De los Santos Family: the Santor Family, who moved to Bagong Silang after the slumdwellers' shanties in their area were demolished. Ten masked men were in search for an alleged drug suspect named Jay-R Santor. Perhaps incensed that his friends and family would not betray his whereabouts, they murdered all of them. Here's the additional list:

10) Jonel Segovia, 15-year-old friend of Jay-R Santor, from Bagong Silang Caloocan City

11) Angelito Soriano, 16years old, also a friend of Jay-R Santor, from Bagong Silang Caloocan City

12) Sonny Espinosa, 16 years old and also a friend of Jay-R Santor

13) Kenneth Lim, 20 years old, another friend of Jay-R Santor

All four of them were killed by masked men at 9pm of December 28, last year, 2016. They were not done yet. They also killed Jay-R's mother Cristina and brother Ednel, and his pregnant sister Analyn, including the unborn child in her womb. They killed eight people in a few minutes; they did not even succeed in abducting their target dug suspect, Jay-R Santor. They played hit and miss after a few days. They killed two other boys named Jay-Rs; they were the wrong Jay-Rs. Not Jay-R Santor.

I do not know if Mrs. Luzviminda Siapo is here. Her name symbolizes the Philippines: a contraction of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao LUZVIMINDA. She too lost her 19 year-old son. She learned about it only on Facebook, and had to beg her employer in Kuwait to be allowed to come home to bury her boy. Raymart was a handicapped boy; he was clubfooted. He had been accused of peddling marijuana. His name was submitted and included in the Barangay's drug watch list by a neighbor who had a quarrel with him over something that had nothing at all to do with drugs. Two days later, they were visited by fourteen hooded men. Not finding him at home, they picked up someone from the barangay, covered his face with a mask, and asked him to identify Raymart--who was on his way home. They abducted him, brought him to a dark place in Bangkulasi, told him to run. The poor boy apologized that he could not run because he was club-footed. So they beat him up, broke his tiny legs, and shot him in the head several times. (An eyewitness had seen the murder and narrated it to the mother later.)

I still recall that day when I said the funeral Mass for Luzviminda's son. She wailed inside the Church. Her tears flooded the glass window of her son's casket. She looked at my direction. I thought she was talking to me; I realized her gaze was fixed on the icon of the crucified Christ behind the altar and she cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

I also witnessed on TV the wailing of Lorenza as she was being interviewed by the media. She was asked if the belated accusation by the police was true, that Kian was an addict and a drug runner. She said, "How dare you say your accusations against my son after you have killed him! He was not even in the drug watch list and had never had a police record. Prove your charges! And let's suppose that my son is indeed an addict and a drug runner. Is that enough reason to kill him in cold blood?"

That is why there are many people here now who are condoling with you, Zaldy and Lorenza. They are here not because of politics. They are here to silently express their solidarity with you and the many others whose children have also died because they allegedly "fought back". Many of them have not bothered to file charges, for fear that another one of their children might also be abducted and killed. There are many witnesses who have not had the courage to testify in court, for fear of reprisal.

But thanks to the outpouring of solidarity, you found the courage to pursue legal means to obtain justice for your son. Even your neighbors found the courage to stand as witness, to testify to what they had seen and heard. I also salute the young lady Barangay Chair for having the courage to submit the CCTV footages. (The families of other victims had demanded such CCTV footages in other barangays and never got them. Most of them were told that the CCTV were not functioning. Almost always, they would be functioning again after a day.) Even the city mayor had the courage to demand an independent investigation--which I was invited to, when he held a meeting of the Peace and Order Council of Caloocan the day after Kian's murder.

You can't imagine how many people you have touched with your courage to make a stand. I pray that through your example, the many other relatives and friends of the so many other victims will also come out, so that the souls of their loved ones who have been killed, either in a police operation or by masked killers, will finally be laid to rest.

The murder of Kian Lloyd was just part of the so-called "One Time Big Time" Police operation that began last August 12. They killed 32 in Bulacan, 25 in Manila, and ten in Caloocan within two days. And we were all shocked when we heard these words on TV: "I hear that 32 had been killed in a police operation in Bulacan. That's good! If we can kill another 32 each day, perhaps we can lessen what ails this country."

In this Mass, we would like to cry out to the authorities in government: Enough with the killings! Stop the killings, for heaven's sake! Let us please sit down and discuss reasonably as citizens of one country. Let us help out in addressing this problem of illegal drugs properly, but not in a manner that has no respect for the law. Not in a manner that almost treats addicts and pushers as vermin, as non-humans. Addiction is a disease; let us please address it as a health issue!

I don't know if you know that Kian was murdered in the evening of the feast day of the patron saint of our Cathedral, San Roque. This saint lived in the medieval times when Europe was devastated by pestilences and plagues which they did not know yet how to deal with during those pre-scientific times. Perhaps because they were horrified about contamination, some kings and governors during those times, employed the ruthless solution of rounding up those who had been infected by the disease, not just to quarantine them but to literally exterminate them like chickens. It was during those times that San Roque our patron defied the kings and went for the path of mercy and compassion by daring instead to nurse the infected victims, not minding the risk on his own life. Therefore he contracted the disease himself. But God spared him of death. The healer was eventually healed.

Maybe God took Kian on the feast day of San Roque because he has a message for us all. So that we would wake up and realize that extermination is not the right solution to the modern pestilence of addiction to illegal drugs. The addicts and pushers are not the enemies but the victims. The cruel and simplistic solution of exterminating them will not rid our country of illegal drugs. Thousands of kilograms of shabu will continue to flood our country if there is no systematic effort to trace the source. We are here to plead with the government: Stop the Killings! Start the Healing! We can work together for the healing of addicts through community-based rehabilitation programs. But more importantly, let us heal the divisions, the conflicts, and the exchanges of cruel words. Let us rid ourselves of anything that diminishes our humanity.

Zaldy and Lorenza, we are one with you in your grief. Even heaven condoles with you. Rest assured that Kian's life has not been wasted, even if it was cut short by senseless violence and cruelty. It is not wasted because it has served as a thorn that has pricked the consciences of our people and has awakened them from moral slumber.

May God in His Mercy grant rest and peace to Kian and to the souls of all other victims of extrajudicial killings. May God keep them in his fatherly and motherly embrace for all eternity.