By Hannah Torregoza
Detained opposition Sen. Leila de Lima on Friday urged the Filipino people to reflect, pray and ponder on the fate of innocent children who died in the government’s all-out war on drugs as they commemorate the Niños Inocentes or Feast of the Holy Innocents.
“Let us remember all the children who were killed by Duterte’s bloody war on drugs. Let us pray for justice for the victims and for these senseless killings to stop. Let us fight for them,” de Lima said in a statement.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate committee on social justice, welfare and rural development, said the children and the families of extrajudicial killing (EJK) victims should not pay the price for the administration’s flawed war on drugs.
“Sa ating sama-samang panawagan at paninindigan, makakamit natin ang isang lipunan kung saan malayang nakapaglalaro ang mga bata, payapang nakapag-aaral, at nangangarap ng magandang kinabukasan para sa kanilang pamilya (As we jointly make the call and affirmation, we will be able to achieve a society where children can freely play, study peacefully and dream of a better life for their family),” she also said.
The Catholic Church celebrates “Niños Inocentes” or the Feast of Holy Innocent every Dec. 28 in various parts of the world as part of the Christmas season.
It commemorates the deaths of innocent children killed upon the order of King Herod of Judea, who was fearful of being deposed by the prophesized Messiah, to ensure Jesus Christ’s death.
De Lima noted that of the estimated 23,000 death toll in the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, many innocent children who were killed are simply regarded by the current administration as mere “collateral damage.”
According to de Lima, the observance of “Holy Innocents” mirrors the fate of many innocent Filipino children who have been literally caught in the barrage since Duterte launched his all-out war on drugs in 2016.
De Lima also noted that amid the rampant killings in the country, the Duterte administration continues to sacrifice innocent lives to achieve its personal vested interests.
“But what can be achieved from a vile and hateful campaign that only targets the poor and spares big-time drug lords?” she asked.
“What do we hope to gain from slaughtering our own and leaving thousands mourning for their loved ones? What future can these innocent children expect when they have already been deprived of a fighting chance early on in their lives?” she pointed out.
De Lima, who is currently detained over drug charges at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame, earlier filed Senate Resolution No. 499 urging the appropriate Senate committee to investigate the successive reports of killings of children either by police or vigilantes.
Several human rights groups, such as Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch, had also echoed De Lima’s call and pressed for an independent body to investigate the unlawful killings in the Philippines last year, but to no avail.