MANILA (Reuters) – Family members of some of the thousands killed in the Philippine war on drugs represented their journey of loss and healing at a theatrical performance in Manila on Wednesday, culminating a month-long therapy program for urban poor families grieving
The bereaved mothers, wives and children took the stage at a high school in the capital’s business center in front of a crowd of 500, most of them students. They danced pop songs and performed monologues and political sketches.
“If you look at the artists, there are so many smiles. They danced with joy, “said organizer Flavie Villanueva, a former drug user who became a priest who criticizes the anti-narcotics campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The first time they came to me, there was nothing but tears, anguish and anger,” said Villanueva, who launched “Paghilom” – “healing” in Tagalog – in 2016 to comfort bereaved families.
More than 5,600 suspected drug traffickers and users have been killed in police anti-narcotics operations since Duterte took office in July 2016, according to government data. Thousands more died in mysterious circumstances, some shot dead by masked gunmen riding motorcycles.
The human rights group said police summarily executed suspects. But police said he acted in self-defense after the suspects violently resisted arrest.
“Through ‘Paghilom,” I let go of all my tears, “said Analyn Mamot, 33, whose husband, an illegal drug user, was killed by unidentified armed men two years ago.” Now I feel new, as if a new personality was alive in me. ”
Eloisa López’s report; Written by Neil Jerome Morales; Edition by Raissa Kasolowsky