CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 11 November 2017

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Souls of lost bodies

MANILA (UCAN): On All Souls Day in The Philippines people light a candle at the graves of bodies that have lost their souls, but for the families of the hundreds of people who have been forcibly disappeared they can only light one for the souls of lost bodies.
 
These are relatives of the people who have simply disappeared without a trace over decades of repressive rule and random violence perpetrated by the military and police, as well as thugs, often recruited from the two law enforcement agencies, acting on behalf of big land owners, politicians, mining or logging companies.
 
But for Romeo Ancheta, whose brother has not been seen or heard of for 11 years, there were no candles, but instead a protest in the streets of Manila.
 
“It is a dilemma we face every year. Do we light a candle, offer flowers or say our prayers? We don’t even have a body to bury,” Ancheta explained.
 
Ancheta has given up believing he will still see his brother alive. He said he doesn’t want to cling to false hope that Leopoldo will reappear after years in no man’s land.
 
He ceased to be visible to the outside world on 24 June 2006 from the town of Guiguinto in Bulacan.
 
Ancheta suspects the military abducted his brother, a leader in the National Democratic Front of The Philippines, which until recently was part of the peace negotiations with the government.
 
“He became an activist when he was in high school, before the martial law years,” Ancheta explained.
 
Leopoldo Ancheta established a group called the Nationalist Children of Workers in the urban poor district of Tondo in Manila.
 
When martial law was declared by Ferdinand Marcos in 1972, he went into hiding and only surfaced for a few months in the early 1980s before going underground again. After Marcos left the country, Ancheta resurfaced as a labour leader.
 
The human rights group, Karapatan, has recorded 1,856 cases of people being disappeared since 1970.
 
Most of those who went missing were human rights advocates, journalists or government critics.
 
A 27-year-old college professor, Charlie del Rosario, disappeared in March 1971 and is the first recorded desaparecido (enforced disappearance) in the country.
 
During the Marcos years, 759 were recorded, including Redemptorist Father Rudy Romano in 1985. But with the end of martial law little changed and 821 were recorded up to 1995.
 
Abductions aim to punish those who are left behind as well as the one who goes missing.
 
Although he has no body, Ancheta said he may dig a grave just to light a candle and place flowers for the soul of his brother’s lost body.

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