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The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) is appalled, with restrained rage for justice, at what a remote field for root crops in Sitio Irrigation, Brgy. Pinagsangahan, San Francisco, Quezon Province has yielded – skeletal remains of possible 30 or more persons.

Finger-pointing at supposed perpetrators of the deaths of still-to-be identified remains in the recent discovered mass grave are fast multiplying at emotionally-packed pace. Knee-jerked military speculation that the remains were of victims of a Communist purge in the late ‘80s automatically presented itself and dominated the tri-media. Such premature conclusions, at this point, would betray a veering away from the avowed paradigm shift towards adherence to the rule of law. And the rule of law in criminal activity demands the identification of both the victim and the perpetrator of the crime. The identifications are yet to be started.

Members of Families of the Involuntarily Disappeared (FIND), as individuals and as an organization, as well as others within and outside the province of Quezon are cautious in this possible spark of hope that their missing loved ones could be in that grave.

PAHRA thus requests that all involved parties in the exhumation give due respect to the remains and to whoever their relatives are by preserving their integrity. Each and every body part should be handled and recorded with presumed regularity as well as secured through a command chain of custody for later identification and for possible evidentiary purposes. The area, as to be expected from the police and scene-of-the-crime operatives, should be demarcated and cordoned from unauthorized intrusions.

PAHRA encourages on all parties concerned to help halt all speculations, accusations and counter-accusations provoked by the discovered mass grave. Such actions may exacerbate the pain long endured by relations of victims of enforced disappearance or may give false hopes leading to deeper frustrations.

PAHRA earnestly calls for a convergent of efforts and capabilities to make the first steps, by determining the identities of the remains, towards a long but determined journey to obtain closure and healing.

July 26, 2012