Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Assistant Secretary Aleli B. Bawagan today expressed dismay over reports about the extrajudicial killing of a 60-year old woman from Tacloban who was said to have stolen a mobile phone last August 6 from a store in Ormoc City.

According to reports, the body of Lorna Soza was found wrapped in packaging tape in Kananga last August 11, and her face had been disfigured by a gunshot wound.  She has been previously under the custody of the Ormoc Police Station 1 after she was arrested on August 6.

Reports also have it that when she was caught with the stolen cellphone worth P13,900, Soza asked to be forgiven and offered to pay for the phone with all the money she had in her wallet which amounted to P10,300.  She was not released, however, and remained under detention despite the fact that no complaint was filed against her.

“This is most disturbing news that an elderly Filipino was allegedly executed for stealing a cellphone. That this report should come out during the nation’s annual commemoration of Elderly Filipino Week (EFW) makes it even more upsetting. We have no more means to determine Soza’s reasons for stealing the cellphone, but whatever her reasons were, there is no justifying what was done to her afterwards. The reports about her killing are shocking,” said Asec. Bawagan.

“We are celebrating Elderly Filipino Week this first week of October with the intent to put the spotlight on social concerns and issues faced by our senior citizens. Our call is for the whole of government to unite in efforts to support the elderly and to help them cope with the challenges created by their age, poverty, and other negative social circumstances. We are greatly dismayed whenever we encounter reports of how elderly Filipinos are abused or worse, killed under the most suspicious circumstances. What we want is a society that is more compassionate to the elderly, and this compassion should extend to those who are found to have broken the law.”

Asec. Bawagan said that they will ask DSWD Field Office VIII in Tacloban to put together a report on the case of Soza and to determine the status of her surviving family and see if there is any need to help them.

In the meantime, in his message to the DSWD as it observes Elderly Filipino Week 2017, no less than Pres. Rodrigo Duterte himself said that society should “show appreciation for our countrymen who are in their twilight years.”

“I laud your (DSWD’s) initiative to recognize the significant contributions of our elderly in nation-building. They possess the resilience and wisdom gained from a multitude of life experiences. Their valuable insights serve as important guides on how we will shape the future of our country,” he wrote in his message dated October 1.

Pres. Duterte also expressed hope that Filipinos be “inspired to continue working together towards enhancing the overall well-being of our senior citizens.” #