War on drugs: The families left behind
MANILA, Philippines – When Marites Fernandez realized how lives of illegal drug users and pushers were at risk with the massive anti-illegal drugs campaign, she was quick to warn her brother Eduardo Francisco.
“Bimbo,” she told him, “Huwag ka nang lalabas kasi napakadelikado. Sunod-sunod ang patayan. Sabi [nila] lahat ng sumusuko, ganun pala ang ginagawa.”
(Bimbo, don’t go out because it's very dangerous. There have been successive killings. They said that’s what they do to those who turn themselves in.)
Marites, 40, said her brother was among those who surrendered to local authorities the moment the government announced those who promised not to do drugs again would be immune from arrest.
Marites did not deny her brother’s involvement in drugs. She said Francisco only did it because he had no other means of providing for his wife and 3 children – including a 4-month-old baby.
“Someone – I do not know – gives him a pack of drugs, which he has to sell to earn money. He only gets a small portion of the money, which he automatically allocates to buy rice for his family,” Marites said in Filipino.
“Basta ang importante sa kanya, makabili siya ng bigas,” she added. (What’s important for him is, he is able to buy rice.)
Bimbo was gunned down by unidentified men riding a motorcycle on August 23 in Barangay Rosario, Pasig City. Barangay officials said he was invited that night to a late dinner at a nearby tapsihan (eatery) by a police asset.
Although she is uncertain who the people behind her brother’s death are, Marites wished Bimbo was instead arrested.
“Sana kung ganun na lang pala, sana kinulong na lang nila – nakita pa naming buhay ‘yung kapatid ko. Ang dami na naming problema, dinagdagan pa nila,” Marites said as she wept before her brother’s coffin.
(If that was going to be the case, they should have just arrested him – then we would have still seen our brother alive. They just added to our already many problems.)
“Gusto niya talagang magbago wala lang siyang magawa, wala nga siyang pinag-aralan, walang makuhang trabaho."
As the eldest of the siblings, Marites now assists Bimbo's surviving family by giving them a portion of what she earns from hosting a small-scale bingo in their barangay.
“Gusto niya talagang magbago, wala lang siyang magawa, wala nga siyang pinag-aralan, walang makuhang trabaho."
(He really wanted to change. He just didn’t have the means to do it – he was uneducated; he couldn't get a job.)
Like Bimbo, Joel Mangalindan also left behind a wife and kids; his youngest is a 7-year-old elementary pupil.
His wife Ana Marie, unemployed and still in grief, struggles to find the means to sustain the needs of their 7 kids.
Joel was killed in a sting operation in Barangay Bagong Silang in Quezon City last August 7. Reports said the 40-year-old pusher resisted arrest by pulling out a 45-caliber gun and firing at the police.
But Ana Marie does not believe her husband did that. She can’t even believe her husband owned a gun.
“Iyong sinasabi nilang nanlalaban? Hindi. Nilagyan lang nila ng 45, kahit nga kutsilyo, wala ‘yan. Paraan na lang nila ‘yun para kunwari lumaban 'yung tao,” she asserted.
(They were saying he fought back? No. They just planted a 45, he doesn’t even own a knife. That’s just their way of making it appear that he fired at them.)
“May tanda sa daliri niya na tanda na sumusuko na talaga siya. Pinatong niya sa ulo niya ‘yung daliri niya. Narinig talaga ng pamangkin ko na sumusuko na,” she also said.
(There is a mark on his finger that was a sign that he was surrendering. He placed his hands on his head. My nephew really heard him surrender.)
But what’s done is done.
Ana Marie is now focused on moving on and staying strong for her family even if she herself was traumatized by what happened.
“I had a phobia. I transferred my kids from our old house because I’m not sure if my kids will be dragged into the killings too,” she said.
“[Mga mahihirap] lang siguro ‘yung kaya nila, ‘yung mga mayayaman madaling dumiskarte. Hindi na nila naiisip 'yung mga pinapatay nila [kung] may maiiwan, di ba?”
(They can only do this to the the poor. The rich have their ways of evasion. They don’t consider if those people they kill will leave behind families.)
“Mga mahihirap lang siguro ‘yung kaya nila, ‘yung mga mayayaman madaling dumiskarte. Hindi na nila naiisip ‘yung mga pinapatay nila kung may maiiwan, di ba.”
Among those who supported President Rodrigo Duterte during the campaign was Mario dela Cruz Sr’s kids.
“They really wanted Duterte so that there will be zero crime. Their support was really there. They supported his anti-crime campaign,” Regina Dumol, Dela Cruz’s cousin, said.
But their support for the President ended when Mario was killed, supposedly because of his involvement in illegal drugs.
Regina cited a report by authorities that said her cousin was just outside his home when an anonymous man approached him. They had a short heated exchange before the man pulled a gun and shot Mario.
Barangay officials said Mario is only one of two identified drug pushers in their area, a fairly middle class neighborhood compared to poorer areas where an illegal drug trade thrives. Mario surrendered during the police’s Oplan Tokhang, just two weeks before he was killed.
Now no longer a supporter of Duterte, Mario's daughter kept on posting on Facebook, questioning why her father had to be killed.
“Iyon ngang [sinabi] sa Facebook na parang bakit pa naikampanya eh papatayin lang daw pala tatay niya,” Regina said, noting that the daughter was bashed by other supporters for her posts.
(She posted on Facebook, expressing regret that she campaigned [for Duterte] when her father would just get killed.)
“Lagi niyang sinasabi sa post niya na miss na miss niya na ang papa niya, tapos ang sakit sakit. Puro bakit, puro tanong kung puwede nga lang ibalik ‘yung nakaraan.”
(She kept on saying in her posts that she misses her father terribly, and how painful it is. She kept on asking why, asking if it was possible for the past to return.)
For Marie, not her real name, acceptance of her brother’s death will come only if justice is served.
Marie’s brother was among those who were killed in police operations in Tondo, Manila, where most of the first wave of drug-related deaths happened.
“Kung napatunayan niyo, kulong niyo na lang eh, o kaya patayin niyo sa harap ko, papayag pa ako. Pero ‘yung walang kalaban-laban, papatayin niyo at pagbibintangan nyo pa, parang ang sakit naman kasi nun."
Marie refused to be named because she did not want to compromise her family’s plans to file a case against the police. She strongly believes that the drugs found in her brother’s home the night the police tried to arrest him were planted by authorities.
Her brother was shot because he fought back, she said.
“Our family thinks that the drugs were planted. Because first, we know how he sleeps. Second, the drugs were in the cabinet where he keeps his clothes. There was a cigarette box there. The cigarette was Mighty. But he doesn’t smoke that brand. You’ll figure it out too. That’s common sense,” she said in Filipino.
She also denied her brother’s involvement in illegal drugs. But if it were true, she said the police could have just arrested him.
“Masakit din. Kung napatunayan niyo, kulong niyo na lang eh, o kaya patayin niyo sa harap ko, papayag pa ako. Pero ‘yung walang kalaban-laban, papatayin niyo at pagbibintangan niyo pa, parang ang sakit naman kasi nun,” she said.
(It’s painful. If you had proven it, you could have detained him or killed him in front of me, I’d even agree to that. But to kill him when he was defenseless and accuse him, that's too painful.)
Marie is keen on filing a case against the police to give justice to her brother’s death, also calling on others to collectively stand up against the killings.
“I just want justice for him. Because based on what I see from reports, they said that he fought back and he had a 38-caliber gun and drugs. I think the people know that it’s really just evidence planted by the police.” – Rappler.com