CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Teenager Nathaniel Ibalang ran for his life for nearly two kilometers from a park near city hall, trying to escape gang members who chased him and his friends in broad daylight on Sunday afternoon, October 23.
The 14-year-old and his friends scampered, and he ran through six barangays, crying for help. Nobody lifted a finger or came to his rescue, CCTV footage showed.
The gang members caught up with him alone near a mall and a hospital on Corrales Avenue where the young gang members took turns beating him up, and then stabbed him twice.
As the assailants ran off towards CM Recto Avenue, a bleeding Ibalang tried to seek help from a driver of a motorela (Cagayan de Oro’s version of the tricycle), but was ignored. He fell to the ground and died without anyone helping him, a video that went viral on social media showed.
Ibalang’s death came weeks after an October 9 riot among young people that ended with the death of 26-year-old John Paul Levita on the Emmanuel Pelaez Bridge. The riot prompted the city’s councilors to review a 1995 city ordinance that prohibits loitering and drinking binges in public places.
The uproar over Ibalang’s murder prompted Cagayan de Oro Mayor Rolando Uy to order a crackdown on street gangs in the city on Monday, October 24.
“I take responsibility for what has happened, but I need everyone’s help. We’ll help each other to find a solution,” said Uy, responding to criticisms.
Uy directed Cagayan de Oro police chief Colonel Aaron Mandia to launch a crackdown on street gangs and rid the city streets of loitering teenagers noted to be “troublemakers.”
He also ordered the City Social Welfare and Development Office to ramp up its surveillance of juvenile delinquents and help in the campaign to keep minors from loitering in the streets.
Local officials and the police were sharply criticized for Sunday’s bloody incident that started at Gaston Park, a spitting distance from the Cagayan de Oro city hall and the Saint Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral.
Videos posted by netizens on social media pages showed Ibalang and his friends scampering and desperately shouting for help while they were being pursued.
One video showed Ibalang cornered by the street gang members near the Ayala Centrio Mall and the state-run Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) where a row of motorelas were parked.
Not one policeman, Ronda Tanod member, or bystander came to the teenager’s rescue.
On October 24, a day after the incident, police arrested 18-year-old gang member Raul Lumamba Jr. in his house in Barangay Gusa, and seized from him a 10-inch knife believed to be the murder weapon.
Mandia said Lumamba is a member of a street gang that clashed with Ibalang’s gang. Lumamba told reporters it was Ibalang’s gang that reportedly started the fight by throwing a bottle at the rival group.
Mayor to meet with gang leaders, parents
Mayor Uy met with Ibalang’s grandparents at city hall on Monday afternoon and offered them help.
Ibalang’s 79-year-old grandmother Dominga said her family was too poor to buy a casket for her slain grandson. Uy said the city government would shoulder the burial expenses.
He said he was organizing a meeting with the parents and guardians to ask them for their help after the police were done identifying gangs and profiling their members.
Once identified, Uy said, he would summon leaders of various street gangs and talk to them.
“I’d like to talk with the gang leaders and their parents to put a stop to all this violence,” he said.
Cagayan de Oro’s Sangguniang Kabataan Federation president, Councilor John Michael Seno, said he had planned to meet with different youth groups “for us to know the root causes of why they are joining violent groups” before Sunday’s broad daylight killing.
Seno said juvenile delinquency has become a serious problem in the city, and officials should start intervention by organizing alternative and productive activities. – Rappler.com