Voters in Tondo hope new barangay officials can lessen drug war killings

MANILA, Philippines – Most, if not all barangays in Tondo have witnessed the wrath of the President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

The streets in Delpan, Parola, and Isla Puting Bato were specially targeted areas—often the site of police buy-bust operations, or vigilante killings in Manila.

Police Station 2-Moriones—which has jurisdiction over some of these areas—claimed at least 45 deaths under its watch out of the 2,555 killed across the country on the first 7 months of the drug war.

In 2017, former Barangay 20 captain Arnel Parce was a victim himself after being shot to death by riding-in-tandem gunmen.

For the new batch of barangay officials, Tondo voters have an earnest hope: a more peaceful Tondo with less killings.

Edgar Fernandez, 48, a resident of Tondo, District 1, said he hopes their next Chairman could make the barangay “quieter.”

“Mabago sana ng konti. Hindi naman totally, hindi naman tayo superman, pero pakonti-konti,” he said. (I hope the situation changes. Not totally, only a superman can do that. But little by little.)

Syempre [gusto ko matigil yung patayan], may mga anak tayo eh. Para yung mga bata hindi na ma-tokhang. Mahalaga ang buhay sa atin.” (Of course, I want the killings to stop. I have children. So that the kids do not suffer tokhang. Life is precious to us.)

HER BETS. For Luz Jabinales, 64, of Parola Tondo she hopes he bets bring peaceful change.  Photo by Eloisa Lopez/Rappler

HER BETS. For Luz Jabinales, 64, of Parola Tondo she hopes he bets bring peaceful change.

Photo by Eloisa Lopez/Rappler

Meanwhile, Luz Jabinales, 64, resident at Barangay 20, Parola—where the previous barangay chairmen was killed—said she hoped her bet, a top Kagawad, wins the election as he is well-off enough not to be corrupted

While illegal drugs remain to be a recurring problem in their barangay, Luz prefers this candidate because he chooses not to meddle with it. “Hindi siya nakikielam [sa droga]. Nagi-ingat lang. Kasi sunod-sunod na ang pinapatay na chairman. Pero basta hindi siya sugarol, at walang bisyo,” she added. (He does meddle with illegal drugs. He is careful, because of the number of chairmen killed. But he is not a gambler and has no vices.)

Joseph Barboza, resident at Barangay 11, Delpan on the other hand prefers the Kagawad who lives nearby his street, where very few have been killed.

GOOD INFLUENCE. For Joseph Barboza of Delpan, he hopes the good winners will influence the other barangay leaders.  Photo by Eloisa Lopez/Rappler

GOOD INFLUENCE. For Joseph Barboza of Delpan, he hopes the good winners will influence the other barangay leaders.

Photo by Eloisa Lopez/Rappler

Barboza explained that the two other candidates running for chairman in his barangay live in areas where killings have been rampant.

Kapag nanalo yung isa [sa kanila], magpi-pirmi pa rin yung mga adik. Kasi unang una, ilan sa mga ‘yon bumoto sa kanya, di mo sila kayang patigilin nalang,” Barboza said. (If any of these two wins, the illegal drug dependents will remain. These people will vote for them, so he cannot just ask them to stop.

Sa side namin, palagay ko magiging matino. Sa ngayon, proven na namin na marami siyang nagawa. Sana mapasunod niya din yung ibang side [ng barangay], pero magiging mahirap,” he added. (On our side, I think things will get better. They have a proven good track record. I hope the other barangays will follow. Although that's going to be tough.)

Lilia Yambao, 51, resident at Barangay 15 casted her vote for the sole purpose of supporting her sister who is running for a Kagawad position.

FOR SIS. Lilia Yambao supports her sisters. Photo by Eloisa Lopez/Rappler

FOR SIS. Lilia Yambao supports her sisters.

Photo by Eloisa Lopez/Rappler

Still, she hopes the killings would finally stop in Tondo, once and for all. “Napapansin ko medyo tumatahimik na rin ngayon, sana tuloy-tuloy nalang,” Yambao said. (I've notice it has been quiet these days. I hope it remains that way.)

Ayoko rin ng patayan. Nakakalungkot din. Syempre yung ibang namamatay, nabibiktima lang, nasasangkot lang. Hindi ko naman sila kinukonsinte, kasi minsan dala na rin ng kahirapan kaya sila gumagawa ng ganon,” she added. (I never liked the killings. It's a sad situation. Some of those killed were also victims. It does not mean I tolerate them, but sometimes poverty drives them to do these things.)

For a few others however, the killings may continue but only very selectively.

Mike (not pictured), resident at Barangay 20, the war on drugs may continue but only in a “clean” manner.

AGREE. Alias 'Pusa' with the way the drug war is waged. Photo by Eloisa Lopez/Rappler

AGREE. Alias 'Pusa' with the way the drug war is waged.

Photo by Eloisa Lopez/Rappler

Sana sa malinis na pamamaraan, para matahimik na yung lugar namin,” he said. (I hope they have a better way of keeping the peace in our area.)   “Kasi minsan yung tokhang, hindi naman totoo, pero namamatay. Dapat yung sure-ball, para yung taong bayan hindi manghinayang.” (There were times the tokhang victims were really involved in illegal drugs, but they were still killed. They should be sure about what they're doing, so that the public will not be anxious.)

Alias “Pusa,” a 68-year old former seaman and resident at Zone 2, Tondo pushes for more. As a long-time resident in Tondo, Pusa vouches these killings are valid, claiming that the drug trade was not this worse during his time.

Ako, sang-ayon ako sa mga nahuli, sa minsan napapatay. Hindi naman mapapatay yan kung hindi nanlaban eh. Kasi noong araw, dito sa Tondo, may adik pero hindi [ganito].” (I agree with those arrested and some of those killed. There drug dependents have been in Tondo for a long time, but not as many as today."

Yung kay Duterte, tama rin yung ginagawa niya eh. Unang una, yun ang hinahangad ng mga tao.” (Duterte is doing the right thing. And that is want the people want.)

Pusa added that he hopes this drug war issue is settled within the country alone. “Yung ibang mga politiko natin hindi ako bilib. Yung problema ng bansa natin, dapat hindi na pinararating sa ibang bansa, kasi internal problem yan. Buruin mo kahihiyan ni Duterte, kahihiyan nating lahat?” (I'm not impressed with some of our policians. They talk about our country's problems with out nations. That should be an internal problem. it's like this, if they embarass Duterte, they shame all of us.)

“Pero kung sa pamamalakad niya lang, sang-ayon ako sa ginagawa niya. Syempre may mga anak din kaming bata pa, gusto ba naming mapahamak? Maging adik din? Syempre hindi.” (I agree with the way Duterte runs the country. We have children who are very young.  Will we wan them harmed? And become drug dependents? Of course, not.)

Note: Patricia Evangelista's reportage of the drug war for Rappler  covered the areas mentioned in this story. Evangelista's investigative report was among finalists of 2018 Osborn Elliott Prize.

– Rappler.com