“Let us stand together in calling for peace in our country.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Strengthening the fight against state fascism, the Lumad students of besieged schools in Mindanao met with victims of President Duterte’s War on Drugs, as they unite on the call to stop the killings on Friday, Sept. 8.
It was an emotional gathering, as victims of anti-drug operations in the city shared their pain with Lumad students, who have been subjected to harassment, shooting and most recently, the killing of a schoolmate in Davao del Norte. The meeting was held at Sitio Sandugo, the Lakbayan camp at the Stud Farm in the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.
More than the pain, they all shared a common hunger to make the government accountable.
“We are here today in solidarity with your struggle. We also call for justice and an end to the killings,” said 25-year-old “Marian” (real name withheld for security), whose father and brother were killed in anti-drug operations.
Marian also shared her harrowing experience of being detained by police in what she described as “secret jail.”
Her brother and father were killed in operation plan Tokhang in July 2016. Her husband, a former drug user, was also targeted and fortunately survived the shooting.
They are now with other families of those killed in Oplan Tokhang, organized by the group Rise Up for Life and for Rights.
‘President is behind all the killings’
Marian said, for her, Duterte is accountable for the killings.
“The police is behind the gunmen and behind the police is the government. Who else would be behind all these killings but the president,” she said.
It was about 1:00 a.m. when about 20 men wearing masks and in civilian clothes barged in their house in Navotas City, Marian told Bulatlat in an interview. After his father was shot, all men went outside the house. Later on, the police came in. At 3:00 a.m. his three brothers were taken by the police and told them that it was for “verification” purposes only.
At 7:00 a.m., Marian went to the funeral parlor where she was surprised to find her 27-year old brother, lying dead beside the body of her father. Her two other brothers who were minors were in police headquarters. She was able to get her brothers from the police also that same day.
Marian said she saw a Facebook post that showed a picture of her older brother when he was found dead, also in Navotas.
“His hands were tied behind his back, and his face was wrapped in packing tape,” she said.
After that incident, Marian decided to bring her husband in to the police. She was terrified that her husband might end up like her father and brother. Her husband was a drug user then, but had stopped after he surrendered. But one month later, a group of armed men once again attacked their house. Her husband escaped but sustained a gunshot wound in the leg.
Marian herself was a victim of police brutality. One day in March this year, she was arrested by the police and detained in what she described as a “hellish” secret jail. There were almost 30 persons in the dark, stinking and congested secret jail.
In between sobs, she recalled their condition inside: “You can’t move inside. You can only pee and defecate in your place. The plastic bag of the food which I ate, I reuse it to defecate.”
“It was difficult inside, you don’t know if you will be killed next,” she said.
The policemen demanded money for her release, and her mother pawned their house. After four days, she was released.
Marian is determined to pursue a case against the police.
Ryan, 19 (real name withheld for security), meanwhile, suspects the palit-ulo system in Oplan Tokhang. Palit-ulo or exchange of heads, he said, is killing another person if the target is nowhere to be found.
Ryan survived the shooting on Dec. 28, 2016 in Caloocan City, where seven died including three minors and a pregnant woman. Ryan said they were just having a party that night in front of her girlfriend’s house when masked men on a motorcycle passed by and started to shoot at them.
He was able to hide in a room, but since the wall was just made of plywood, he was hit by a bullet in his knee and leg. All those who were killed were hit in the head, he said. The bullet is still embedded in his knee up to now.
He said they were not using illegal drugs. “I don’t even drink, I just smoke,” he said.
He said a man who was friend of his girlfriend’s brother was also a victim of Oplan Tokhang in Bulacan, but survived. He suspects that he was the one who pinpointed them to the police. “There is a palit-ulo system. Maybe he pointed us so that he will spared,” he said.
Ryan has not gone home up to now for his security. He has also joined Rise up.
‘Stop the killings’
Marian said families of victims of the War on Drugs like her are one with the victims of the government’s War on Terror, as they call for peace and an end to all hostilities, not only in Marawi City, but in the whole country.
In her message in behalf of the Lumad children, Rorelyn Mandacawan, 17, a student of the Salugpungan Ta’tanu Igkanugon Learning Center Inc. and cousin of 19-year-old Lumad, Obillo Bay-ao said the youths from the countryside are one with their call for an end to the killings. She said they too have experienced state fascism.
Last Sept. 5, Bay-ao was killed by two paramilitary men in Talaingod.
The incident happened amid the public uproar against the killing by police of Kian Delos Santos, 17 and Carl Angelo Arnaiz, 19, and the suspicious murder of Reynaldo De Guzman, 14.