Victims of anti-illegal drugs war in Dagupan

August 21, 2017 at 2:09 pm Leave a comment


                 CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD?

By Yolanda Sotelo

(With the outrage over the recent killing of Kian delos Santos by policemen in Caloocan City during an anti-drug operation, we are revisiting the families of the victims of vigilante-like killings in Dagupan City,also during anti-drug operations.)

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CRUEL. This was how Teresita Tiamson, mother of anti-illegal war victim Rowena Tiamson, described those involved in the “war.” 

                                                          Danica Mae Garcia, 5

The place looks eerily the same as almost a year ago when five-year old Danica Mae Garcia was felled by bullets intended for her grandfather, Maximo.

Danica Mae’s grandmother Gemma, 51, waits for customers of the eatery infront of the house in barangay Mayombo in this city.

But gone were the laughter of Danica Mae and her cousins who were preparing for their afternoon classes in a nearby public school. They were behind the curtain that separates the dining cum living room from the “bathroom” where the children were either brushing their teeth or taking a bath.

Gone, too, was Maximo who was sitting in a wooden bed in the middle of the room on that fateful August 23, 2016. Maximo was in the police list of suspected drug pushers was the target of the gunmen who arrived at noon of the day. He was able to run to the back of the house and hid either in one of the houses or in the grassy area. The gunmen left. Maximo survived.

But Danica Mae was hit in the head by bullets that pierced through the plastic curtain. She died instantly, cradled in the arms of her mother. She was one of the youngest victims in the anti-illegal drugs war of President Duterte.

Maximo is still in hiding, afraid to return to the house where his wife Gemma says sounds of motorcycles arriving in the neighborhood, send shivers through her spine. Even her grandchildren would rush upstairs (an elevated room) and cower in fear, shouting “dapa!”

The children won’t even go to the toilet the entire night.

“We do not want him to come here,” Gemma says of his husband. ”We are afraid those who were after him will return and finish him off,” she says in the local language.

If she had the means, she says, she would bring the house and her family elsewhere, where they would feel safe.

“But we have no money. We only have this small eatery from which we derive a little income,” she says of the table where about six pots of cooked meat, fish and rice are placed for sale.  She also has to provide maintenance medicines for her husband who is suffering from hypertension.

When Danica Mae was killed, she received an offer for financial help from the Commission on Human Rights. “They told me the financial help may not come until after Danica Mae was buried. But until now, nothing came.”

The young girl was the last victim in the war against drugs in the area. While there were 25 drug personalities in the police list that included Maximo, none of them were pursued by killers.

The police  filed a case of murder and frustrated murder against the killer of Danica Mae,  a certain Bryan Macaayao, who was  identified by two witnesses who were visiting the place at the time of the shooting. The case has not moved.

“She would have been in Grade I now,” Gemma says, wiping with the back of her hand the tears the continously fall on her checks.

Asked about how she feels about the government, her face went expressionless.

“Bahala na sila,” she says.

                          Roman Clifford Manaois, 20  and Rowena Tiamson, 22

Their lives were somewhat intertwined. They were classmates in a university until he transferred to another school. Her sister and his uncle were in a relationship, and their families were friends. They both dreamed of building a house for their parents.

And their lives, and their dreams, ended almost at the same time – at 10 ‘clock at night of July 19, 2016  when gunmen went on a rampage, backed by a presidential order to go after drugs users and pushers.

But Roman Clifford Manaoais, then 20; and Rowena Tiamson, then 22, were not pushers nor users, their parents, relatives and friends claimed.  They were were merely, unfortunately, at the wrong place and the wrong time, and perhaps wrong companies, when hit men came with intent to kill.

On that fateful night, Manaois, called “Oman,” was fetched water when he was asked by John Mark Serrano de Vera, a neighbor to accompany him to an eatery in nearby Dagupan City to buy “kaleskes,” a  kind of fatty soup.  He hopped at the back of the tricycle which Serrano owned. On their way, they picked a stranger, Zaldy Abalos, who asked for a ride.

“We were already fast asleep when he was killed,” Dennis, father of Manaois, said.

It was only at around two in the morning the following day when they found out, when Serrano’s father rushed to their house in Barangay Carael to inform them.

“Go to barangay Lucao hall. Oman was shot!” he told us.

“We thought he was only hit on the leg,” Manaois recalled, his eyes getting red.

When Manaois and his wife got the to barangay hall, they were told to go to a morgue. There, they found their lifeless son.

Abalos, the hit men’s target, was also killed, but de Vera was able to run for his life, lying on the ground hidden by tall grasses in the field.

Manaois’ family were at first angry with de Vera whom they blamed for Oman’s demise, until they learned that he, too, was hit,although not fatally.

After the gunmen shot at Abalos, Manaois and de Vera thought they won’t touch them, thinking the killers were only after Abalos.

But they were wrong.  The hooded gunmen trained their guns on them. They started to run, but a bullet hit Manaois on the back that pierced his heart.  De Vera tried to help him get up but Manaois told him to run for his life. De Vera run with bullets wheezing by.

The police arrived. They brought the bodies to a morgue. When he De Vera was able to walk back home, getting a woman’s clothes hanged on a clothesline to cover himself. At past midnight, he reached home and told his father about what happened. Immediately, his father went to Manaois’ house.

“He was a good son,” Dennis said of Oman. “He was a big help in the house. He cleaned the house, cooked food. He had no vices at all, let alone drugs. He already finished a seaman’s course and a welding course at Tesda. He wanted to work abroad as a welder but was waiting until he would turn 21 on April 12 this year.”

That 21st birthday did not come.

Graduation day did not come either for Rowena Tiamson, who was killed also on July 19, 2016, at the height of the anti-illegal drug war of President Duterte. She would have finished her mass communication course at the Colegio de Dagupan on October that year. She was a school choir member, and she also sang at two restaurants in the city to earn money.

Tiamson went to her school which was just a walking distance from her house along Arellano Street, at 10 o’clock in the morning, her mother Teresita said.

“She told me she would just fix her schedule. But at five in the afternoon, she was not back home yet so I texted her where she was. She said she went with new friends, a girl from Mayombo, and a boy from Manaoag. At around 9:40 pm, I was already worried and called her up. Her phone rang thrice, then silence. I could not contact her phone anymore,” she narrated.

“I called her friends and  they told me the same thing – that she boarded a motorcycle with a boy and a girl,” she said, alternately banging her fists on the table and her thighs.

It was only in the afternoon of the following day that the her family  learned of her daughter’s death. Worse, it was through the afternoon television newscast.

“The newscaster asked if anybody has a missing daughter who has a tattoo of a musical note on her wrist, as a body of a girl was found in Manaoag. My other daughter immediately turned off the tv set as she was afraid for me. We received a call from my son in law who asked if we were watching the news. Then my daughters said they will go to Manaoag.”

If was only when they confirmed that it was Rowena’s body which was found, that they told the distraught mother  about what happened.

She knew that her entire head was wrapped with packaging tape. She knew that she had bullet wounds. She knew that there was a cardboard on strung around her neck with the words: “Don’t emulate, she is a pusher.”

“But I did not look at her body. I did not want to remember her that way. I wanted to remember her as the bubbly, happy girl that she was. The daughter who wanted to build me a house. In my mind, she is abroad, or somewhere else, and that after five or so years, I will see her again,” Tiamson, 57, said.

Manaois and Tiamson both think they won’t find justice in the killing of their children.

Not in the present administration, Tiamson said. “We cannot fight them. Duterte backs the police and the killers, who would we turn to?”

Tiamson is just as helpless. The anger may have dissipated a little, but questions still linger in her mind and heart.

“Why her? She did nobody wrong! Do they (killers) have conscience?” she asked, holding her head with both of her hands.

“Maruksa (cruel)!” she said of the Duterte Administration.

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Entry filed under: News.

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