Tokhang victims’ kin homeless after Navotas fire
Marc Jayson Cayabyab (The Philippine Star) - October 22, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The relatives of several persons who were killed in the government’s war on drugs were among those left homeless in a fire that struck the slums of the Navotas fish port last week.

They are among the 700 individuals who lost their homes in the fire that swept through the community.

Some survivors suspect that the fire was intentional to evict them from the complex.

When The STAR visited her razed home on Sunday, Herminia Aribe gestured toward the burnt area where her brother-in-law Jerry Aribe had been taking a bath before he was accosted by police on July 18, 2017. 

Jerry was found dead in front of a sardines company later that day.

Jerry’s mother died of a fever a year later waiting for justice.

“Nilagnat lang siya, sumakit dibdib niya. Isang linggo lang. Siguro sa kakaisip kung bakit ganun ang nangyari sa anak niya,” said Herminia, whose husband, Jerry’s brother, had also been arrested by police on drug charges.

Urban poor leader Daisy Maraguinot believed that the fish port often dubbed as “crime haven” was deliberately set on fire.

Maraguinot said she shouted at the residents to vacate their houses as the fire crawled closer to their community.

Kimberly Jugadora regretted losing her papers for a saleslady job to the fire.

She lost both her parents, Jenny and Rogelio, after they were taken into police custody in May 2017 under Oplang Tokhang.

Jugadora’s mother was found dead under a bridge in Navotas. Her father was found lifeless at the Navotas cemetery. The couple bore gunshot wounds.

Annalyn Tremotcha recalled how her mother Lisa was killed by stray bullets during a drug sting on March 30, 2018.

Her youngest brother, then six years old, was also hit in the stomach, but the boy survived.

Tremotcha’s father Allan was the target of an anti-narcotics operation on Sept. 22.

Disputing the police claim of a drug bust, she said her father was only gambling at the time and had joined the people running from the lawmen who had entered the community.

Edmundo Sedonio, 25, was killed in the operation while Allan was found bleeding by a minor, who rushed him to the hospital.

For helping Allan, the minor, a member of urban poor group Kadamay, was detained by police for questioning for a day.

Tremotcha appealed to the public to empathize with their situation in Market 3, saying there were many people in the neighborhood who labored for a decent living.

“Ang sa amin lang, huwag naman i-lahat. Kawawa naman ang iba dito na nagpapakahirap na magtrabaho ng marangal. Tapos nadadamay ng mga dumadayo,” she said, referring to the drug personalities in the area.

She said their experience with the police only proved that the government’s war on drugs was against the poor.

Faced with dire slum conditions prone to fires coupled with threats from the police, Maraguinot said they are victims twice over.

“Taktika ng fish port ito na tokhangin na lang lahat,” Maraguinot said of the fire. She vowed to continue fighting for her fellow residents.

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