Slaughter of the innocents
LODESTAR - Danton Remoto (The Philippine Star) - September 8, 2017 - 4:00pm

First it was Kian Lloyd de los Santos, 17 years old, of Caloocan City. There were others before him, young people whose lives were blotted out by State violence, but Kian’s words cut deeply, because they were the words of the desperate poor who only wanted to go to school: “Tama na po, may test pa ako bukas.”

The narrow alleys where the monsters of the Caloocan Police Station dragged Kian coils and uncoils like intestines, turning narrower and narrower until they reached a concrete wall near a pigsty, and there he was shot while on his knees. Shot at close range, with paraffin tests belying the policemen’s claims that the victim dared to fight them. This is a point the police takes pains to point out, because the authorities can shoot you (not to kill but to disarm) if a crime is in progress, or is about to take place with certainty.

But there were witnesses who stood their ground, and a damning CCTV footage that showed two policemen holding an unarmed and defenceless young man, dragging him to his death.

There is a chilling pattern to it all: young people seemingly picked out at random, dragged from their homes or plucked from the streets, while out at night to buy snacks or do an errand, never again to come home.

And then there was Carl Angelo Arnaiz, 19 years old, of Cainta, Rizal, the son of an OFW like an earlier young man before him. Valedictorian in a public elementary school, graduate of Makati Science High School, UP student on leave, Carl was shot five times. Four shots pierced his chest, and one his abdomen, according to forensics’ reports. He was also tortured before he was murdered, for it was a murder most foul. The testimony of the taxi driver he allegedly robbed and that of the police who took him away do not match.

Another set of Caloocan policemen claimed they shot Carl because he shot them first. The policemen said they were responding to a call for help by the now-missing driver, Tomas Bagcal. The police report did not mention anything about the even younger de Guzman. But witnesses said that he and Carl went out just to buy some food, and both never returned.

De Guzman was found with his head wrapped in plastic. At least 28 stab wounds lacerated his body. You could see the thin body of this young boy on Facebook, the knife gashes like big, dark holes on his skin. It is a sight enough to break the heart of any parent, or of anyone who has a brother, a cousin, a nephew in the bright bloom of life.

Another breaking news to break your heart is the report on Vaughn Carl Dicang, 17 years old, whose decomposing body was found afloat in a creek in Baguio City. His body turned up a day after the 14-year-old Reynaldo de Guzman’s body was found. De Guzman was Carl’s friend and neighbor; both boys just vanished in the night.

Dicang was a Grade 12 student at the University of Baguio’s Science High School. A Facebook post by his brother said that the boy just left the house and never returned. The policemen of Baguio appealed to the public not to blame the police, sans witnesses, CCTV footage, evidence that would stand up in court. But can you really blame a public terribly shaken by the deaths of these young people, tortured, shot at close range, their young bodies torn by the holes of bullets and knives?

But this is not yet over. Meanwhile, the family and relatives of another young man from Baguio are agonizing over his disappearance. His name is Jesharah Rufino Diazen. He is 19 years old and is a fourth-year General Education student at the University of Baguio. He has been declared missing since the 1st of September.

More than 30 years ago, I wrote a poem called ‘To Carlos Orchida,’ after I read a news story on the military butchers of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. (Oh yes, he is a dictator) and what they did to a very young man. I thought this would never happen again, and to my sadness it has come upon this land again, roosting like some monster of doom: the hand of death that comes from those who are supposed to protect us, because their badges and uniforms and guns and salaries come from our taxes, the lifeblood that is supposed to sustain a nation.

‘To Carlos Orchida’ was published in my first book of poems, Skin Voices Faces, published by Anvil in 1991.

‘In the corner of page seven are spilled/ the details of your death.//

Not in the middle/ but buried in the corner,/ as you must have run to the corner/ of the barracks, fleeing the whip-/sharp curses of the soldiers.

‘The letters are cold/ like the sweat that broke/ on your forehead,/the sweat that shivered/ on the tip of your moustache/ thin as the fur of a kitten.// The letters are mute/ like your lips/ after they broke your ribs/ and split your skull in two.’

‘Carlos, I could offer you only these:/ balled fists, unshed tears,/and a string of words/ that is no Jesus/ to wake you up, O little Lazarus.’

One of my friends said that the grisly deaths of the young men is just a smokescreen to hide the corruption that still festers at the Bureau of Customs, where P6.4 billion in shabu shipments are allegedly linked to the President’s son, Vice Mayor Pulong of Davao City; at the mediocrity that seems to be the mantra of this administration: if you drive or commute or take the MRT or LRT in Metro Manila, you know that everything has worsened. The Japan International Cooperation Agency estimates that we lose P1 billion every day because of our massive traffic jams.

That is a worse problem than illegal drugs that has led this government to set loose a Pandora’s box of black insects preying on the land.

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