Reportage on life

Stories from the daily grind of news

Father of stray bullet victim belies safer daytime Tokhang

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Shaking with rage, the father of a nine-year-old victim of extrajudicial killing in Caloocan slammed the resumption of Oplan Tokhang by the police, even if these would be conducted during daytime.

“Whatever time or date it is, no matter how they make it appear, the outcome would be the same – there will always be collateral damage (Kahit anong oras, kahit anong araw, yun at yun din ang mangyayari… Bihisan ng ibang pamamaraan, mayroon pa ring madadamay),” Baylon said in a press conference in Bagong Silang, Caloocan, as he recalled the case of his nine-year-old son Lenin, who was killed by a stray bullet from vigilante men in Barangay 178, Camarin last December 2016.

Baylon slammed the resumption of the bloody narcotics crackdown Oplan Tokhang by the Philippine National Police (PNP), as he belied the police claim that daytime Tokhang operations would minimize deaths during anti-illegal drugs operations.

He cited the case of his son who was killed by stray bullets in broad daylight that came from three masked men who shot dead two suspected drug pushers Imelda Dallego and Lalyn Manaog.

Lenin happened to be at place of incident helping out at a tailor shop to earn his lunch money, Baylon said.

Baylon shook with rage as he addressed President Rodrigo Duterte and PNP chief Ronald Dela Rosa for downplaying as noise the pleas of families of extrajudicial killings victims.

“Sasabihin ni General Bato, papansin nalang mga yan. Kayo kaya madamay ang anak?” Baylon said.

“Sa mahal na Pangulo, huwag niyo na dagdagan yung isa kong anak na maging isang collateral damage!… Masakit sa ama, na ang bunso, mapatay ng ganong kadali,” Baylon added.

Baylon lamented the senseless death of his son, who was just working hard to earn his lunch money when he was hit by a stray bullet.

“Yung kinabukasan ng anak ko, pinatay simula magdeklara ng war on drugs,” Baylon lamented, as he called on the police to follow the rule of law now that Tokhang operations would be done during the day.

Such accounts of families about their loved ones getting killed even on broad daylight belie police claim that daytime Tokhang would be safer, according to Rubilyn Litao, coordinator for the group Rise Up For Life and For Rights.

“It only means one thing – Murderers do not choose the time of their killings (Walang pinipiling oras ang pamamaslang),” Baylon said.

Edited story published at the Philippine Star

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Written by Marc Jayson Cayabyab

January 28, 2018 at 10:45 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Valenzuela gets friendly ‘paw-lice’ force

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The Valenzuela city police force got a new boost in its anti-illegal drugs and terrorism operation, now that it has its own set of canine dogs, who will serve as the city’s “paw-lice” force.

Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian yesterday paraded the members of the city police’s own K9 unit

at the city’s Alert Center, composed of six dogs – Jhunjay, a Labrador Retriever; Michael, a Belgian Malinois; Onyok, a Jack Russel; Tanyo, a Belgian Malinois;  Zanjo the beagle, and Zeus a Labrador Retriever.

Gatchalian said he takes pride that Valenzuela city is the only local government unit with its own K9 unit.

With their training to detect illegal drugs and explosives, the dogs were purchased by the city government at P350,000 each, according to the city’s public information office.

 The city government also spent P4 million to renovate the old fire station into a 400 square-meter canine kennel for the “paw-lice” force.

Mayor Gatchalian also led the turnover of 41 Crosswind vehicles, equipped with a global positioning system and dashboard cameras, as the new mobile cars of the Valenzuela city police force.

An additional 19 Hilux pick-ups will arrive this month, for a total of 60 fully-equipped mobile cars, to ensure better mobility and monitoring for the city’s police force, Gatchalian said.

The city government has spent P1,017,740 for each police vehicle, for a total of P61,064,400 for all 60 units.

“Tayo ang una na equipped with the call of the times… Pinaiigtingan natin ang laban sa droga at terorismo, which are everybody’s problems,” Gatchalian said.

The additional assets for the Valenzuela cops would pave the way for a “self-sustained police force,” he added.

The city will soon have its own Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) headquarters and firing range for the police, Gatchalian said, adding that the government has also procured 47 units of bushmaster 6.56 rifles, 40 caliber .40 revolvers, and two sniper rifles for its SWAT team.

After the program, members of the Special Reaction Unit held a simulation of its operations using its new police vehicle and the canine dogs.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald Dela Rosa, who graced the event as guest of honor, lauded the Valenzuela city police force as a “model” for other local government units.

He said the Valenzuela city cops have not caused the PNP any problems, unlike its “neighbor,” referring to the Caloocan city police where the entire force were sacked following the killings of teenagers in its operations.

“Napakagaling, di kagaya ng dating kapitbahay niyo na maraming nagawang pagkakamali. Sobrang gigil sa trabaho nila,” Dela Rosa said, referring to the relieved Caloocan city police officers who face charges for allegedly killing teenagers Kian Delos Santos, Carl Angelo Arnaiz, and Reynaldo De Guzman.

Dela Rosa vowed a less bloody anti-illegal drugs operations, now that the police force will get a salary increase.

He also thumbed down the need for body cameras, especially now that the narcotics crackdown will stay true to its name “Tokhang,” which means knock and plead.

He called on the police to bring back the “peaceful” spirit of the operation – knocking on doors of suspected drug personalities and calling on them to go back to the fold of the law.

“Sa Tokhang, kailangan mo pa ba ng body cam doon? Kakatok ka lang, makiusap, wala ka naman gagawin na police action doon eh,” Dela Rosa said.

Published at Philstar.com

Written by Marc Jayson Cayabyab

January 21, 2018 at 1:19 am

Posted in Uncategorized

No more cutting classes in Valenzuela’s modern campus

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 Parents in Valenzuela city need not worry their children would skip class with the installation of a new ID system in the city’s newest university.

Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian on Friday night led the inauguration of the new Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela (PLV) along Tongco street in barangay Maysan.

 The city government spent P361,574,005.38 for the construction of the 1.7 hectare modern campus, nestled in the city with a total floor area of 16,305.15 square meters.

Besides a fully subsidized tuition and miscellanous fees, students would also enjoy access to school services using the PLV World card, a radio frequency identification (RFID)-enabled cards which, if tapped on the gate, would automatically inform the parents when their children went in or out the campus.

“Lagot wala na kayong takas! No more cutting!” Gatchalian said on Twitter where he posted a photo of the text advisory to the parents of their children’s whereabouts.

The ID also gives the students access to their online university records, class schedules and university advisories.  It even serves as a discount card.

“Since we will be running three sites for PLV, it’s important for parents and the school administration to track down where our students are at any given time. This is for safety and at the same time to ensure that they go to their classes and do not cut,” Gatchalian said in a text message to STAR.

The PLV card may also be loaded for cashless transactions with vendors inside the campus. “This will assure the parents that students are using their baons properly,” Gatchalian said.

The high-end campus also provides high-technology laboratories for courses like Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Communications Engineering, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Materials Testing, Fluid Mechanics, Chemistry, Physics, and even for Speech Communication.

“The new PLV campus is a state of the art – green campus. The campus-like universities abroad has a central quad and numerous pocket open spaces that has been planted with trees. This will give students breathing and play space. This is important especially for a industrial city like Valenzuela where seeing green spaces is a luxury,” Gatchalian said.

Published at the Philippine Star.

Written by Marc Jayson Cayabyab

January 21, 2018 at 1:17 am

Posted in Uncategorized

In ‘babang luksa,’ mourning goes on for slain Caloocan teenagers

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For the families of three slain minors who were among the seven people killed in Bagong Silang, North Caloocan last year in what police said was a drug gang feud, there is no moving on.

The slain teenagers’ parents on Thursday visited the tombs of their sons in Tala cemetery as part of the Filipino tradition of “babang luksa,” or putting an end to one’s mourning by lowering the veil of death a year after.

But mourning goes on for the families of Angelito Soriano, 15; Jonnel Segovia, 15; and Sonny Espinosa, 16, who were among those killed in Dec. 28 last year, when gunmen barged in a shanty house in Phase 8, Barangay Bagong Silang and shot 7 people, including a pregnant woman.

Police said the gunmen rained gunshots on a shanty house which allegedly served as a drug den. Residents said while the minors and a pregnant woman were killed, the targets who were known drug peddlers survived.

Police ruled out the incident as a turf war beween drug gangs, but families said their children were there just to hang out when they were mercillesly killed.

The teenagers’ graves lay side by side in a forest of tombstones built on top of each other they form buildings, down the slope of the foothills of Caloocan and Bulacan. Many tokhang victims are buried here, said a boy who cleans graves for a living, adding that Emily’s family visit Angelito weekly.

Kneeling down and bowing before the lighted candles of Angelito’s tomb, Emily howled: “Hilahin mo mga paa nila, isama mo din! (Grab their feet, too. Bring them with you)”

Emily said there is no moving on for the families, chiding Philippine National Police chief Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa for his “heartless” advice for the kin to let go.

“Ngayon po, isang taon na po yung anak naming (namatay), ganun ganun na po ba sasabihin niyo? Mag-move on? Hindi namin kaya yun (Now, after a year of our sons’ deaths, that’s what they want to tell us? To move on? We can’t do that),” Emily said.

“Ikaw din Bato, palibhasa Bato pangalan mo. Bato din ang puso mo (And you Bato, you have a stone for a heart, just like your name),” she added.

For Marialyn Segovia, moving on will take a lifetime. “Habang buhay ang pagmo-move on na yan (Moving on will take my entire lifetime,” she said. “Kahit kailan, hindi kami magmo-move on (We can never, ever move on).”

Marialyn’s husband Jimmy said he missed his son Jonnel, who used to help at church when he was alive.

“Nasa isipan ko pa din hanggang ngayon (I still think about him),” said Jimmy, who spent his 50th birthday last January attending the burial of his child. Asked to move on, Jimmy said: “Makakalimutan na lang ba ng ganun? Ganun lang yun? (Can one just forget what happened? Is it that easy?)”

Before visiting the tomb, the family members held Mass at a covered court in the barangay. In front of a banner that screamed “Stop the killings,” members of the group Rise Up led the Mass, which concluded with a call to stand up against the killings and for justice.

Norma Dollaga of Rise Up likened the Bagong Silang massacre to the killing of babies during the time of King  Herod, in what was dubbed in the Bible as the “Slaughter of the Innocents.”

“Naaalala natin ang tiranong si Herodes, sa tiranong pumatay sa mga batang pinaslang din ang kanilang mga pangarap at mithiin (We are reminded of Herod, whose tyranny led the slaughter pf children whose dreams and aspirations died with them),” Dollaga said.

Isabelita Espinosa, Sonny’s mother, was the most seclusive among the parents present. She shunned media and their questions. She hugged a framed photograph of her 15-year-old son, a necklace over her chest bearing God’s hand that cradled a baby Jesus.

Dec. 28 was known as the Day of the Holy Innocents, which commemorated  the slaughter of children in Herod’s scheme to kill off the Baby Messiah.

Families likened Herod’s tyranny to the gunmen’s bloodlust in the massacre of minors in this shanty town a year ago, in Barangay Bagong Silang which translates to New Born.

In this year’s babang luksa, while families should have lowered their veils to put an end to their grief, they say that now more than ever is a time to go on mourning.

Near the altar where the teenagers’ pictures were propped up, Emily raised her clenched fist in defiance, while her other hand held a stem of white flowers.

 

An edited version was published at Philstar.com

Written by Marc Jayson Cayabyab

January 19, 2018 at 5:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Prosecutors appeal dismissal of P6.4B shabu importation case

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Department of Justice prosecutors yesterday  appealed the decision of the Valenzuela city Regional Trial Court, which earlier dismissed the criminal case for illegal drugs importation of P6.4 billion shabu shipment due to lack of jurisdiction.

The prosecution told Presiding Judge Maria Nena Santos in open court that the 602 kilograms of suspected methamphetamine hydrochloride may have been unloaded at the Manila port, but the metal cylinders were delivered and later discovered by law enforcement agents at a Valenzuela city warehouse owned by Hongfei Logistics Group.

Prosecutors said the alleged importation of illegal drugs was a “continuing crime” and was not terminated in the port of Manila.

“What is clear from the present case is that the Honorable Court has authority, power, and jurisdiction to hear the present case because an essential and material ingredient of the crime (that is the ingredient of knowledge and discovery) occurred in Valenzuela city,” the prosecution said in its appeal.

The defense was given five days to comment on the prosecution’s motion for reconsideration.

The prosecution said the case could be refiled before the Manila Regional Trial Court.

In her order, Valenzuela city Regional Trial Court Branch 171 Judge Maria Nena Santos said she has no jurisdiction over the case because the information charges alleged importation of illegal drugs, which was consummated when the alleged drug shipment arrived at the Manila International Container Port on May 15, 2017.

She said the alleged transportation and delivery of the shipment in Valenzuela ciy was covered under the different provision involving the sale, delivery, distribution or transportation of dangerous drugs under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.

“Verily, the conclusion made by the prosecution that the offense of importation of illegal drugs is a continuing crime to include the delivery and discovery of the shipped items in a warehouse in Valenzuela city, has no basis in law,” the order read.

The court thus granted the motions to quash information filed by Hongfei Logistics owner Richard Chen, Manny Li, Kenneth Dong, and private broker Mark Taguba, who blew the lid on the alleged “tara” system at the Bureau of Customs.

Resigned customs chief Nicanor Faeldon was earlier cleared by the Department of Justice from involvement in the case.

While all the alleged big players have yet to be charged, warehouse caretaker Fidel Anoche Dee remains in detention at the Valenzuela city jail for allegedly receiving the cylinders of alleged shabu.

He is set to face preliminary pretrial conference on Jan. 23 before the Valenzuela city Regional Trial Court Branch 284 for possession of dangerous drugs.

Branch 284 Presiding Judge Arthur Melicor earlier denied to consolidate the illegal drug importation case with Dee illegal drugs possession case, because the latter involved the warehouse caretaker’s alleged receipt of only one of six alleged crates of shabu.

 

An edited version was published in Philstar.com

Written by Marc Jayson Cayabyab

January 19, 2018 at 4:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Ex-drug dependents find new life serving church

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At a parish church in Camarin, Caloocan city,  former drug dependents who are recovering from their addiction found a place of salvation they can call home.

Three former drug dependents now find themselves serving the church as an errand boy, a sister butler, and a lay minister, in their second chance in life to mend their ways.

 “Halos magpatayan na kami,” Marie quipped of her experience being high with her husband Joey when the STAR visited them on Friday at the parish church, where she serves as sister butler. Their names and the church where they serve were withheld for their safety.

They joined the program when the parish priest called on them to keep themselves

busy at the church, and call it their home.

“The parish priest told us, ‘Make this your home,'” Joey, who got hooked into shabu as a construction worker for eight years, said in Filipino.

He beamed with pride pointing at the bulbs he set up that now lights the church altar.

 He said he goes to the church at 6 a.m. on the dot everyday, just so he could avoid doing drugs.

It all started when, three months since he joined the rehabilitation program on Nov. 2016, his friends knocked on his door and invited him for a shabu session.

He gave in, Joey lamented, and he realized since then that it’s about time he focused his life turning back on drugs.

He considered his chores, which include painting and decorating the church, as a healthy distraction.

“You get preoccupied. Your body is not the only thing being cleansed, but your spirit too,” Joey said in Filipino.

Joey said he does not consider himself a drug addict, but just someone who once tripped in life and now has a chance to get up.

“I once made a mistake, but there really is no one to rely on but myself,” Joey said.

As we went out after the interview, Joey looked up at the grotto of Mama Mary fronting the church.

He said he had bought the paint needed to give color to the giant image of the Virgin Mary.

“But how do I get to her crown?” Joey asked himself of the Virgin Mary’s crown in the shape of the sun, as if it were his only problem then.

His wife Mary said she looks forward to applying for a utilities job at a school in the area after she graduate from the rehabilitation program.

She took drugs in Nov. 2016 when her father passed away. “I have a stone heart when I get high,” Marie said of her addiction.

“I sometimes forget I’m a mother of two,” Marie added, recounting the times she sneaked off to enjoy gambling with her friends.

She even sold the things her siblings from abroad sent to her just so she could afford her fix.

“I clean the church, and even iron the clothes of the priest,” Marie said of her life now, her face brightening up.

“We’re happy at church. Here, we can avoid turning back to our vices. Our lives were pointless then,” she added.

Francis (not his real name), a tricycle driver, is one of four lay ministers who are part of the church’s rehabilitation program.

When this reporter arrived at the church Friday, Francis was serving a priest who married a couple that afternoon. Holding the white frock of a lay minister, he gave this reporter a toothy smile.

He first got a chance to be a lay minister when the parish priest invited him to serve the church after seeing his progress at the rehabilitation program, which he joined upon the prodding of his sister butler wife.

Asked about his realizations as he feeds the Holy Bread to church goers during communion, Francis said he feels good serving even the most unfamiliar persons.

“Even though I’m not related to them, I still get to serve them, to pray for them,” Francis said.

“You can say that I committed a grievous sin against the Lord. But now I get to serve Him,” he added, as if astounded at such an opportunity.

During the 3 p.m. Mass, the priest shared a homily about a son who faced the dilemma of choosing who to save from a sinking ship – his wife or his mother.

Francis smiled at the idea of the church saving him from his own predicament.

“It feels good serving the church,” Francis said. “It’s like my way of making up to God for my mistakes.”

As this reporter was on his way out, he chanced upon the 6 p.m. Mass, where Francis was seen in front of the altar, back in his white frock, serving the priest before he ends his day.

 

An edited version was published in the Philippine Star

Written by Marc Jayson Cayabyab

January 19, 2018 at 4:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

13 Valenzuela city bank robbers sentenced to life in jail

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Thirteen men were sentenced to life imprisonment for a 2004 Banco De Oro robbery in Valenzuela city which left a police officer and a bystander dead in a firefight.

Presiding Judge Lilia Mercedes Encarnacion Gepty of the Valenzuela city Regional Trial Court Branch 75 found the men guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the special complex crime of robbery with homicide – Bunny Servilla, Joel Mendoza, Alex Adriano, Zaldy Mangalindan, Alejandro Gaudan, Reynaldo Bustamante, Benjie Adicer, Zaldy Selim, Ricky Cabatsa, Rolly Fernandez, Melvin Lacson, Chris Ablas, and Nilo Ocenar.

They were sentenced to reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole, and were ordered to pay P350,000 in damages to the families of PO2 Victor Zabala and bystander Baltazar De Gula, who were killed in the firefight.

The court also ordered the payment of P270,872.59 in actual damages, as well as P150,000 in civil, moral and exemplary damages, to Police Chief Inspector Rhoderick Juan, who was then a police inspector seriously injured in the gun battle.

The case stemmed from a shootout in December 14, 2004, when police fought out with 16 men who stole P331,023 cash from a Banco De Oro branch in Dalandanan, Valenzuela city.

Valenzuela police were able to neutralize three robbers, while police official Zabala and a tricycle driver De Gula were killed in the shootout.

Onboard their police vehicle, PO2 Zabala and PO1 Fernando Mariano encountered the robbers who fled in a white van at Paseo de Blas near the Malinta exit, where they opened fire at the police using their M16 rifles.

Juan, who led his men in firing at the armed men at Paseo de Blas, was injured when he was fired at by one of the men who launched a grenade at him.

Police was able to neutralize the robber who grabbed Juan’s firearm in his bid to kill the police official.

The suspects fled and hid in the nearby communities after running out of ammo, and were later arrested by the police during clearing operations.

In an interview on Thursday, Juan, now a police chief inspector in the Valenzuela city police Station Investigation and Detective Management Branch, said he was grateful justice had been served.

Juan said ABS-CBN reporter Doland Castro, who was covering at the time, was injured due to a wound in the leg from a grenade blast.

Juan during the incident sustained wounds near the spine and the shoulder.

An edited version was published in the Philippine Star.

Written by Marc Jayson Cayabyab

January 19, 2018 at 4:55 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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