Espina: Suffer the children

One Man’s Opinion

WHEN he was campaigning for the presidency, Rodrigo Duterte bared what, essentially, was his platform of governance: “Forget the laws on human rights. If I make it to the palace, I will do just what I did as mayor.”

A few months in power, he proclaimed: “If it involves human rights, I don’t give a sh*t. I have to strike fear because the enemies of the state are out there to destroy children.”

And he has made good on his promise. When the children he so vehemently claims, in protestations generously peppered with invectives, to protect through his war on drugs are caught in the crossfire or, in the case of Kian delos Santos, Carl Arnaiz and Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman, actually targeted for extrajudicial execution, they become mere “collateral damage” or are falsely painted as fiends.

Thousands upon thousands of deaths later and still counting, the drug problem has actually become worse, not better, according to Duterte’s own admission. This means we either have the bravest or most stupid drug fiends in the world. You know, the more you mow them down even more of them spring up.

Levity aside, the fact is that children and young people continue to die for Duterte’s obsession with what to him is the most effective solution to what he insists is the country’s number one problem.

I yield the rest of this space to a statement issued over the weekend by Rise Up for Life and for Rights – religious supporting the families of victims of Duterte’s war – detailing the death of yet another young man, with another still missing, in what has become our new normal:

17-year-old Joshua Laxamana killed in “nanlaban” scenario, 15-year-old Julius Sebastian still missing

Three friends departed their homes in Tarlac City, Tarlac on August 14, 2018 in search of a DOTA gaming tournament in Baguio City.

They successfully hitched rides on trucks to reach Baguio, but on their return to Tarlac beginning at 5 p.m. on August 15, 2018, their excursion took a devastating and deadly turn.

As per the third friend who arrived back in Tarlac City on August 16, 2018, the three thought they had secured a ride the whole way back to Tarlac City from Baguio; however, when they arrived in Sison, Pangasinan, the truck driver informed them that he changed his plans and could bring them no further. The three teens set out on foot. Joshua and Julius left their friend at the roadside of TPLEX where he wanted to sleep first before walking further.

As he recounts, he had thought they were only joking that they would leave him resting and continue on their own; but, the two indeed never returned to where he slept. He was able to hitch a ride later in the morning and only discovered that his two friends had not arrived ahead of him, when he himself had arrived in Tarlac City.

As early as 4:19 p.m. on August 17, 2018 the Facebook page of Philippine National Police PRO1 identified Joshua Laxamana—including his barangay and city—as deceased. The police wove an elaborate scenario, said to have begun at 3:10 a.m., August 17, 2018, of Joshua as a motorcycle riding, checkpoint running, firearm wielding, Shabu-carrying “nanlaban” case.

They also accused Joshua of being involved in four “akyat-bahay” burglaries in Pangasinan. However, they never contacted Joshua’s mother, who only learned of her son’s death and the location of his remains on the morning of August 21, 2018.

Disturbingly 15-year-old Julius Sebastian is still missing. Rise Up for Life and for Rights raises our utmost concern for this missing teen and urges that all available resources be used to ascertain his whereabouts and welfare.

We also condemn yet another police killing with significant indicators of evidence manufacturing and planting. Our confidence in the regularity of these so-called “nanlaban scenarios” has long been exhausted.

Patterns of conduct only underscore the need for further scrutiny on the veracity of such purported evidence and neatly packaged stories. Joshua is a verified and known DOTA player. Members of his community have come forward to raise questions on the truthfulness of the police report. His missing friend Julius and the testimony of their third companion beg for further inquiry.

In light of this, we call for a thorough and independent investigation into the killing of Joshua Laxamana. The life of another minor was snuffed out by police authorities and we are impelled to respond; we demand that the killing of Joshua Laxamana be treated with due process.

As the list of Filipino children gunned down and executed grows, from Kian, Carl, “Kulot” and now Joshua— along with worrisomely missing Julius, we raise the alarm and insist on transparency, thorough investigation, and accountability.

We join the family, friends, and community in their call: Justice for Joshua Laxamana! Surface Julius Sebastian! Stop killing the poor!

The youth, they say, are the hope of the motherland. This government is murdering our hope. We need to act lest we forfeit the future.

If you care for your children and the future, please don’t let this be just one man’s opinion.


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