Before the year 2017 ended, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Duterte administration will apply the lessons learned from previous experience to make the campaign against illegal drugs better. “Because we have gone through a lot of experience about it, I’m sure we will learn from our past experience,” Roque told reporters.
According to the Social Weather Stations 96% of adult Filipinos are entering 2018 with hope rather than with fear. I am entering 2018 with the high hope that the administration’s war on drugs will be better because it will apply the lessons learned from its experience, in particular its experience in the case of Marc Anthony Fernandez.
Fernandez was driving on a road in Angeles City last October when he was flagged down by police officers at a checkpoint in Barangay Virgen de los Remedios because his car had no license plate. Instead of stopping, Fernandez sped away. The policemen gave chase, catching him in Barangay Saguin in San Fernando City. Police found in his car a kilo of dried marijuana estimated to cost P15,000 in street prices.
The cops brought him back to their station in Angeles City where he was charged with violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drug Acts of 2002. He denied ownership of the stuff, claiming it was planted by the policemen. When he tested positive for marijuana use, he said he has been smoking marijuana since he was diagnosed with cancer in 2008. Just the same Fernandez was detained in the provincial jail in San Fernando while his case was prosecuted in a court of law. Two female cops posed for a picture with him.
In sharp contrast were the cases of Kian delos Santos and Carl Angelo Arnaiz who were also chased by policemen, seized and found to be carrying illegal drugs. But instead of being charged with violation of the Dangerous Drug law and put behind bars like Fernandez, they were summarily executed by men in police uniform.
Delos Santos was the 17-year-old son of a man who owns a sari-sari store in a poor area in Caloocan City and of an overseas Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia. He helped his father tend the store.
One late night Delos Santos went out to buy a snack. When he did not return, his father searched for him. He found his son slumped in a garbage dump in their neighborhood with two transparent plastic sachets containing crystalline substance believed to be shabu and a gun in his left hand.
Delos Santos was killed while Caloocan police were conducting a drug raid in the neighborhood on Aug. 16, 2017. According to the cops, when suspicious men ran away, the lawmen went after them. When they caught up with one of the fleeing men, Delos Santos, he allegedly shot at the cops, prompting them to retaliate and kill him.
The police accused the father of using the boy as a drug runner, an allegation the father denied. He also denied his son had a gun, saying the latter couldn’t even hold one and that even if he did, the gun would not be in his left hand as the boy was right-handed.
CCTV footage showed policemen handling Delos Santos roughly before he was found dead but they claimed it was their informant they were dragging, not Delos Santos. Their claim that the boy fired at them was refuted by the findings of investigators that Delos Santos had not fired a gun.
Forensic investigations by the Public Attorney’s Office, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the police established the boy was killed while he was kneeling. The NBI also found that the pieces of evidence found at the scene purportedly indicating that the boy fought back were planted.
Arnaiz was the 19-year-old son of an OFW in Dubai. His father is unemployed. He ran his own sari-sari store in a neighborhood in Cainta, Rizal. One late night in August he went out with his friend to buy snacks. When he did not return for 10 days, his parents looked for him. When they failed to find Carl, they were referred to a morgue in Caloocan. There they found the body of their son Carl.
Reports claimed Arnaiz was killed when Caloocan police responded to a call from a taxi driver who said he was robbed by a young man. Police officers and the taxi driver together went to look for him. When they found him, the boy supposedly shot at them, prompting them to retaliate and kill him. Beside the dead body of Arnaiz was a backpack containing three packs of suspected shabu. In his pocket were marijuana leaves.
His family pointed out that it was unlikely for their son to have gone to Caloocan just to hijack a taxi and start a shootout with police. His father doubted the boy would fight back, saying his only vice was smoking. His parents denied their son’s ownership of illegal drugs. They also denied that the backpack where suspected drugs were found belonged to their son. They said the boy only had a sling bag on the night he went missing.
According to the Public Attorney’s Office, Arnaiz had bruises around his eyes and his wrists were swollen apparently by metal handcuffs. The autopsy also showed four gunshot wounds on his chest and one on his arm.
Kian delos Santos and Carl Angelo Arnaiz would be alive today and free like Marc Anthony Fernandez if policemen had treated the poor sari-sari store attendants like they treated the actor-son of Alma Moreno and the late Rudy Fernandez.
On De. 22, Fernandez walked out of the jail a free man. Judge Ireneo Pangilinan, Jr. of the Angeles City Regional Trial Court set Fernandez free due to procedural breeches committed by the arresting policemen.
That is why it is my fervent hope that the Philippine National Police will adopt the Anthony Fernandez protocol when confronting drug suspects.
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Mario Antonio G. Lopez, my fellow writer of this column TO TAKE A STAND writes 30. Mayo’s valiant stand against the Big C ended in the wee hours of Sunday.
Sometime in early 2015, Mayo was diagnosed with colon cancer stage 4 and given nine months to live. He admitted that during that long period there were many moments of intense pain followed by long periods of fatigue, helplessness, and uncertainty that thoughts of dying as the easiest way out entered his mind.
But remembering the quote “In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God” by St. John of the Cross would snap him back to a fighting stance, less uncertain, less doubtful, and more resolved to do what the Lord wants him to do with his experience of battling the dreaded disease. He seemed to find delight in having defied his doctors’ prognosis. He tells his friends in triumphant and jovial tone that he has extended his life another month, another day.
That was Mayo. I remember during those secret meetings, rallies, and marches against the Marcos dictatorship he would make light of what we are about with ill-timed flippant statements. He went to battle with a sunny disposition.
But early last month, the ravage of cancer must have sapped him of his energy that he asked me to take his turn (Dec. 12) at this column. Then days before Christmas he posted in his Facebook that it has been 32 months since he was told he had only nine months to live but he seemed to be suggesting that he had battled cancer long enough.
I posted back: “Mayo, I still greet you and your devoted family Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year for I know every single day Our Lord blesses you with makes everyone in your family grateful, happy, and merry. Our Lord has extended your stay here on earth that you may comfort and inspire those similarly afflicted and especially those less afflicted but grumble like me whose diabetes has caused physical disabilities and discomfort. I and my children wish you more days that you may continue to fulfil Our Lord’s mission for you to comfort the sick and strengthen the weak of heart and mind. Our emotional comfort abounds through you, Kuku, Aryan and your other sons and our will power strengthened by your ever positive mental attitude.”
At 2 a.m. Sunday, Mayo declared: “Mission accomplished.”
I bid you farewell, my good friend, my colleague in the academic field, my comrade in the fight against the Marcos dictatorship as well as the current drift towards tyrannical rule. You have fulfilled Our Lord’s mission well. Rest in peace, Mayo.
Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. is a member of Manindigan! a cause-oriented group of businessmen, professionals, and academics.