‘Tisoy’ buried in hometown where going shirtless meant enjoying the breeze
ILOILO CITY—Genesis “Tisoy” Argoncillo left his family on the island-village of Bagongon in Concepcion town, Iloilo province, seven years ago.
As a 16-year-old boy, he had wanted to seek greener pastures in Metro Manila, although that would separate him from his family and the village he grew up in.
He used to go fishing with relatives often with his shirt off to enjoy the cool coastal breeze.
On Saturday, Argoncillo, 22, was buried in the island’s cemetery nearly a month after he died in a Quezon City jail following his arrest by police for loitering and going out shirtless.
On June 19, Argoncillo was outside the house of his elder sister, Marilou, in Quezon City without his shirt on, just as he often was as a teenager when he went fishing with relatives in Bagongon.
But going out into the streets shirtless in Quezon City was against a little-known law that rose from obscurity to deadly infamy when police used it as a tool to enforce President Rodrigo Duterte’s verbal rant against “tambay,” or loiterers, who had been tagged as probable crime suspects if they refused to heed advice to go home.
Argoncillo was locked up at the detention facility of police in Novaliches, one of the bigger areas of Quezon City, where he shortly died.
Police have filed charges against two inmates at the jail accused of beating up Argoncillo for still unknown reasons.
Argoncillo’s family doubted the police story and believed that he was beaten up by police officers or beaten up by inmates upon orders of police officers.
“He finally came home after seven years but to be buried,” Marilou said in a phone interview.
“We want justice,” Marilou said.
Argoncillo’s father, Sergio, has not seen his son for seven years and was heartbroken to see Argoncillo in a coffin, according to Marilou.
Argoncillo, who earned the moniker Tisoy for his fair skin and sharp nose, usually takes off his shirt in the evening when going to sleep because he was used to the cool breeze in Bagongon.
“He came to live with me in Manila to find work,” Marilou said.
“Why was he arrested and why did he die?” she added.
The family has filed charges against the police officers involved in her brother’s arrest.
At least 600 relatives and residents of the island attended the burial on Saturday, walking from the Argoncillo residence to the cemetery passing the shoreline.
Some came from the mainland of Concepcion, about 45 minutes by motorboat.
Relatives carried streamers and banners calling for justice.
Reylan Vergara, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan in Panay and who was in the burial, said Argoncillo was among the many victims of the “inhumane and antipoor” policy of the government against tambay.
“Like the murderous antidrug campaign, this policy victimizes the poor and defenseless residents in communities,” Vergara said.
Marilou vowed to pursue justice for her brother.
“He was a good person who did nothing wrong,” she said.
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