Nothing sacred in latest Manila drug slay
In front of a grotto of the Virgin Mary, as he whiled away the hours in a tricycle marked “Jesus,” 31-year-old Sandrex Ampo-an was approached by four gunmen, the kind who apparently flinched no more at the sight of religious images as they carried out their job.
Four shots to the body killed Ampo-an on the spot around 11 p.m. on Friday on Taal Street in Punta, Sta. Ana, Manila.
The police later called him a drug suspect and added his case to the city’s tally of unsolved vigilante-style killings being linked to President Duterte’s bloody crackdown on narcotics.
Ampo-an’s mother Erlinda and younger brother John Kennedy arrived at the crime scene within minutes but were made to wait longer among the crowd of onlookers behind the yellow police line.
“I just want to hold my son. Please, let me hold my son. Can I see my son? I want to kiss my son. Please, let me kiss my son,” she said, pleading with a team from the Manila Police District (MPD) who had cordoned off the area.
Hearing several “nos,” she dropped to her knees and almost keeled over. As John Kennedy caught her fall, something on his wrist caught the eye of many: A red and blue baller from the election period, with the printed catchphrase “Duterte, atin ito, p’re (He’s our guy, buddy).”
In an interview, Chief Insp. Romeo Estabillo, commander of the MPD’s Punta precinct, said four men in bonnets shot Ampo-an at close range before fleeing on two motorcycles.
Estabillo said Ampo-an was on the MPD’s drug watch list but he could not immediately tell if he was a user or a pusher. “He also had multiple theft cases, according to his family,” the official added.
Michelle Ampo-an confirmed that her brother had stolen mobile phones in the past and had been in and out of jail since their mother sent him to the Boystown youth facility in Marikina City to straighten him out when he was merely 15.
Ampo-an also used drugs, she said, but stopped after President Duterte came into power. “He even surrendered to the police.”
But making these admissions about Sandrex’s troubled years doesn’t mean the bereaved family will not seek justice. “I want to the get footage from the barangay’s surveillance camera to see who killed him,” Michelle told the Inquirer.
Michelle recalled that it was her brother’s pre-bedtime habit to pass the time on the tricycle owned by a neighbor.
The rest of the family were home on the night Ampo-an was shot late Friday night.
While waiting for the MPD to let her through the yellow line, Erlinda was given a chair a few meters away. “Can I see him now, please?” she kept asking John Kennedy.
John Kennedy assured her they would let her pass as soon as the crime scene investigators are done. To fill the painful gap between her fainting and screaming, he recalled a past conversation they had: “Remember what you said about life being like a candle? A candle’s life has an end. This is the life (Sandrex) chose.”
Around 1 a.m., word finally reached Erlinda that the body will be taken to the morgue. She got up, begging everyone around her to let her through, but again broke down after taking a few steps.
The anguished parent wailed: “P——-a n’yo, you killed my child! Sandrex! Sandrex!”
In the end, she never got to touch Ampo-an’s body.
Before leaving, funeral home workers handed two calling cards to the family of the deceased. One sibling was heard saying: “Ate, ate, wala akong pambayad d’yan, ate. (Sister, I don’t have the money to pay for that.)”
Neighbors later lit two candles to mark the spot where Ampo-an’s blood flowed from the “Jesus” tricycle, with added illumination from the Marian grotto.