EJK victims’ relatives join Walk for Life | Inquirer News

EJK victims’ relatives join Walk for Life

By: - Reporter / @jovicyeeINQ
/ 12:19 AM May 08, 2017

Almost a year ago, Ernesto Tapang placed his hopes in President Duterte who vowed to bring progress and security to the country by ridding it of lawless elements and the illegal drug trade.

An avid supporter of the then Davao City mayor, Tapang even advised the known drug users in their neighborhood of Firmeza Street in Sampaloc, Manila, to mend their ways lest they earn the ire of the tough-talking presidential candidate. At the same time, he tirelessly campaigned among his family and relatives to support his bet.


But on Jan. 25, armed men in a van shot Tapang as he was relaxing inside his house.


His niece Lorraine Rafer told the Inquirer that her 51-year-old uncle was shot 23 times with authorities recovering 18 bullets. Rafer stressed that while her uncle was unemployed, “he was not in any way involved in the illegal drug [trade].”

Up to now, Tapang’s family believes he was a victim of mistaken identity, especially since he had no known enemies in the community where everyone called him “brader” (brother).

Tapang’s death was just one of the many cases of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) condemned by the Most Holy Trinity Parish in Sampaloc, Manila, on Saturday when it held its own version of the “Walk for Life.” In February, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines kicked off the first unity march in which 10,000 people voiced concern over the rising number of drug-related killings.

Climate of impunity

Attended by around 500 residents of Balicbalic, Sampaloc, families of EJK victims and members of the In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement, Saturday’s Walk for Life called for an immediate end to the growing climate of impunity in the country. The participants also denounced the revival of the death penalty and the proposed lowering of the criminal age of responsibility to nine years old.

Bro. Gerry Capistrano, one of the march organizers, stressed that they did not believe the death of suspected drug users and peddlers would stop the proliferation of illegal drugs. He pointed out that the rule of law was already being trampled on as “due process was no longer observed.”

“Some of those who have already surrendered [to authorities] are still being killed. We all have the right to life and as long as we live, there is a chance for us to change,” he said.


According to Rafer, due to the killings which happen almost daily, she was growing wary of the kind of environment her three children were growing up in.

“It bothers me that most of us are already getting used to it,” she said.

In fact, during Saturday’s march, when participants holding a tarpaulin bearing the faces of EJK victims passed by a group of kids as young as six years old, they were observed calmly telling each other: “Ayan yung mga patay. (Those are the dead).”

Deeper mark

But the impact of the Duterte administration’s bloody campaign against the illegal drug trade has left a far deeper mark on Annalyn Barcelon’s 5-year-old son.

Barcelon told the Inquirer that her son remains afraid of guns, even those used for play, after his grandfather, Renato Zaragoza, was shot in the face as he was sleeping inside his house, also on Firmeza Street, on Dec. 10 last year.

When the boy’s teacher described policemen as those who catch bad guys, Barcelon said her son firmly believed that policemen were “bad people because they killed” his 56-year-old grandfather.

“He can’t get it out of his head,” she told the Inquirer, adding that she partly blames herself for his death as she also supported Mr. Duterte when he ran for president.

“We never thought that we would be the ones to damn our father,” she said.

Like Rafer, Barcelon also believes that her father’s murder was a case of mistaken identity after they learned that a drug peddler who lived at the other end of the street left two days after the killing.

Asked if they have gone to the police to follow up her father’s case, Barcelon said that while they want justice, they just “can’t trust the police anymore.”

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“We’re just a poor family. We can’t fight the government. [Ultimately,] the victims here are the wives who lose their husbands and bear the responsibility of having to rear their children by themselves,” she added.

TAGS: EJK victims

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