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Duterte campaign shirt a sad souvenir for Mandaluyong family

The family of Frederick Jucal has set up a shrine for the slain Duterte diehard, while keeping his favorite shirt.—Hannah Perez

In his own little way, Frederick Jucal helped Rodrigo Duterte win the presidency, campaigning for the then Davao City mayor by wearing a T-shirt that bears his candidate’s portrait. It became his favorite shirt.

One year later, Jucal’s live-in partner still keeps the shirt —but as a sad memento from Frederick, whom his family now count as one of the victims of the bloody drug war unleashed by Duterte upon coming to power.

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One afternoon in December last year, a masked man shot the 35-year-old Jucal and his childhood friend Norman “Oman” Esquillo, 36, outside Jucal’s house in Barangay Burol, Mandaluyong City.

Jucal died after being hit six times, while the wounded Esquillo avoided a fatal hit as the gunman stopped shooting and fled because his mask fell off, exposing his face to witnesses.

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Mistaken identity

Jucal’s loved ones, Barangay Burol officials, and a sibling of Esquillo agree that Jucal — a volunteer fireman and electrician by trade; a quiet man who “hated drugs,” liked aquarium fish and kept a pet snake, and a father of four — was just a victim of mistaken identity.

The real target of the attack, they said, was Esquillo, a drug user fresh out of rehab and whose name was on the local police watch list.

After recovering from his wounds, Esquillo, who was also a mechanic, has since moved out of the neighborhood.

“Frederick sang songs for Duterte. He practically worshipped him,” Grace Cuenco said of her slain partner. “But now I wish Duterte hadn’t won; my partner would probably be still alive.”

Yet as early 2013, Jucal was convinced Duterte should be the next President. He was impressed by what he saw on TV when then Mayor Duterte flew to Tacloban to personally deliver relief goods, medical aid, and a P7-million donation for the victims of Typhoon “Yolanda.”

Hoping for change

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“He wanted to see some change and really believed in Duterte. He loved Duterte for promising to wipe out crime, stop corruption, and stop the killings and rape of innocent people. He would always say that progress will only happen when you stop crime,” Cuenco recalled.

She showed the Inquirer the “Du30” T-shirt that Jucal personally designed. “He always wore it during the campaign season.”

And so Jucal was over the moon the day Duterte won as the country’s 16th President. He celebrated by treating himself to some booze; his Facebook posts sharing pro-Duterte videos and photos had paid off.

An amused Cuenco once teased him: “Why don’t you just marry the man?”

Six months later, around 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 14, Jucal was tinkering with his motorbike outside his house, with Esquillo seated next to him, when the masked gunman came, shooting Jucal first before turning to his friend.

‘A mix-up’

Witnesses heard Jucal pleading for his life but the killer kept shooting. The gunman only stopped when his mask fell off, then fled on foot together with another man who apparently served as a lookout.

Two days prior to his death, Jucal offered Esquillo a job, Cuenco said. “He wanted to help Oman because he had just come out of rehab and needed money to buy food for his four children. He did not know at the time that Esquillo was on the watch list.”

“We were told (after the attack) that the gunman was looking for a mechanic,” she said. “There was a mix-up.”

News reports of the attack quoted the Mandaluyong police as saying that Jucal and Esquillo were both on the drug watch list. Jucal’s family protested and Barangay Burol chair Ernesto Santos Jr. had to issue a statement maintaining that Jucal was not on the list and had no criminal record.

In an interview with the Inquirer last week, Esquillo’s sister, Florence Adueso, said her sibling had since gone into hiding after the incident.

“I know that my brother was the real target. I also heard that there was P25,000 bounty on his head,’” Adueso said. She learned about the alleged bounty from a friend “who had connections with the police.”

‘It was time’

A few days before the attack, Esquillo surrendered to barangay officials under the “Oplan Tokhang” campaign, she added. “At that point, I somehow knew what would happen next; that it was time. I was prepared. I had already accepted the fate of my brother.”

“That’s why until now we are sorry for Rick-rick (Jucal’s) family,” she added. “Whenever I see them, I try to keep my distance. I am still ashamed. I admit Duterte’s drug war campaign had some positive effects. But if the killings continue…I hope they will help the families left behind.”

Jucal’s house stands just two blocks away from a Mandaluyong police outpost. Days after losing Frederick, Cuenco crossed paths with four officers in the street.

“‘You did nothing! You just stood there and waited for him to die!’” she recalled telling them. “I’ve lost faith in our justice system. I don’t want to see any police officer.”

Still, despite her doubts that justice would be served, Cuenco filed a formal complaint at the police station in January this year. One of the policemen who attended to her, she said, tried to comfort her, telling her to just be patient and be ready to “wait maybe for up to 20 years.”

“After Duterte’s term, something might happen,” Cuenco recalled the officer as telling her.

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TAGS: Fredercik Jucal, Grace Cuenco, Norman Esquillo, Rodrigo Duterte, war on drugs
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