Violent, bloody demolition snatches young man’s dream in Silverio

Though grieving, Arnel’s mother Glenda could not help but be awed at the support and solidarity that their family has been receiving from people from all walks of life. “He dreams of becoming famous someday and he is now. Only, Arnel is no longer with us,” she said sadly.

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

SILVERIO COMPOUND, Parañaque — Moments before Arnel Leonor was born, his father Juanito made a bet with his neighbors. If his wife Glenda would bear a son, he would wash the laundry. Otherwise, their neighbors would do it.

“As soon as he learned that Arnel was a boy, my husband happily washed our clothes,” Glenda Leonor told Bulatlat.com in Filipino. Her son Leonor was their “only boy” and youngest among their four children, “He bought a new basin and kettle. He told everyone that only Arnel could use it.”

Arnel grew up well-loved by his parents and sisters. Though at times he would fight with his siblings over petty things, Juanito would always remind them to love each other, most especially “Nonoy,” as Arnel is dearly called by his family, being their only boy among the children.


(Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao / Bulatlat.com)

But the life of a young man who was full of dreams, as his mother recalled, was unfortunately snatched away too quickly from people dear to him. Arnel was killed during the violent and bloody demolition of their homes in Silverio Compound in Parañaque City. He was only 19 years old.

Though grieving, Arnel’s mother Glenda could not help but be awed at the support and solidarity that their family has been receiving from people from all walks of life. “He dreams of becoming famous someday and he is now. Only, Arnel is no longer with us,” she said sadly.

Happy kid, coffee addict

“Arnel was a very bubbly person,” Glenda recalled, adding that he would always tease his sister Lenny’s two children until they would cry.

Whenever Glenda scolded her other children, Arnel was always quick to defend them. He would tell his mother, “Ma, your heart!” and they would burst into laughter, Glenda related.

He was also a sweet son. “But sometimes I preferred that he was not so sweet to me because he was always sweet when he asked for money to buy coffee. He loved to drink coffee,” Glenda said in jest, “He would remind me that I should not complain because I loved coffee when I was pregnant with him. It became part of our daily budget.”


(Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao / Bulatlat.com)

Even their neighbor and a good friend Ruby noticed Arnel’s love for coffee. “No matter how hot the day was, we saw him sipping a cup of coffee,” she said, “Every morning, he would ask me if I already had coffee.”

And still, before going to sleep, he and his father would drink coffee together. At times, Glenda said, the two would buy spaghetti from a nearby store.

Arnel slept beside his parents. When asked why, Arnel would insist, “But this is my place.”

Resourceful

Glenda said Arnel was not the kind of teen who would spend his afternoons and evenings with his friends. Arnel was more concerned about ensuring that there was food on their table.

“At times we would just cry and feel helpless because it was already lunchtime and we still did not have any idea where to get our food. But since he was very resourceful, he would sometimes go home bringing rice or viand,” Glenda said.

Among his ways to get money to buy food was by playing “pogs,” a popular playing card game for children. Whenever he won and was able to collect enough, Arnel would sell his “pogs” to his playmates so he could buy food, and, yes, even coffee, for his family.

Good friend

While he rarely went out of their home, Arnel managed to find a couple of friends whom he was close with. Glenda said that as a good friend, Arnel, at times, went out of his way to help and protect them.


(Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao / Bulatlat.com)

In 2008, Arnel was hit by a motorcycle when he tried to save his friend. “We brought him to the hospital where his leg was placed in a cast,” she said.

The family, who earns by making capiz products, was forced to stop their livelihood for a while because Arnel, with his leg in cast, could not go to the second floor of their humble house and thus occupying the space where they produced.

“He was a hero through and through,” Glenda said.

One of their neighbors, 13-year-old Leo, not his real name, told Bulatlat.com that while they were not related by blood, in his heart, he treated Arnel like a brother. “I will do my best to fight for you. I will fight for Silverio in your memory because you are like my brother,” he said.

Leo and Arnel played basketball in the afternoons. “We had a special way of shaking hands whenever we saw each other,” Leo said, adding that, “Whenever I knew he needed something, I always tried to reach out. When it was my turn, I did not even need to ask.”

Leo wants to be a witness should the family decide to file a case against the perpetrators. He claimed that both of them were merely standing next to each other, watching the barricade at the middle of Sucat Road when he heard the shot that claimed the life and dreams of his friend Arnel.

He added that he did not even realize immediately that Arnel was already wounded at the head. “I said that we would be friends forever until we grow old. But he just lied and died there,” he said.

Glenda describes Arnel as a young man full of dreams. “He dreamed of becoming a policeman. But who would have thought that they are the ones who would also end his dreams?”

Monday morning

Just before leaving their house, Arnel still teased his nephew. “Her sister Leny even scolded him because he kept on changing his clothes,” Glenda said. Leny, the eldest of the four children, is in charge of the family’s laundry.

When she saw the video clip of a young and bloodied man on television, she could not believe what she was seeing. Though she could not clearly see the boy’s face, he was wearing his brother’s clothes. “There was also something in the way he was lying down that I knew it was him. His knees were slightly bent,” she told Bulatlat.com.


(Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao / Bulatlat.com)

Glenda, on the other hand, was looking after the children in their community who were in the community’s basketball court so that they would not be hurt. When she went back to their house, she saw Leny crying by their doorstep. “Where is Nonoy? Have you seen him?” Leny asked her mother.

As panic consumed Glenda, she started looking for her son. Moments later, she noticed that people were whispering next to her. Finally, her son-in-law managed to tell her what really happened. Arnel was killed during the demolition.

“I wanted to fly to wherever he is. It was a good thing that I was with my friend Ellen who comforted while I cried and cried,” Glenda said, “I was really angry especially after I saw my son’s feet and when I pulled the sack that covered his face.”

Glenda said she was so angry that she was tempted to grab one of the policemen’s firearms and pull the trigger at their faces. But she knew nothing good would result from it. “I cursed them,” she said, “Bernabe is a pest. He brought chaos to our family and to our community.”

Mayor Jun Bernabe ordered the demolition of the 9.7 hectare Silverio Compound, which housed 25,000 families.

Killed by fellow protester?

In official investigations, the police claimed that the bullet that pierced Arnel’s head did not come from their ranks. According to Alvin David, medico legal division chief of the National Bureau of Investigation who also conducted the autopsy, the size of the entry and exit wounds indicated that the bullet was fired from either a .38 caliber or a 9mm handgun.

A high-powered firearm would have caused massive tissue damage and [created] an entrance wound that is small, with a larger exit wound,” David said in a Philippine Daily Inquirer report.

But Glenda and the whole Leonor family are not convinced. “I do not believe that he was killed by a fellow protester. Even a young child who saw the news would know who killed him,” Glenda said, “They are making the investigation complicated so they could acquit the perpetrators of the crime.”

She also said their family do not even have a copy of the said autopsy report. “We were rather surprised that some from the media appeared to have a copy of it even before we did.”

Glenda also reacted to some accusations, trying to demonize Arnel by saying that he was an addict or that he was killed because someone was angry at him. “Whoever is trying to spread such rumors against my son is definitely not from Silverio. He was known to be a good person here.”

Determined to fight

Glenda said she cannot believe that so many people have sent their condolences to her family. But the most memorable, she said, was when Anakbayan, a progressive youth group, honored and paid tribute to Arnel last April 26.

“I managed to sleep soundly that night. Before, no matter how much I tried to go to sleep, I could not because I just keep on crying,” Glenda said.

Arnel’s death will not deter his family from continuing to fight against the looming threats of demolition in their community. “Not when my son has already sacrificed his life,” Glenda said.

“I have been interviewed so many times already, no less than 30 interviews, in fact. I called on the government to put a stop to the demolition. I hope that it managed to reach our government and that they would heed our calls,” Glenda said.

The Leonor family knows who they are up against. “When you are fighting against someone who has money, they can bend the laws. But they should always remember that we are the one who elected them. And we deserve what is due to us,” Glenda said. ()

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