“Still, I would like to believe there is justice. I will fight for my son.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Born and raised in Tarlac City, Tarlac, 17-year old Joshua Laxamana had dreamt of going to Manila. His mother did not expect she would fulfill his wish.
Last week, Joshua’s mother Cristine brought her second child to Manila. “I told him, ‘Son, look. Manila is beautiful.’” Cristine told Bulatlat in an interview. “But he was already inside a casket.”
Cristine said she brought Joshua’s remains to one of the country’s leading forensic experts for autopsy. After days of searching for Joshua, Cristine saw him at a funeral parlor in Rosales, Pangasinan on Aug. 21, his body riddled with bullets. “I raised him so long and then they would treat him like that,” the 34-year-old single mother said.
Cristine last spoke with Joshua on Aug. 14 before she left for work. When she came home, Joshua was not home. The teenager, along with two friends, went to Baguio for a dota gaming tournament. Cristine was used to her son joining dota tournaments and so she did not worry at first.
On Aug. 17, one of Joshua’s friends who came with him to Baguio arrived home. He told Cristine that her son and another friend, 15-year-old Julius Sebastian, might be on their way home. The three parted ways at the roadside of TPLEX on Aug. 16. Cristine waited and waited but Joshua never came.
Her anxiety brought her to the Tarlac police on Aug. 20 where she reported Joshua missing. The next day, at around 10 a.m., barangay tanod (village guards) went to the parlor where she works as a beautician. They informed her that Joshua was found dead somewhere in Rosales, Pangasinan.
Cristine broke down at the funeral parlor when she confirmed it was indeed her son. “I lifted him and kissed him. I missed him so much I was sleepless for many days,” she told Bulatlat.
Cristine lamented, “He was killed on Aug. 17 and they (police) never bothered to contact me immediately.”
Police in Rosales told Cristine that her son fought against police officers at the barangay checkpoint and that he had a motorbike, narcotics and a .45 caliber pistol. Authorities claimed that Joshua was a notorious akyat-bahay gang (burglar) member. The tattoo on Joshua’s right hand, the police said, was the mark of the burglar group.
Showing photographs of Joshua’s remains, Cristine said that the tattoo was “Queen of Pain,” one of the playable avatars in dota. She also said her son never learned how to drive.
Cristine said that while the police was talking to her, she was so angry she wished she had a gun to pull out. “Still, I would like to believe there is justice. I will fight for my son,” she said.
Travelling all the way from Tarlac, Cristine and her youngest son Justin joined a protest action of Rise Up for Life and for Rights and Karapatan in Quezon City on Sept. 7 to call for justice.
Justin, who turned 12 the other day, said of his brother, “I really miss him. He used to sleep beside me.”
Rise Up for Life and for Rights is extending legal assistance to Cristine and to the family of Sebastian, who is still missing.
In a statement, the group condemned what they called as “police killing with significant indicators of evidence manufacturing and planting.”
“Our confidence in the regularity of these so-called ‘nanlaban scenarios’ has long been exhausted. Patterns of conduct only underscore the need for further scrutiny on the voracity of such purported evidences and neatly packaged stories,” Deaconess Rubylin Litao, coordinator of Rise Up for Life and for Rights, said.
The group cited the cases of minors Kian delos Santos, Carl Arnaiz and Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman who were also gunned down in anti-drug operations in separate incidents last year. At least 60 children have been killed in anti-drug police operations since June 2016, according to Amnesty International.
As the program ended at the Boy Scout Circle and light began to fade, Cristine neatly put back Joshua’s photographs inside a small plastic envelope.