I live in Barangay Holy Spirit, Quezon City, adjacent to the Camanava district in Northern Metro Manila. Early morning, Friday, August 18, the Northern Police District was wrapping up their overnight drug sweep of Camanava that yielded 24 deaths, and 36 arrests.
That same Friday, at around 1:30 am, I went home later than usual because of a deadline at work as a news researcher/producer.
Our street is almost pitch black. The light post has been broken for nearly a year. The feeling of uneasiness is always there every time I go home especially with stories about our neighbors being robbed in front of their houses.
I shrugged off the thought because I do not have a choice. My work shift is late; I go home late.
That night was unusual. As I was getting off the tricycle, I saw from my periphery, silhouettes of two men carrying one rifle each. Riding a motorcycle, they stopped at the intersection in front of our house.
I ignored them since our street is a designated Mabuhay Lane to Regalado Avenue and a lot of vehicles use this as shortcut. With our closed van parked in front of our house, I lost sight of them. I went straight to our gate and rang the doorbell.
A few moments after, blinking lights from their motorcycle flashed on me. They were close to our truck. I continued to ring the doorbell, pressing it repeatedly as hard as I can.
My mind went blank and next thing I knew, I was running towards the adjacent street near the light post.
On that street, another man riding a motorycle passed me by as I slowed down to stop, catching my breath.
“Bakit Ka Tumatakbo?”
He asked me, “Bakit ka tumatakbo? At bakit takot na takot ka?” (Why are you running, why are you so scared?)
I told him that there were men with guns so I ran towards a lighted street. That’s when the armed men approached us. On their t-shirts it said: “NCR POLICE.” The man who asked me why I was running introduced himself to the policemen as a BPSO or Barangay Public Safety Officer.
“Sir, BPSO po ako. Nakita ko ‘to tumatakbo.” (Sir, I’m BPSO. I saw this one running)
The BPSO left me with the armed cops who demanded that they inspect my bag. I opened my bag, not letting them touch it. While showing them the content, I got my media ID.
“Sir, kakauwi ko lang po galing trabaho,” I told them. (Sir I just got home from work.) “Yung bulsa, patingin din.” (Let me see the pocket.)
I emptied my pocket to fulfill their demand. The other police asked, “Bakit ka tumakbo?” (Why did you run?)
“Sir, marami na po kasing na-hold-up sa street namin sa tapat ng bahay nila. Akala ko po mga holdupper kayo kasi may mga baril po kayo e. Kaya tumakbo po ako,” I explained. (Because people have been held up in this street in front of their houses. I thought you were going to rob me because you had guns. That’s why I ran.)
“Bahay ko po ‘yung dino-doorbell ko.” (That’s my house, where I was ringing the doorbell.)
“Bahay mo ba ‘yun? Samahan ka na namin.” (Is that your house, we’ll take you there.)
We walked towards our house as I called my mom to open the gate for us because there were policemen with me. The cops inquired about my work in media and asked why I didn’t recognize that they were policemen.
I stayed silent. I didn’t want to risk raising their temper. But in my head, I was explaining. I was trembling as I went inside the house. I sat at the dining room thinking about what happened. Then it began to hit me hard.
“Bigyan Mo ng Baril”
On Wednesday, August 16, two days before my encounter, the Caloocan police picked up 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos as he was closing up their small shop in Barangay 17. The police claim he shot at them. But witnesses and CCTV footage from the barangay tell a different story.
Kian was supposedly dragged into a dark alley and then given a gun, told to fire it. He was told to run. He did. And that’s when they shot him.
See I also ran, in the same week that the police held simultaneous anti-drugs raid that have killed almost 90 since Monday, August 14.
Called ‘one-time, big-time’ operations, the raids are criticized as an incentive-laced operations by cops with a quota to reach, emboldened to pull triggers by a President who had vowed to always protect them, no matter what. In a speech last year, President Rodrigo Duterte told the cops: ‘If he has no gun, give him a gun.’
I do not want to accuse the policemen but the circumstances haunt me. What if the roving policemen were part of the overnight sweep that same morning? What if when they saw me running, they also shot me?
I can’t help but think that it was my Media ID that saved me. I almost left it that morning; I even had to go back for it. What if the BPSO did not pass by that street? But why did the barangay officer even leave?
I couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility of me being dead, part of the rising death toll in the administration’s ruthless war on drugs. It has made people paranoid. It made me paranoid. I should be safe in front of my house.
But when two men with high-powered guns stop in front of your house, behind you, would you feel safe? Would you have stayed there or would you have run like I did?
In the wake of 90 deaths this week, people are enraged. Some are starting to be cautious. I have been receiving messages from friends to try to avoid going home late. The lyrics of the song ‘Tatsulok’ is spreading online as a reminder: Totoy makinig ka, wag kang magpa-gabi. Baka mapagkamalan ka’t humandusay diyan sa tabi. (Boy, listen to me, don’t stay out late, you might be mistaken and lie dead on the street.)
How can you trust policemen who have created terror in this country?
Ironic that they want to stop drugs and curb crime so Filipinos feel safe. But no, Mr. President, I do not feel safe.
[Entry 238, The SubSelfie Blog]
About the Author:
Serafin Gozon is the head researcher, segment, interview and field producer of GMA News TV’s State of the Nation with Jessica Soho.