Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Opinion -

HAT were you up to when you were 14? You prob­a­bly spent hours dis­cov­er­ing what mu­sic you liked, maybe even had a few band posters up on your room’s walls. Per­haps you had found a sec­ond­hand shop you liked to visit each week, for the pa­per­backs and comics you spent more time reading than your school­books. You may have had your eye on a boy or girl you didn’t know what to say to, most of the time. It’s pos­si­ble you wor­ried too much about what other peo­ple thought.

At 14, Rey­naldo de Guz­man wor­ried about dif­fer­ent things. He ran er­rands for his fam­ily’s meals or so he could have some money when he went to school. He was al­ready be­hind by a few years, the no­tun­com­mon lot of those who learn to hus­tle young, be­cause that of­ten means the dif­fer­ence be­tween hav­ing enough for the day and go­ing to bed hun­gry. Which is not to say that Rey­naldo led a mis­er­able life. It was hard, but the peo­ple who knew Rey­naldo, the peo­ple who called him Ku­lot, re­mem­ber him as some­one who was al­ways happy to help.

Three weeks ago, Rey­naldo and an­other boy from the same neigh­bor­hood, Carl An­gelo Ar­naiz, went out for a latenight er­rand. What sort of er­rand, ex­actly, no one knows for cer­tain. As far as Carl’s par­ents knew, the 19 yearold just wanted to get a snack. They found him in a morgue 10 days later, with four gun­shot wounds in his chest and a fifth in his right arm.

Rey­naldo’s par­ents had to wait one week more. He was found a long way from home, his face hid­den by the tape coiled around his head, his body pierced by 30 stab wounds. No one knows who killed him or why. In a way, that’s an improvement over what hap­pened right after the deaths of Carl and an­other boy, Kian de los San­tos, came to light. Kian, 17, had not yet been buried when a po­lice of­fi­cial claimed that the boy had made as much as P18,000 a day sell­ing drugs, while a gov­ern­ment pros­e­cu­tor said he found it “too far­fetched” that Kian was in­no­cent. In Carl’s case, the po­lice told his par­ents that their boy had robbed a taxi driver at gun­point, tried to flee, and then fired at the of­fi­cers who were chas­ing him. So they shot him.

Who­ever killed him, Ku­lot’s fa­ther has vowed: your chil­dren and grand­chil­dren will know what you did to my son.

But there’s no guar­an­tee we’ll ever find out who was re­spon­si­ble. We’ve seen the likes of this be­fore. A decade ago, chil­dren were among the hun­dreds who died in “un­re­solved killings” in Davao City and other parts of the coun­try. Had their names been on the lists of sus­pected felons that barangay and po­lice of­fi­cers al­legedly com­piled? No one knows for sure, be­cause the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice and agen­cies like the Com­mis­sion on Hu­man Rights and Of­fice of the Om­buds­man had failed to sus­tain any in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Hu­man Rights Watch pointed this out in April 2009.

Eight years later, the ques­tions live on.

In some ways, we are bet­ter off. Rap­pler, quot­ing PNP sta­tis­tics, re­ported last month that in the first year of the Duterte pres­i­dency, the to­tal num­ber of crimes dropped by nearly 10 per­cent. There were 61,409 fewer crimes in Duterte’s first year, com­pared with the last year the Aquino ad­min­is­tra­tion held of­fice. Theft was down 38

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