MANILA - At 16, Sonny Espinosa was no stranger to poverty; he had dropped out of school to support the family by selling kamote stalks. Little did he know however that on Wednesday night, his snatched minutes of rest would end in a massacre that snuffed seven lives.
Sonny had just finished washing plates when a friend invited him to watch friends singing and dancing at a neighbor's house in Phase 8, Caloocan, his mother Isobelita told radio DZMM.
Espinosa allowed her son to go. Within minutes, consecutive gunshots pierced the night, killing Sonny, his four friends and two other residents.
"Nanood lang sila sa nagsasayawan doon... Napadaan yung anak ko, tapos maya-maya lang, nadamay sila. Nadamay iyung mga bata. Hindi ko alam ngayon iyung gagawin namin dito," Espinosa said between sobs.
(They were just watching the dancing. My son was just passing by, but he was killed too. The children were killed. I don't what we should do.)
Witnesses said three armed men gunned down the teenagers in Block 17.
Sonny, Angelito Soriano, and Jonel Segovia died on the spot while Kenneth Lim and Ednel "Nonoy" Satur passed away at a hospital. Only one boy, Edward Villanueva, survived.
At another house believed to be a drug den, Cristina Satur and her daughther-in-law, Annalyn Dayamla, were also found dead due to gunshot wounds. Recovered from them were three sachets of shabu and various drug paraphernalia.
Satur and Dayamla may have been the real targets of the motorcycle-riding suspects and the deaths of the five young men may have only been collateral damage, policemen and barangay officials said.
'THEY'RE NOT ANIMALS'
A weeping Espinosa pleaded for an end to the vigilante killings that have claimed the lives of her son and thousands more of innocent individuals and suspected criminals alike.
"Hindi naman po hayop ang pinapatay nila. Ang hinagpis po ng mga kapatid, magulang, mahal nila sa buhay -- paano kung sa inyo mangyari? Napakasakit po ng mararanasan ninyo," she told Sonny's killers.
(Those they are killing are not animals. The sorrow of the bereft siblings, parents and loved one -- what if this happens to them? They will experience terrible suffering.)
The victims of the killings, even if they indeed violated the law, deserve a chance to mend their ways, Espinosa lamented.
She also challenged the government to investigate why those killed are often poor and powerless.
"Suriin naman po nila: bakit po ang malalaki... nakakawala? Bakit ang mga maliliit na tao, bumubulagta?"
(They should look into why the powerful go free and the powerless end up dead.)
Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief, Director General Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa said the Caloocan massacre may be connected to a feud among drug gangs.
He has given city cops 24 hours to solve the case.
"Lumalabas na ito ay gang war, mga drug personalities, nag-aaway. Ngayon, binigyan ko sila ng instructions, I am giving 24 hours sa chief of police na si [Senior Superintendent Johnson] Almazan, sa Caloocan, na i-solve ang kaso within 24 hours. 'Pag hindi niya ma-solve i-relieve ko so Almazan diyan sa Caloocan," he told radio DZMM.
(It appears that this was caused by a gang war, drug personalities are fighting among themselves. I have given Almazan, chief of the Caloocan police, 24 hours to solve the case. If he fails, I will relieve Almazan from his post.)
The PNP chief added that it is "unimaginable" that policemen were involved in the killing.
"Do you think kayang gawin ng pulis iyan? Pumatay ng mga bata?" he said. "Itong mga pulis na ito nagtatrabaho, hindi naman ito mga adik, hindi naman ito mga wala sa matinong pag-iisip na pumatay na lang ng mga bata. That's very unimaginable for me, kahit anong isipin mo."
(Do you think policemen can do that, kill children? These cops are working; they are not drug abusers, they are not out of the right state of mind to be able to kill children. That's unimaginable for me.)
Northern Police District Roberto Fajardo has confirmed that one of three suspects has been arrested, but declined to give additional details.
As for Espinosa, apart from the grief of losing Sonny, she is worried about how to give her son a decent funeral.
-- With reports from Zhander Cayabyab and Angel Movido, DZMM