Buhay OFW

A Test from Kian

“Please stop! Please stop!

We have a test tomorrow.”

His desperate plea was silenced by every blow to his stomach, until he could only grunt in pain, momentarily passing out. He was then manhandled by two men who brought him to the farthest end of the street. Another two men followed. He was told to hold a gun and fire it. The boy could not do it. So he was shot on the head; murdered at a dead-end corner in Barangay 160 Caloocan.

He could no longer come to school on Thursday morning. He missed it. He got a failing grade. No special test for him.

Kian Loyd Delos Santos, a 17-year-old Grade 11 student at the Our Lady of Lourdes College, dreamed of becoming a policeman. Ironically, his life was taken by his role models.

On August 17, 2017, Kian became one of the fatalities of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs. Police are now accusing Kian of being a “runner” and say he was killed because “nanlaban” (“he fought back”). General Bato Dela Rosa as usual defended the incident as “normal because the police are doing their duty” to eliminate the drug menace.  Presidential Spokeperson Ernesto Abella called the incident “happily isolated.”

Since Duterte started his bloody campaign, we’ve read about OFW mothers rushing home to bury their sons. Kian is not the first or the last. It is not also “isolated.” Children have died during buy-bust operations and vigilante-style killings since 2016. They became statistics. No policeman or vigilante has been held accountable. Duterte supporters call these deaths “collateral damage” as if these happened in cross-fires.

The renewed anti-drug campaign is bloodier than ever. On August 15 alone, 32 people were killed in Bulacan at the “One Time Big Time Operation.” President Duterte is quoted saying, “If we could just kill another 32 every day, then maybe we could reduce what ails this country.”

OFW mothers
I have a teenage son and daughter in the Philippines. Since Duterte started his War on Drugs and killings ensued, my husband (also an OFW) and I have been alarmed, daily, despite knowing that our kids are not into vices. But no good academic standing, guidance and love can save our kids if the vigilantes and the overzealous policemen do their dirty work. Every day is a struggle for OFWs like us, knowing that anyone can be tagged as an “addict” or a “pusher.” Dead bodies are always found with a sachet or two of shabu and a gun.

Lorenza, Kian’s mother, is a household worker in Saudi Arabia. She left three years ago because she wants to give her family “a better life.” Instead, her first vacation was for her son’s funeral.

Eugenia de los Reyes, an OFW for six years in Thailand, grieved over the death of Kian. She has 17-year-old daughter and a 23-year-old son in the Philippines. “As a mother, I am crying for justice. Poor people don’t get the same justice as the rich,” Eugenia said.

Maria Amihan is no stranger to violence. As a missionary worker in the Thai-Burma border, she became a mother to hundreds of Burmese and Karen refugee children who were victims of trafficking and conflicts. She felt overwhelming grief at Kian’s murder. She blamed the policemen and the encouragement from the government to kill. “But why only the dirt-poor are mostly the victims? Where are the big fish?”

Elisha Gay Hidalgo, a mother of twin sons and a migrant worker in Italy, believed that all mothers must find their voices to speak out against the violence. “I weep because I am a mother and an OFW. Like Lorenza, I left the Philippines hoping that someday our sacrifices and hardships would give our family a better future.”

If the killings will not stop and the big-time drug lords are not put to jail, Elisha, like all mothers, is afraid that any Filipino child could be the next Kian.

#kian is my son
Since Thursday, netizens have used the hashtags #kianismyson #anakkosikian to show their support for the Delos Santos family.

For three days now, my Facebook profile picture is black with words “Kian is my son.” #justiceforkian and other tributes are also flooding the social media. There is a call for writers, artists and the youth s to condemn the killing of Kian and extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

More tests to come
Had Kian taken the tests, he might have done well. He was thinking of it because he knew that only education could give him a better future. He knew his mother worked hard just to send them to school. He could have been my son or maybe my student if I ever go back to the Philippines to teach. But no more test for Kian.

But his death tests us: Are we going to condemn the killings, or will we become callous to the normalization of arbitrary killings as part of the “path to change”?

Duterte also tests us for how long we can endure his unconventional leadership. He is testing our patience and our faith in the government. Are we ready to submit our papers? Do we need to let him test us for another five years?

Kian can no longer take the test. I can no longer give Duterte a test. I am a teacher and I already gave him a failing grade. Remember #kianismyson.


This article originally appeared in Inquirer.net. It was written by Eunice Barbara Novio, Inquirer correspondent and an OFW herself. Novio also writes for PinoyThaiyo.

Photo: ABS-CBN News