SPREADING CHEER, NOT FEAR Wearing a Santa Claus cap, Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa leads the giving of Christmas gifts to children and other relatives of drug suspects, including those killed in the government’s brutal campaign against narcotics, at Batasan High School in Quezon City. —JOAN BONDOC
He donned a red Santa Claus stocking cap adorned with blinking lights and was greeted with cheers, but the Christmas message that Philippine National Police Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, gave families of those arrested or killed in the crackdown on illegal drugs did not exactly repeat the season’s “sounding joy.”
It’s time to move on and begin the healing process, Dela Rosa told at least 625 children from the villages of Payatas, Old Balara, Batasan Hills, Commonwealth and Holy Spirit in Quezon City, many of whom were orphaned by the government’s bloody war on drugs.
“Many of you are hurting because your fathers were killed or arrested, but the police are hurting, too,” Dela Rosa said. “We don’t want anyone wounded or killed. What we are doing is also for your future.”
There is no forever, he added during the Quezon City Police District’s gift-giving program on Saturday when some 800 residents of the city’s poor communities were handed candies, toys and grocery items.
But while some families echoed Dela Rosa’s message, others found it difficult to simply move forward without getting justice.
For many families, the pain and fear from their harrowing experiences still linger, said Avelino Buizon, a coordinator for the Diocese of Novaliches who was among those in charge of gathering families of victims for the event.
Lessen the pain
“Some parents whom we invited did not want to go and see the police, but sent their children anyway,” Buizon said in an interview. “The parents [remain] fearful, but the children … only know joy.”
Added Buizon: “At least for Christmas, this program and the gifts the children received can somehow lessen the pain in their hearts.”
Others have learned to live with the death of their family member. Among them was Kathrina Polo, one of the coordinators of the program, whose husband, Cherwen, was shot dead by police officers from Station 6.
Some officers from Station 6 had been tagged the “Davao Boys” in a recent Reuters report because the policemen allegedly involved in the summary execution of drug suspects came from President Duterte’s hometown of Davao City.
‘We should move on’
Polo, who was seated with police and city officials onstage, refused to talk about her husband’s killing in what officers claimed was a drug raid.
“We should move on because the fault of one policeman is not the fault of all of them,” she told the Inquirer.
Polo said she had filed a case in the PNP Internal Affairs Service and the Office of the Ombudsman against the Station 6 officers involved in her husband’s killing.
It was difficult to work with the police at first, Polo said, but she realized that she had to move forward for the sake of her three young children.