Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 30 June 2018


The “Tisoy” Argoncillo case is illustrative of several things that are wrong with the Philippines.

First, Tisoy, at 22 years old, was destined for failure.  Why? He only had a 4th grade education, which makes him a prime candidate for poverty. He came to Metro Manila when he was 15 to stay with his sister, who is a domestic helper. His forays into employment were by doing “extra” work for his sister’s employer.

Yet, our Constitution (Art. IV, Sec. 2.3) mandates that elementary education is compulsory for all children of school age, and provides free elementary and high school education (Sec. 2.2). It seems the state is more interested in apprehending/arresting/punishing us for doing what we should not be doing, but is very cavalier about apprehending/arresting/punishing us for not doing what we should be doing.

This illustrates that sins of commission are given more weight than sins of omission, which is a pity in this case. If the barangay tanod in Tisoy’s barangay had done their duty and made sure that children of school age were in school, Tisoy would have had a better chance of employment with higher income.

Second, Tisoy’s only fault was that he was bare-chested while waiting to load his phone at the corner sari-sari store. That is against Quezon City Ordinance 2623, passed in 2017, which considers nakedness “unlawful.” The penalty? P1,000 OR three days’ community service.

Tisoy died four days after he was apprehended. It would have been so much better if, instead of being kept in a cell with 134 other people (the cell capacity is six people, by international standards), the police had just let him do community work.

This illustrates two other problems: first, the congestion in our detention centers (police station cells), and, second, that life is cheap in the Philippines.

Quezon City Police District Director General Joselito Esquivel, whom I interviewed on “Bawal Ang Pasaway” on Monday, described the situation in jails thus: To keep 135 people in a cell built for six people at any one time means one-fourth of the detainees are standing, one-fourth are sitting, one fourth-are crouching, and one-fourth are lying down. Their positions change every six hours. This arrangement varies with the police stations. Any way you look at it, Reader, that is torture.

The second problem, as I said, is that life is cheap in the Philippines—or, more accurately in this case, the life of anyone who has the misfortune to be apprehended/arrested. Remember, these people are innocent until proven guilty. But they may not live to be ruled as one or the other.  In Station 4 where Tisoy was detained, he was the fourth detainee in less than a month to have died.

Which leads to the question: Why was no red flag raised over Police Station 4 when the three previous deaths occurred? General Esquivel’s answer:  because the three deaths raised no official complaint.

The state needs a complainant before they take any action? So if the victim is a nobody, or is very poor, it is that easy to pay off their families, and the offender gets off scot-free? Isn’t a criminal complaint titled: People of the Philippines  vs. …?

The Quezon City police of Station 4 also accused Tisoy of causing “Alarm and Public Scandal,” which, under Article 155 of the Revised Penal Code, carries a penalty of a fine not exceeding P200 and imprisonment from 1 to 30 days (presumably depending on the magnitude of the crime).

Yet—Tisoy died.

The police version is that they received a report from someone, still unnamed, complaining about Tisoy’s unruly behavior.

But the sari-sari store owner was seen on media saying that the young man was merely waiting for his cell phone load, and was quietly watching a video clip on another man’s (Roche, who was arrested with Tisoy) phone, when the police swooped in.

This illustrates another problem:  Reader, who do you believe? The police version, or the sari-sari store owner’s version (she is not related to Tisoy)?

We’re talking about the problem of police credibility. Too many times, the police have been caught in lies. I hope Generals Albayalde, Eleazar and Esquivel, who are considered more credible than most, make sure that their underlings speak the truth.