By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA , Philippines — Maria Roselle Locsin, 37, was watching television in their home on Oct. 7 in Sitio San Roque in Quezon City, along with her husband Bernie Tupaz and 10-year-old daughter, when armed men in plainclothes barged into their home.
They forcibly took her husband to “verify” his status despite her pleas that he has done nothing wrong. Later, she realized that the armed men were police officers carrying out an anti-illegal drug drive.
Locsin said her husband, a construction worker, is known in their community for his “clean record” that even the police’s own drug test result yielded negative. Still, he was detained at the Quezon City Police Station7 and later moved to the Quezon City Jail after charges were filed against him.
The recent spate in the illegal drug drive in their community, coinciding with the looming threats to have their homes demolished, has left the likes of Locsin and urban poor community leaders pondering on the probability that the war against drugs is being utilized to drive them away from their homes.
“Wala na nga kaming makain, ito pa ang gagawin nila (We already have norhing to eat and now this is what they are doing to us.)” Locsin quipped during a Bulatlat interview.
In a statement, urban poor group Kadamay said 53 residents have been arrested in recent weeks in the name of the anti-drug war. They noted, however, that the arrested residents are living near EDSA, which is the part of their community tagged for demolition.
Since 2010, the government authorities have resorted to “pocket demolitions,” after they failed to break the barricade of the residents during that year. From more 16,000 families, there are still 6,000 families residing in the community as of this writing.
“This is part of an all-out assault against the people to further their repressive chokehold on ordinary Filipinos. In the case of San Roque, police operations are being done to pave the way for the Ayala Land Ventures and a branch of the Solaire Casino,” said Kadamay.
Police authorities are not exactly of immaculate record in their implementation of President Duterte’s bloody war against drugs. Apart from the rampant and systematic killings that human rights activists estimate to be about 20,000, a police officer was recently arrested over the rape of a 15-year-old girl.
In the case of Tupaz, his wife Locsin told Bulatlat that her husband was beaten several times to make him admit that he was indeed a drug user.
The poor are often victims of the anti-drug campaign
Estrelieta Bagasbas, a resident and a leader of urban poor group Kadamay, said the urban poor has had enough of the “nanlaban” narrative of the police, whenever there are casualties in their operations.
Human rights groups have long assailed that President Duterte’s war on illegal drugs has only targetted the poor.
Bagasbas said, “stop the killings. Stop the demolition of our homes.”
Impact to their lives
In between tears, Locsin said she hardly sleeps at all as she is dead worried over her husband’s situation.
“He sleeps under the billiards table. He has not eaten anything since yesterday. When I paid him a visit, he was begging me to help him. But what can I do? Who should I ask help from?” she told Bulatlat.
Meanwhile, her daughter has not been attending school since her husband’s arrest as she was deeply traumatized by the incident.
Their family has also lost their income. Tupaz works as a construction worker at the Philippine Science High School, earning P520 per day.