When Kim Lester Ramos left his home in the outskirts of the Philippine capital on Oct. 5 to play basketball with friends, his mother asked the 23-year-old where he’s going.
Kim, who loved crass jokes, replied in jest: “My final destination is old age.”
His mother laughed. It was Kim’s favorite line, and it never failed to endear him to his parents and friends in his neighborhood in the village of Santa Elena in Marikina City.
Anna Coritha, Kim’s mother, watched her son leave. Little did she know that it would be the last time she would see her first born alive.
Shortly before 7pm in the evening of the same day, a neighbor came rushing to the house to say that the young man had been killed.
Anna Coritha and her husband, Norman, ran to where Kim was supposedly shot. They thought it was a bad joke, but there was Kim lying on his own blood.
Police corporal Herjonner Soller of the Marikina Police Intelligence Unit allegedly shot Kim dead.
“The bullet pierced my son’s skull and exited through his eye,” said Norman, the father.
Anna Coritha never stopped crying. “All I want is justice,” she said.
“Jail that policeman who murdered my son,” she whispered to LICAS News on Oct. 13 when her son was finally laid to rest in a public cemetery a few kilometers from their home.
The night before the burial, Norman said Kim was last seen with his friends Lauro Lagarde Jr. and Johnny Regaña.
It was about six o’clock in the evening when they stopped playing basketball.
Kim and Lauro decided to accompany Johnny home to Mount Holy, just across from the basketball court.
They were taking off their wet shirts and talking about having dinner at a nearby eatery when a man on a motorcycle approached them.
“Stop being addicts,” the man, who was later identified as Corporal Soller, allegedly told the boys.
The boys were surprised and were not able to respond.
“We were just changing our shirts. We didn’t even know him. He did not introduce himself,” said Johnny later. “We never used drugs.”
The boys decided to ignore the man, who hastily left, and went on with their dinner plans.
Kim and Lauro took the latter’s motorbike, while Johnny drove his own.
Lauro’s older sister, Leslie, said his brother and Kim came across Soller on Mount Vernon Street near the corner of Gil Fernando Avenue about 6:30 p.m.
The boys stopped.
“My brother approached the man and asked: ‘Hi sir, may we know why you’re accusing us of using drugs?'” Leslie recounted. She said her brother was known for being inquisitive.
The policeman did not respond.
According to Lauro’s account as told to Leslie, the police officer pulled out a gun and pointed it to Lauro’s head. Lauro pushed the policeman’s arm down. Then there was a gun shot and Lauro was allegedly hit on the stomach.
Seeing what happened, Kim ran while crying for help. The policeman allegedly chased the boy and shot him to the head.
“My brother said the impact of the gunfire sent Kim’s body flying a few meters,” said Leslie.
Seeing his friend fall, Lauro closed his eyes and played dead.
‘Played for fools’
Lauro was later rushed to a hospital where he remains confined while undergoing treatment.
Norman, accompanied by Leslie, went to the police station several times to inquire about the result of the investigation.
“We wanted to know what happened, but they refused to give us the police report,” said Norman. “They did not want to name the policeman who shot my son.”
Leslie said the police have tried to hide what really happened.
They later learned from the Office of the City Prosecutor that Soller filed charges of direct assault and attempted homicide against Lauro.
In a document signed by Assistant City Prosecutor Gregorio Subong Jr., the policeman claimed that he approached “four men” on Mount Holy Street on Oct. 5.
He said he “became suspicious” because they “seemed to be in the middle of a serious conversation.”
Soller claimed that he introduced himself as a policeman and asked the boys what they were doing in that “dark area of the street.” One of the boys allegedly replied: “Why do you care?”
LICAS News checked out Mount Holy Street and saw that there were at least seven lampposts, including one right outside Johnny’s house.
Soller further claimed that he asked the men for their names but they responded in a “disrespectful manner” so he left them. But Lauro and Kim chased him, he said.
The policeman claimed that he was “cornered” and even “fell” from his motorbike on Mount Vernon Street.
Then, Lauro allegedly tried to grab Soller’s bag. But before the boy could, the policeman claimed that he was able to take his gun out.
When Kim and Lauro saw the gun, they reportedly decided to grab it from the policeman.
Soller said he and Lauro “grappled for the gun” until it went off and hit the boy in the stomach.
Based on the policeman’s claim, it was not clear what was Kim doing during this time.
But when Soller, as he claimed, managed to get the gun back, suddenly, Kim, was in possession of a gun too.
“At this point, [Kim] ran away and took cover behind a tree while holding a gun. Thus, police Corporal Soller told [Kim] to surrender and put down his gun. But the latter instead of surrendering pointed the gun to the former. This forced the policeman to fire… The bullet hit [Kim] and he eventually died,” read the document submitted by the policeman.
Leslie asked: “If there was a real encounter, how come the bullet entry point was located at the back of Kim’s head?”
Support for Kim and Lauro came all the way from Marikina to the town of Cainta in Rizal province where the boys used to live.
Relatives and friends donated money to help the family in the burial expenses. They also held a vigil and vowed to support the families’ quest for justice.
Even the victims’ bosses at the construction company, the village officials, and representatives of the local government of Marikina have provided support.
The cries for justice have reached Father Flavie Villanueva, a priest who have been vocal in his criticism of the government’s so-called war against narcotics.
In his homily during the Mass before the funeral rites, the priest said: “All of us are crying for justice. God is also crying for justice. One of his commandments was ‘Thou Shall Not Kill.’ We are with him in crying ‘do not kill, stop the killings.'”
Leslie and Norman are bent on having Soller sent to jail.
“We will definitely file a case against Soller for what he did to my brother and to Kim,” said Leslie.
Norman’s plea, meanwhile, has gone to the public. He hopes that people will take his son’s case seriously. He believes that public support, like the one given to Kian Lloyd delos Santos, a young boy killed in the bloody anti-narcotics war, would help send the policeman to jail.
“My son used to joke about old age a lot. He often told his mother that old age would be his final destination in life. But that would never happen anymore. He’s gone,” Norman said.
“That’s why I’m asking for public support,” he added. “Please, help us find justice for Kim.”
Officially, 6,660 “drug personalities” have been killed in the Philippines’ “war” against illegal drugs that started in the middle of 2016.
Human rights groups, however, claimed that the death toll could be upwards of 27,000, including 54 children who died during the first year alone.