Mourning the young men
Two young men—one on a promising trajectory toward a career in law, the other just dreaming of a future in law enforcement—are just a pair of recent losses incurred as part of a seeming wave of violence in our midst.
Investigations are still ongoing in the death of Horacio “Atio” Castillo III who died of injuries widely believed to have been inflicted by “seniors” in the Aegis Juris fraternity at the University of Santo Tomas Law School as part of their initiation ceremony. The killing of Kian Loyd delos Santos, 17, has been probed by law enforcers, at times at cross purposes, although all agree his “execution-style” shooting took place as part of an antidrug operation.
There have been other young men felled, most notably the paired demise of Carl Arnaiz, a college dropout, and his companion that night, Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman, who was all of 14 years old.
Indeed, there is more than enough reason to mourn these young men, even for us who do not know them personally and know only of them through media reports and heartbreaking footage of their families’ grieving. Yes, this includes the photo of Kian’s parents posing with the President, their fists thrust toward the camera in Mr. Duterte’s pugnacious campaign pose. Confessed Duterte supporters, Kian’s parents could have been flattered by the invitation to meet with him in Malacañang, or they could have been intimidated by the use of presidential privilege to coerce them into exculpating him of any responsibility for their son’s virtual execution.
But does that make pedophiles out of all those roused to anger by these unnecessary deaths? Including President Duterte? If, as he claimed while taunting Commission on Human Rights Chair Chito Gascon, “extraordinary” interest in the killing of young men makes one a pedophile, then I guess all of us fall within the milieu. Unless he thinks human sympathy makes perverts of us all?
The most senseless death of this current crop of fatalities has to be that of Castillo, who trusted in the ideals of brotherhood propagated by Aegis Juris and other similar organizations, only to be confronted by cruelty and cowardice. Yes, cowardice, for ganging up on a helpless individual who had put his fate in your hands calls, not for bravery, but for conspiracy of the basest sort.
Today, we are seeing more and more details emerge of Castillo’s final moments. He was expecting a celebratory occasion only to meet with unspeakable cruelty. And while he may have been motivated by a desire for brotherhood, what he met at the end was reckless abandonment, his battered body thrown into a pickup and dropped off at a hospital. His would-be “brothers” lost no time making themselves scarce, with one making a successful escape to the United States (accompanied by his mother) and others either in hiding or lawyering up, armed with elaborate stories to cover up their involvement.
Take a look at Atio’s pictures — a smiling, bespectacled young man who beheld the world with confidence and promise — and lament the way violence has touched even a life as privileged as his.
That’s true, too, of Kian, Carl and Kulot. They were poor and lived among the dregs of society, but in their own ways they were striving to overcome their origins.
Kian dreamed of moving up and out of his humble circumstances by taking up a career in criminology. Carl was a promising student at the State University, but there must be a backstory for his dropping out of school and leading a restless existence since. We don’t know what the future held for Kulot, but we can glimpse his gumption and bravery by stories of his running errands for neighbors and seeking any and every opportunity to make some money.
Our sons are at risk, be they clean-cut boys of privilege like Atio, or struggling to make their way out of their depressed neighborhoods, dreaming despite the odds.
We mourn these boys, even as we search for ways to avert the inevitable spurt in their numbers if we do nothing about the violence we are breeding and tolerating.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.