imyeyes-banner-sqIn My EyesBy Edward B. Antonio

Remembering murdered Fabel, a former student

Fabel Pineda was a former student at San Juan NHS, San Juan, Ilocos Sur, fellas.

I once taught her in class, Grade 8-English.

She was then an active, vibrant 14-year old girl of Grade 8-Anthurium, trying to cope up with the rigors of studying without her mother-breadwinner, a domestic helper abroad.

As a typical student mingling with her age group, she had problems like any other budding teenager: problems on lessons, friends and even problems about her suitors. She was a helpful kid, too. After each class, she and her friends would grab her teacher’s chalkbox, laptop and visual aids to bring them to his next class. She was also humble, lavishing her teachers with “Yes, sir,” “Yes ma’am,” “Ako na, ma’am” or “Kami na po ang magdadala niyan, sir.” 

As one of her teachers, I would say that Fabel was just any other kid, enjoying her friends and her cell phone. Her father died when she was 4 years old, hence, she was one of those whose problems were akin to problems of students without their parents beside them. But that’s the role of teachers: to guide their students and help them cope up with their problems.

In my last talk with her before classes ended, she promised to be a good girl and to study hard. She also said she would be discarding her love affair with an outsider so she can concentrate on her studies. I was one of the happiest teachers, then, knowing that I have touched a child’s heart.

But on July 2, 2020, Fabel, then a 15-year old lass aspiring to become a nurse someday, was murdered in Barangay Daclapan, Cabugao, Ilocos Sur. She earlier filed a complaint of sexual abuse against a policeman but on her way home with two relatives, she was brutally gunned down by riding-in-tandem killers wearing face masks and helmets. Her 18-year old cousin was also raped allegedly by the policeman’s buddy cop. Both assailants belong to the San Juan PNP.

But justice seems to be swift, fellas.

Fabel’s death triggered a flood of condemnation from an enraged country of netizens, including PNP Chief Gen. Archie Gamboa, who wanted the stiffest penalty against the police officers.

“They are not men in uniform but animals who deserve to be in jail for life. Walang awa, walang puso, walang kwentang police,” he said.

Even Ilocos Sur Governor Ryan Luis Singson was touched, that he promised to help the family seek justice by tapping the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for a separate investigation.

Fabel’s death and the mourning of her relatives, particularly her mother, melted my heart, fellas.

Fabel’s mom, when interviewed by the radio, wept openly. I could barely understand her words behind her uncontrollable sobs – the cry of a mother over her murdered child.

Fabel, to me, has become a sacrificial lamb, and this sacrifice has opened once more the eyes of the authorities tasked to legislate and implement laws designed to protect children.

If Fabel is listening today, here are the development of your case, neneng:

The two policemen have been charged with murder and are now in restrictive custody. Your case has also gained a worldwide attention where netizens not only condemn your brutal murder but also urge authorities to solve the case and bring the perpetrators behind bars.

The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives has called for an investigation, in aid of legislation, on your murder and the rape of your 18-year old cousin by men in uniform. House Resolution No. 1028 directs the House Committee on Women and Gender Equality to conduct an urgent investigation and recommend measures to strengthen existing laws to protect women and give justice to victims of men in uniform.

Makabayan lawmakers state: “The rape and killing of Fabel Pineda add up to the numerous publicized cases of sexual violence perpetrated by men in uniform.” They cited that 63 police officers have been involved in cases of violence against women, including rape, from July 2016 to December 2019, but only 43 have been charged administratively.

They also noted that cases of sexual violence especially during the quarantine period “have discouraged victims of domestic violence and sexual harassment who are trapped in their home from seeking the assistance of law enforcers and authorities, resulting to an alarming and worsening cycle of violence against women and children.”

Fabel, your case has also reached the United Nations through the UNICEF.

Listen to UNICEF’s statement, neneng:

“We mourn and condole with her family. Fabel’s death is made even more painful by the manner of her passing and the violence she suffered. Society should never be accustomed to such egregious attacks against children. Every child has an inalienable right to live a life without violence.

As we experience a new normal in this pandemic, let us not allow Fabel and countless children who are speaking out against violence to be silenced by our indifference and inaction. We hope that hereon, all children in need of protection and care will be heard and prioritized for swift action and emphatic response.”

I know justice will be served to you, Fabel, sooner than later. I join the world in condemning your death. Your death shall not go in vain, but will serve as another eye-opener for our authorities to implement the law to protect children like you.

You are a heroine to me.
You are a heroine to the country.
You are a heroine to the world.