Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Killing of defender of gays called a 'hate crime' (CARMELA G. LAPEÑA, GMA News)


Killing of defender of gays called a 'hate crime'
January 3, 2012 3:42pm


As colorful fireworks lit up the Manila sky, 18-year-old Fernando Mendoza Jr. was on a jeepney with his friends and cousins early Sunday morning. They were headed to Rizal Park to celebrate the New Year.

Friends of Mendoza describe him as a quiet guy, but also one who would have the mettle to stop a fight. On this particular occasion, Mendoza came to the defense of a couple of gay passengers, who were being taunted by a group of ruffians. "Sabi ng bakla, ‘Huwag niyo kaming anuhin, kasi mabait kami,'" one of Fernando's cousins narrated. "Tapos sabi ng pinsan ko, ‘Eh huwag niyo na nga anuhin, kasi mabait nga sila.’"

Mendoza's intervention triggered a reaction that would end his life.



"Bigla niya pong sinuntok ‘yung pinsan ko, tapos gumanti po ‘yung pinsan ko isang beses. Tapos nag-away na po sa loob ng jeep," said Mendoza's cousin, whose identify is being withheld for her security.

Outnumbered, Mendoza jumped off the jeep and a chase ensued along crowded Avenida Rizal, before he stumbled in the middle of the street in front of Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center.

There to report on fireworks-related injuries, a GMA News team was waiting outside the emergency room when they heard the commotion. "Trobol, trobol," people muttered as they rushed out in time to witness five men smashing bottles on Mendoza and kicking his head.

In video captured by GMA News, a man in a white sleeveless shirt is seen rushing toward the youth. The man shoots Mendoza with an improvised shotgun, or sumpak, as bystanders stand back in shock. After firing his weapon, the man and four others continue to beat the defenseless teen.

The suspects fled before anyone could stop them. A bystander approaches the boy and checks his pulse. "Buhay pa, buhay pa," he cries out, and the teen-ager is rushed inside the hospital.

But it was too late. With six bullet fragments in the heart, he was pronounced dead at 2 a.m. on New Year’s Day.

'Hate crime'

Informed that Mendoza was killed after he defended a gay co-passenger who was being harassed, Ceejay Agbayani, an advocate against violence against gays and lesbians, declared it a hate crime because "he was defending a gay from bullying."

"Bayani siya sa amin. Saludo kami sa ginawa niya," said Agbayani, who is also a pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church, a Christian church frequented by gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders.

"It was an act of courage (what Mendoza did)," said Reighben Labilles, spokesperson of the Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch. "Ang galit ng mga haters sa bakla ay napunta sa kanya. He was a defender out of nowhere."

Three suspects arrested

With the help of the video shot by the GMA News team, police were able to identify and arrest three of the suspects at 11 a.m. Monday.

"Malaking bagay na magle-lead kung paano malulutas itong krimen na ito. Maraming salamat sa tulong ng inyong pasilidad, especially sa GMA Kapuso," said Supt. James Affalo of the Manila Police District Station 3.
According to a report on dzBB radio, an investigation showed the victim died of shrapnel wounds from the improvised shotgun. The victim was also hit with a broken bottle.

Grief-stricken, the victim's mother could hardly bring herself to look at her son's remains.
"’Yung sa kilay niya, ‘yan sugat daw ‘yun...tapos, dito, dito sa ulo, pati dito sa tagiliran...," said Maritess Mendoza, describing her son's wounds. "Buhay ng anak ko ang inano nila. Kailangan buhay din ang kapalit. At nananawagan ako kay Mayor Lim at sana tulungan niya kami sa inabot ng anak ko," she said during her son's wake at the Barangay Hall in Barangay 191 Zone 17 in Tondo, Manila.

A buko vendor, Aling Maritess said it will be even more difficult to support her family now that her son is gone.

She said that Mendoza, her youngest son and the ninth among ten children, was always reliable and would give her money whenever he would win bets on billiards, which he was good at.

According to a friend of the victim, he was a kind, hardworking boy. "Mabait ‘yun. ‘Pag dumadaan nga kami puro tango lang, kahit nag-iingay na kami, hindi umaangal ‘yun. Mabait, pala-tango, masipag," said Mendoza's friend.

Mendoza will be buried Wednesday at Manila North Green Park. –KG/HS, GMA News

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