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A painting of Kim Lester Ramos, a victim of the fake drug war

When you're born into poverty, you realise early on that your life will be a constant struggle to become in a world that constantly places barriers to stop people like youthe nobodiesfrom becoming.

This reality never seemed to faze Kim though. Or at least it didn't stop him from being cheerful and kind. The eldest of six children, Kim calmly accepted that he needed to drop out of vocational college so he could help his parents shoulder his younger siblings' tuition fees. Whatever ambitions he might have harboured for himself, he turned into dreams that he would help make into a reality for his siblings. He joined his father in doing construction work and never showed any resentment towards the backbreaking labour.

He didn't indulge in any vices and instead poured his energy into playing basketball and Mobile Legends. His friends say that he was actually quite good at basketball. He helped organise a tournament for his church community, and there were even cops who took part in the tournament.

Kim was a good person, the kind of son any parent would dream of having. He was quiet but quick to laugh, helpful and generous with his time. The sad tragedy of our time, however, is that under a president who shows nothing but contempt for ordinary citizens, people like Kim not only have very little chance of becoming, they're also preyed on by state forces who are intent on stopping them from being.

On 5 October 2019, Kim and his friend Lauro decided to go out for a bite after playing basketball with another friend. The young men were hanging out outside a friend's house when a cop on a motorbike went past them, turned around, and called them drug addicts, telling them to stop taking drugs.

Kim and Lauro were puzzled, but decided to go to the eatery on Lauro's motorbike anyway. As they approached an intersection, they spotted the cop again. Lauro, obviously disturbed by what the cop said, asked, 'Kuya (older brother), why are you calling us drug addicts?'

The cop responded by pulling out his gun and shooting Lauro. Lauro fell on his back and closed his eyes, hoping that the cop would think he was dead. He heard Kim's flip-flops shuffling across the pavement and the cop giving chase, and opened his eyes just in time to see his friend get shot in the back of the head.

Local residents came running to see what happened, which encouraged Lauro to sit up and call for help. The cop grabbed Lauro's phone and never returned it. Kim's family and relatives came, but they were stopped by the other cops who arrived from going near Kim. They asked for an ambulance to take Kim to the hospital, but their pleas were ignored. After what seemed like an eternity, a funeral van arrived.

What followed was days, weeks of Kim's family being given the runaround by the police, their neighbours being intimidated by cops driving around in patrol cars, the police planting evidence against Kim (such as a gun magically turning up in what was supposed to be a photograph of his hand), and Lauro being charged with assault and attempted homicide.

I'm not going to give space to the murderer cop's version of what he did, because it is the same lie that has been told over and over to justify over 30,000 murders. A lie that doesn't hold water, a lie that cannot prevail over the reality of the lives that have been cruelly cut short by this state-sponsored war on the poor and powerless.

But it was a lie that kept the cop untouched for a good two months after what he did to Kim and Lauro. It wasn't until 9 December, when Kim's father Norman formally filed the charges against him, that the cop was fired from his post. Norman and the lawyers assisting his family submitted extensive witness accounts that opposed the cop's lie and legal documents proving that Kim and Lauro were upstanding citizens who never committed any crimes. On that day, Norman was accompanied by family and friends, all determined to see this fight for Kim through.

In the time of Duterte, those in power have grown confident that they can get away with denying poor young people like Kim their innocence. But when this time is over, the truth of who Kim and the other victims were will finally win over the lies that had been made up about them.

Kim was 23 years old.




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