In the wee hours of the morning of December 5, Joel Lising, 40, was already drinking his coffee and waiting for passengers at the tri-wheel vehicles terminal at the corner of Herbosa and Magsaysay Streets in Tondo, Manila. At 5:30am, two motorcycle-riding men rode by and shot at Lising. Lising got hit six times, one in the head and five in his body. Lising died instantly.
While recent happenings in the community would relegate Lising as another statistic in the long list of those killed in the drug war, his family and workmates deny any involvement of Lising in drugs. They said that Lising has no record in their barangay or local police as a drug pusher or user. They have no knowledge of him being part of the watch list of Operation Plan (Oplan) Tokhang. Instead, they said, he was an activist.
Lising was an organizer among his fellow tri-wheel drivers.
In recent times, Lising, an informal worker who lived on his earnings as a tri-wheel driver, and others in the same livelihood in their community, had established an organization Pagkakaisa ng mga Tri-Wheels Organization para sa Kabuhayan or PATOK in District 1 of Manila. They formed this to beef up their resistance to the local government unit’s plan to phase-out kuliglig and tri-wheel vehicles in the city of Manila. Lising was elected as the public relations officer of PATOK.
September this year when Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada announced that tri-wheels in Manila will be phased out and replaced with e-trikes. In October, Estrada led the distribution of e-trikes in Binondo.
Lising and PATOK launched various protests in Manila City Hall, demanding Mayor Joseph Estrada and his officials to hear out their demands. Tri-wheel drivers, including tricycle, pedicab and kuliglig drivers, demanded that tri-wheels should not be phased out and force them to convert to e-trikes.
PATOK last held a picket outside the Manila City Hall on October 17, bringing along their pedicabs and tri-wheel vehicles. Councilor Dennis Alcoreza faced the protesting drivers and assured them that tri-wheels in Manila will not be phased out and the e-trikes are optional. Alcoreza also promised an audience with Mayor Estrada but the dialogue has not happened as of press time.
Pedicab drivers earn P100-150 a day while tricycle and kuliglig drivers earn around P300 a day.
Emmanuel Layog, a tricycle driver for eight years, said that if there’s a chance for a better job that will answer the needs of his family, he will not need to drive a tricycle.
With the killing of Lising, the spate of killings in the name of the drug war and the inclusion of activists in the watch lists related to the conduct of Oplan Tokhang in various parts of the country, the Stop the Killings Network feared that Oplan Tokhang is being used not only against street pushers and users but also against activists.
“Nagiging norm na sa lugar nila Joel ang Oplan Tokhang. Same pattern ang pagpatay na unidentified riding in tandem ang suspect. Nakakabahala dahil pwedeng gamitin ang Tokhang sa pagtarget sa mga lider na nakikipaglaban para sa interes ng mamamayan at itolerate na lang ang ganitong sistema at culture of impunity (The Oplan Tokhang in Joel’s community has become a norm. The incident has the same pattern, the suspects are unidentified riding in tandem. It is worrisome that Tokhang can be used to target leaders who are fighting for the interest of the the people and tolerate this kind of system and culture of impunity),” said Cora Agovida, spokesperson of Stop the Killings Network.
“Ang mga baril na nakalaan sa Oplan Tokhang na sa ngayon ay nakaturo sa mga leader organisador sa mga komunidad na lumalaban para sa demokratikong interes ng mamamayan (The guns rationed for Oplan Tokhang are now pointed against leader organizers in communities fighting for the democratic interests of the people),” lamented another organizer of PATOK.
On December 9, a day before the International Human Rights Day, the families, coworkers of Lising and barangay officials were set to hold a press conference to condemn the extrajudicial killing of Lising and demand justice for his untimely demise.