By Minka Klaudia Tiangco
Thirty-five-year-old Rhyan Cuarteros was still able to celebrate on Christmas Eve by having noche buena with his family in their house at Barangay Tangos North in Navotas City.
But a few minutes before Christmas Day, a man in black barged into their home, and shot him in front of his family. Cuarteros left behind his partner, Jonalyn Tenso, and three children aged 15, 11, and five.
Tenso said they already had Christmas dinner and were already sleeping when the unidentified man entered their house.
She narrated how her partner stood in front of his family, seemingly to protect them from the man who suddenly barged into their home. The unidentified man then grabbed Cuarteros by the head and hand.
“Pilit niya po kinukuha ‘yung asawa ko (He was grabbing my partner forcefully),” she said.
“Sabi niya dun sa asawa ko, ‘Sumama ka.’ Sabi ng asawa ko, ‘Sir, wala po akong ginagawa, hindi po ako (nagb-benta ng shabu), nagta-trabaho po ako ng maayos’ (He was telling my partner ‘Come with us.’ My partner said, ‘Sir, I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m not selling drugs. I do honest work’),” she added.
She managed to grab hold of Cuarteros’ hand and pulled him back inside their house before the gunman shot him twice.
Cuarteros fell on top of his five-year-old daughter, who woke up to her mother’s screams. Upon opening the lights, they saw Cuarteros’ blood staining their clothes, their bed, the walls and floor of their house, and even the bike he rides to work on.
The autopsy report showed that the bullets hit her partner in the right shoulder and in the heart, and exited through the lungs.
“Bago siya namatay, sabi niya ‘Ba’t ginanito nila ako? Wala naman akong ginawa’ (Before he died, his final words were ‘Why did they do this to me? I didn’t do anything bad),” Tenso said.
Residents of the area said four men were involved in the crime, with three of them serving as lookouts.
Cuarteros’ eldest son, who was not in their house when his father was killed, tried to chase down one of the suspects, but the four men were able to flee after they opened fired at those who were chasing them.
The incident left Cuarteros’ family traumatized. Tenso said their five-year-old daughter could not even bring herself to attend her father’s wake out of fear.
Tenso said before Cuarteros died, they would start their days by having breakfast together. Then, Cuarteros would go to work as a carpenter and Tenso as a laundry woman. They would be back home in the early evening and would be asleep by 9 p.m.
Cuarteros was a quiet man who kept to himself and was always the first to apologize when they had fights, Tenso said. She also denied that her partner was involved in illegal drug activity and said his only vice was smoking cigarettes.
“Mabait po ‘yung asawa ko. Nagtatrabaho nga po ng maayos. Nagha-hanapbuhay ‘yan kahit maliit ang sahod niyan (My partner is a good man. He does honest work. He works even if he does not earn much),” she added.
“Bigla nilang kinuha saakin. Hindi ko matanggap. Mabait sakin ‘yon, eh (They suddenly took him from me. I can’t accept it. He was kind to me),” she said tearfully.