Gunmen cut short her dance of change.
On Friday, with her mother as her lone audience and critic, 34-year-old Cristeta Ramos gamely practiced some dance moves for an upcoming competition in Barangay Batasan Hills, Quezon City.
It was no ordinary contest, however, for it was organized by the village officials for drug users like Ramos who had earlier surrendered under the Oplan Tokhang antidrug campaign.
'Kleng-kleng' had been rehearsing by herself since Monday, and those around her took this as a clear sign that she wanted to mend her ways. The contest, after all, carried the theme: 'Barangay Tuloy sa Pagbabago (Village heading toward change).'
But no, the Feb. 25 dance-off will be missing one eager contestant.
According to witnesses interviewed by the Inquirer, four masked men in jackets and caps entered her house at Iyos Compound shortly after midnight on Saturday, going all the way to the second floor where they found Ramos playing cards with her brother Moses.
One of the men asked Ramos: 'What's your name? What's your nickname?'
After getting an answer, the man dragged Ramos downstairs while his cohorts held the other shocked members of the household at gunpoint. Moses could only cry out in terror: 'Why are you doing this to my sister?'
Shots were heard outside the house a few seconds later. After the intruders left, family members, including two children, found Ramos lying face down in a pool of blood.
A report to the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) said crime scene investigators recovered four bullet casings and a sachet of 'shabu' near her body.
SPO1 Ronnie Ereno, the officer on the case, said Ramos had been using drugs for two years before she surrendered under the Tokhang program. The victim's family said she was a lesbian who, despite having no regular jobs, had been looking after the welfare of her nieces.
'Her mother really wanted her to change her ways,' said Ruby Libuna, Ramos' sister-in-law. 'She has been monitoring her and we can see that Kleng-kleng also wanted to make progress. If (Ramos) is still using drugs, why not just send her to jail? Why kill her?'
'I thought the killings would stop because Tokhang had been suspended and (the police) are now focusing on illegal gambling,' Libuna said.
Since July, there have been around 800 Tokhang surrenderers in Barangay Batasan Hills, according to QCPD records.
According to Cleopas Gaspay, the barangay executive officer, Ramos was one of the surrenderers who were expected to join the Feb. 25 dance contest, one of the activities marking the anniversary of Batasan Hills.