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Wilma checked with those she knew had seen Ernesto, then she went to the street outside the Bayanan market. She asked some of the other street vendors if they had seen a boy with a pig. A man selling water said, yes, he had seen the very boy.

"I know this boy. He was across the street from me, just there," the water seller said.

"And when did the boy leave?" Wilma asked with a certain trepidation.

The man looked upon the ground and scuffed his feet, "I think you should have a water. The day has been long and you look tired."

"How much for the water?" Wilma asked.

"I have lots of ice in the cart and this water is very cold," the man explained before quoting the price.

"You're sure you remember the boy?"

"Of course. He was right there. He was wearing a shirt from the Mariones Festival. He was a nice looking young man. I thought such a young boy to be selling a pig alone on the streets. The water is 30 pesos."

Wilma was eager to pay for what the man knew and he threw in a bottle of water that wasn't as cold as his claim.

"I noticed he sold most of his pig. He had done well and it was not so long ago an inspector from the police approached the boy. It was loud between them, but I could not make out what was said. When you find the boy, I'm sure he would be thankful for a bottle of water."

So, Wilma bought some more of the story and another bottle was given as a thank you.

The man continued, "Soon a second member of the police arrived. The boy was taking down his stand and wanting to leave. Together they prevented him from doing so. They put their hands on his shoulders and I clearly heard the boy say he had done nothing wrong."

"Were these the police from the barangay?"

"The first wore the uniform of the national police. Perhaps he was from the drug squad. Though I think the second officer who joined him was from the barangay. It was the second officer who tried to reason with the boy."

"But what was the boy's crime?" Wilma asked, her desperation becoming more apparent.

"I cannot say. Do you have other children, perhaps a husband? It would not be fair to have water for only the boy."

Wilma paid to continued the story and was once again given another bottle of water in appreciation.

The man continued, "At this point the officer from the barangay tipped the cart spilling what was left of the pig into the street. I think the man from the drug squad laughed. If you look over on the corner you can still see where the pig blood soaked the street."

"But the boy had done nothing wrong. I know my Ernesto," Wilma begged, as if this man could change it.

When the man looked at Wilma's face, he did not ask for another payment, but continued, "I cannot say what the boy did, except to struggle when the officers tried to subdue him. Perhaps he would not pay their graft."

"Did these officers take him away?"

"No, two different officers without uniforms came in a car. They took him away. They put handcuffs on him and placed him in the back of the car. I think they were from the PNP."

"And the cart and the meat?"

"After the boy was taken away, the two officers on the street waited until a woman came, she was fat and well dressed, perhaps herself the wife of a policeman. She took the meat, even that which had spilled into the street. As for the cart and the umbrella I think some children from the street took them."

"Can you identify the police or the woman?" Wilma asked, knowing his response.

"Oh, I could not tell their faces. One officer is the same as the next to me. Under oath and in the face of God I could not identify any of them."

Of course, Wilma knew no man would speak out against any member of the police. For then his troubles would be multiplied. He, like Ernesto, was but a street vendor selling outside the market. Of course he had given many bottles of water to the wives of policemen as thanks for their husband's public service. This was common-sense business practice to those conducting trade on the streets of Muntinlupa.

After, Wilma went to the precinct in the barangay and asked to see the boy they had taken away.  The officer at the desk went in a back office before returning, telling her they had no such boy in custody. When she told of the witness, the officer in turn pressed to know who her witness was. She did not say it was the water vendor, but rather some faceless passer-by.

Wilma persisted in her accusations, "Why would this man lie about this? I saw the pig blood on the street for myself. It was a fat well-dressed lady, perhaps a police officer's wife who took the meat."

"Now that is complete speculation."

"But the witness said the woman knew the officers who approached my son."

The policeman said to her, "This sounds like a complete fabrication and I caution your tone, ma'am. This witness probably was the one who stole the meat. Why would an honest policeman's wife take meat off the street?"

When a captain of the patrol came into the room, the desk officer asked him, "This woman claims her son was taken away by the police down by the Bayanan market. He was selling a pig. Have you heard of this?"

"Not of a boy selling a pig, but I did hear of a boy selling drugs being arrested down by the market. The boy was caught selling to an undercover police officer."

The captain looked at Wilma and she knew. A little smirk fell upon his face when he was sure she knew. It was fair warning to mothers everywhere. It is not a boy's place to decide who gets a discount on meat and who does not. They were the lords of the street and they alone decide who will profit and who will not. It had been this way forever and no boy of tender age is going to change this.

"Where is this boy? This so-called drug dealer?" Wilma asked, fearing their answer.

"I cannot say, ma'am. It was a matter for the PNP and I'm sure they have removed this vile drug dealer from causing further harm upon the streets of Muntinlupa."

Wilma began to cry and the captain put an arm of false comfort around her, lying, "If it is as you say, your son was but selling a pig, then you have nothing to fear, good woman. Perhaps he has taken the profits and stopped at the mall or visited friends. He's probably at your home this very minute."

And the desk officer said, "I have seen boys with cash in their pockets go off to Manila or Angeles City. They spend their profits in bars and on women."

"Never. Not my Ernesto."

The desk officer repeated, "I have seen it many times. It happens to good boys, too. Boys with money in their pockets."

Wilma broke away from the captain and screamed at the men, "You are liars! You have killed him! I know you have! He was a sweet and loving boy and now he has been murdered by these very police. You are killers. You are all killers!"

The captain now turned serious and threatened, "I advise you to choose your words carefully.  You have children at home, no? How would these children fare without a mother? Their mother should go and watch them and protect them. These streets are not safe for a woman alone at night. I advise you to go home with your children, less they find themselves alone in the world."

Wilma had lived for many years and she understood the workings of police and good government. She did have children at home, less each day it seems. Though she herself was prepared to follow in the footsteps of Ernesto right then and there, there was still Mitzy and Leonardo. They needed a mother more than ever. And there was still her chick who had flown across the sea. Thanks be to God, Princess Mae has escaped this place of horror and corruption.

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