Massacre of the Innocents: Family’s tragic last Christmas with Kristine, 12

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The heartbroken family of a 12-year-old girl gunned down during a church service have delayed her burial to spend one last Christmas with their murdered child.

Kristine Joy Sailog has become the latest innocent victim of the war on drugs after she was shot through the heart by motorcycle-riding vigilantes during a Christmas mass.

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The killers were apparently targeting village watchman Allan Fernandez, who had been accused of involvement in the drug trade. The 37-year-old was also killed in the attack.

Maricar Cinco, writing for The Inquirer, met the family and filed this moving report:

Massacre of the Innocents: Family's tragic last Christmas with Kristine, 12
Kimberly Sailog with the body of her daughter Kristine Joy, whose tiny coffin fills nearly the whole of their slum home in Biñan City. Photo by Clifford Nunez.

There is no Christmas tree, lantern or any holiday decoration inside the Sailog house in a village here.

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Instead, at the center of the 12-square meter house lay a shiny, white coffin with an empty biscuit tin waiting for “abuloy,” or donations for the dead.

“Look, she seems to be smiling at me,” said Kimberly Sailog, 32, as she looked down on the corpse of her daughter, Kristine Joy, 12, inside the coffin which nearly occupied the whole first floor of the two-story house that had been built entirely out of scrap plywood and other materials.

The house, with no numbered address, had been home to Kristine Joy, who on Wednesday became the latest collateral damage in President Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.

Like any other teenager, Kristine Joy had loved to play and take selfies, which she did on a mobile phone that Kimberly gave to Kristine Joy on the child’s 12th birthday in November.

This Christmas, Kristine Joy would have received her Christmas wish, to have her teeth fixed, for which Kimberly saved up money from her income as a house helper.

On Wednesday evening, Kimberly came home from work and found Kristine Joy all prepped up for the Christmas dawn Mass at 10 p.m.

“I told her I was tired, but she really wanted to attend Mass that night,” said Kimberly.

The church was just around the block in Barangay San Antonio, where the Sailogs also lived, so Kimberly acceded to Kristine Joy’s request.

The Mass had just started when Kimberly had to go to the bathroom. She took Kristine Joy with her and left her two other children, ages 16 and 15, inside the church.

Two shots suddenly rang out, followed by a few more. Kristine Joy immediately fell to the ground.

According to police, motorcycle-riding gunmen were targeting village watchman Allan Fernandez, 37. But stray bullets found their way to Kristine Joy and another churchgoer, Rowena Flores.

The bullet went through Kristine Joy’s chest, almost piercing her heart.

“No one helped us because the people scampered away and the church’s door was closed, except for this tricycle driver who volunteered to bring us to the hospital,” Kimberly said.

She cradled Kristine Joy in her arms until the child died.

“I told her to fight, but all she could say was ‘mama, mama,’” Kimberly said.

Supt. Serafin Petalio, Biñan police chief, said the attack that also left Fernandez dead was related to the drug trade. He said Fernandez had surrendered under the Duterte administration’s Oplan Tokhang but went on selling drugs.

Kristine Joy’s death being an accidental episode in Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs is most difficult for the child’s father, Rodelito, 47, to accept.

Rodelito said he didn’t even know the target of the supposed drug operation, Allan Fernandez, that took his daughter’s life.

Rodelito said he knew Fernandez lived nearby, but “we don’t actually know him.”

“I would rather lose her to an illness, but this?” said Rodelito. “It’s really hard to accept,” he said.

Kimberly said Kristine Joy had written her dreams on a notebook. Spending this Christmas with her family could be one of those.

Rodelito said Kristine Joy would be buried on Dec. 29 to allow the family to be with the slain child on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

“We want to celebrate Christmas together as a family before we finally let her go,” said Rodelito.

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