#JusticeforEmmanPeña: 'Good public servant' dies in Laguna ambush
MANILA, Philippines – Mark Lester Chico had every intention of telling his former student to edit the capital letters out of his campaign slogan, but it was too late for any comments. Emmanuel Peña was killed in an ambush on Sunday, March 27.
Peña died hours after he made public his poster campaigning for a council seat in the second-class town of Calauan in Laguna. According to the Laguna Police Provincial Office, Peña was killed along with driver Leonardo Taningco. Calauan Mayor Buenafrido Berris was wounded in the ambush.
"Sa Konseho ng Bayan ng Piña, Dapat may Peña," Peña's poster read. (There should be a Peña in the council of the Town of Piña.)
Chico, an assistant professor at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), had been helping Peña craft his campaign message ever since the young man reached out to his former teacher for help.
The slogan's pun had started as a joke between the two. Chico had been planning to tell Peña to switch the first letters in the words "Konseho" (council) and "Dapat" (should) to lowercase.
"Focus on your core," Chico advised Peña when the young candidate turned 25 on February 7. "Get your message straight. Be sincere."
Dalawang Dekada at Limang TaonKagaya ng lagi kong sinasabi, wala sigurong Emman Peña ngayon kundi dahil sa kabutihan ng Poong Maykapal at sa lahat ng taong naging instrumento ng kanyang pagmamahal at pagpapala. Sa pagsilay ng simula ng panibagong taon para sa akin, pasasalamat pa din ang muli't muli kong sinasambit... para sa 25 taon ng inyong pagsama sa akin sa paglalakbay sa daan ng buhay. Dalangin ko po na kasama ko pa din ang aking pamilya, ang aking mga kaibigan, mga mag-aaral, at mga magiging kamanlalakbay pa sa buhay sa pagharap ko sa mga susunod pang mga taon. :) Patuloy po tayong maging biyaya ng Diyos para sa iba! <3birthday wish?! LORD, KAHIT PANG WALO LANG PO! :DPosted by Emman Peña on Saturday, 6 February 2016
Peña improved on the slogan, but added to his qualifications: “Iskolar, lider kabataan, lingkod bayan." (Scholar, youth leader, public servant.)
The young candidate wanted his accomplishments to serve as a message to voters in Calauan – around 34,600 at last count – hoping that his own story would be an inspiration to the local youth.
"Gusto kong maabot o malampasan pa ng mga anak ninyo ang naabot ko," read one of the campaign messages that Peña and Chico discussed in a previous text exchange. (I want your children to accomplish or even surpass my achievements.)
"He was an SK official and then barangay kagawad," Chico said. "We know he's a good public servant. His vision is clear – to mobilize the youth to be the game changers in society."
Honor student and public teacher
Peña completed his Development Communication degree at UPLB, where he graduated with cum laude honors. He later took on work as an instructor at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Calauan.
"His background in Development Communication opened his eyes to the issues of the youth in Calauan,” Chico recalled.
"Kaya kahit project niya sa school, may purpose talaga para sa mga kababayan niya." (It was why even his projects in school served the purpose of benefiting his townspeople.)
As a public school teacher, Peña’s platform stressed the importance of "effective education," as well as agriculture projects and services for the elderly, persons with disabilities, and informal settlers in Calauan.
In the campaign video posted on his Facebook page, Peña is shown teaching children inside a classroom and on the streets.
Sa Konseho ng Bayan ng Piña, Dapat May Peña! by Echo Marfori
Sa muling pagkabuhay ni Kristo, sumisilay sa atin ang isang malinaw na mensahe ng PAG-IBIG. Pag-ibig ang dahilan kung bakit tayo nabuhay, naligtas sa kasalanan, at patuloy na nabubuhay. Pag-ibig din ang dahilan kung bakit mas pinipili nating mabuhay, ngumiti sa kabila ng mga unos, at bumangon sa lahat ng pagkadapa. Pag-ibig pa din ang magdadala sa atin sa mas madami pang magagandang kabanata ng ating buhay. Dalangin kong sa lahat ng oras at sa lahat ng bagay, pag-ibig pa din ang mamayani sa puso ng bawat isa sa atin. Humugot tayo ng pag-asa sa mensahe ng pag-ibig na dulot ng muling pagkabuhay ni Kristo!Posted by Emman Peña on Saturday, 26 March 2016
Peña’s slogan resonated with 21-year-old Kevin Amante, a teacher whose house was just across the area where the ambush occurred.
"As a youth leader, he initiated various activities," Amante told Rappler. "The way I see it, he was trying to provide opportunities to young people in our town so that they could showcase their talents. He is also an educator."
"He's a good person. He looks you in the eye, and you can see that he's listening to you without judgment," added Amante.
In a post that went viral on Facebook, UPLB alumna Anna Mae Lamentillo echoed Amante's impression of Peña, recalling how sincere the youth leader was when it came to his dreams for Calauan.
"I remember him using his own money, salary to buy supplies, food for a school event," Lamentillo said. "He told me about jobs and opportunities he had to turn down because he believed there is progress in Calauan."
"He would have given Calauan a public servant," she added. "Anyone who knew him would have been devastated. They have not only lost a friend. They lost a faithful reminder of whatever good was left in this world."
Amante said his neighbors heard gunshots at around 5 pm Sunday, while Peña and Berris were distributing food to residents in Barangay Imok after a campaign sortie.
The ambush took place only a day after campaigning began for local candidates.
In a statement condemning the ambush, the UPLB College of Development Communication said it shared in the grief of Peña's family, as well as the families of victims of violence.
"We deeply mourn the loss of Emman, a young public servant who genuinely wanted to serve his hometown." – With Rappler Research/Rappler.com