‘Jeffrey’s case is not just a legal issue but a social issue’

Community News & Features Jun 16, 2004 at 1:21 pm

By Marlou S. Tiro

TORONTO-The battle for justice on Jeffrey Reodica’s mysterious death has begun. During the first meeting of the Filipino community under the theme “Justice for Jeffrey,” the large attendance of supporters apparently proved the community’s commitment in its quest for a fair and honest investigation. In that meeting held on Monday, May 31, at the Scarborough Civic Centre Council Chamber, several issues were raised. One, there was a concern for the protection of the witnesses. Part of the concern was the report by the Philippine Reporter giving an account of a key witness. Opinions differed whether to publish it or not. The Philippine Reporter remained adamant in its position to publish the story. The publisher explained the paper’s steadfast position that as much as it is concerned with the source’s safety, it also has the responsibility of disseminating the truth.

Moreover, many in the meeting realized later that its publication was essential after some witnesses came forward and confirmed the report’s accuracy. Balita, another Filipino-Canadian newspaper, was likewise firm in its position to print the same story.

As the session progressed,the sentiments of the crowd heightened. One concerned citizen delivered her passionate message that gave significance to spiritual guidance as a vehicle to achieve justice. “Through prayers, justice must find itself,” she said. “A young man was robbed of his life at a short time…we have to be strong….”

The youth also expressed their share of disappointments while vehemently trying to understand their friend’s unjustified shooting. “Most of us here are not really aware of what Jeffrey went through…. All the sources quoted in the mainstream media are in favor of the police officers. They are portraying us as if we are a bunch of bad guys. Someone has to hear our side too.”

Another issue that was brought to light was its fund-raising campaign that could help provide legal aide to donations. There was also a consensus to construct a website to serve as the center of communications on all matters about the case.

While other issues explored Jeffrey’s mysterious death with some witnesses coming out in the open, Mitchie Esguerra, volunteer and member of the Philippine Women’s Centre of Ontario caught the attention of the crowd with her personal interpretation that led to Jeffrey’s fatal death. Sighting racial discrimination as one of the social problems facing the Filipino youth of today, Esguerra explained: “Jeffrey’s case is not just a criminal issue but a social issue. Our community has to accept this as a fact. It is an issue that is encountered by the Filipino Canadian youth that up to now has not been acknowledged as a social problem. Jeffrey’s case has to be taken as a precedent.”

“Whether we like it or not,” added Esguerra citing her experience as a volunteer that handles several social ills in the community, “racial discrimination is a well known secret and has been a problem plaguing the youth.”

Bayani Edades echoed Esguerra’s sentiments. Edades was once a victim of racial discrimination when he was 16 years old. Now 28, and a member of the Filipino Workers Support Committee, Edades believes that the Filipino youth are widely aware of the problem. “Just like me, their young minds probably cannot understand it. But during that time, I felt I was being discriminated because of my color. There were many times that a group of these ‘white Canadians’ would shove us out of the mall.

Not by force though but they made sure that we were discouraged from entering the mall. I was mature enough to realize that I was not welcome. It was happening everywhere, in the malls, in the school, in parties or any social functions. The result was – many of our youth felt isolated. It is happening once again. We must do something about this issue in order to live in a peaceful society.”