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Police nab suspects in slaying of two Fil-Am teens in San Jose, CA

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Christian Comilang

SAN JOSE, California–A combined team of the Covert Response and Metro units of the San Jose Police Department last Saturday, arrested without incident two suspects in the May 26 slaying of two Filipino American high school students.

The victims, Christian Comilang, 15, and Johnson Cular, 16, were students of Independent High School and members of the Filipino Youth Coalition, a community service group founded in 1992. The two were San Jose residents who would have been sophomores in the fall.

After a week-long wait without word from the SJPD as to possible motive or suspects in slayings of two Filipino American youths, the youth coalition appealed to authorities for action. Police on June 1 finally arrested Matthew Clifford, 19, and a 17-year-old juvenile.

The two suspects were booked at the Santa Clara County Jail and Santa Clara County Juvenile Hall, respectively. Clifford is a resident of this city, but the other suspect has not been named since he is still a minor.

Shot pointblank

According to FYC sources, Comilang and Cular separated from a group of youths enjoying a late Sunday afternoon frolic toward the end of Rinehart Drive, behind the Kohl’s department store along McKee Road. They were seen talking to a stranger on a bicycle, who had one hand in his pocket. The bicyclist suddenly pulled out a gun and shot Comilang and Cular pointblank.

The police report logged the 911 call at around 6:30 p.m. and reported that both victims suffered from a gunshot wound each. It also said one of them was pronounced dead on the scene while the other died at the hospital.

Comilang and Cular were not gang members and did not have police records. Speculation in the Filipino community is that the slaying was done as part of a gang initiation or hazing.  Both the community grapevine and Facebook are abuzz with this theory.

SJPD homicide detectives issued a statement saying they believed the crime was not gang-related. About a third of the 22 crimes so far this year in San Jose is attributed to gangs. According to many in the Filipino community served by the FYC in the east side, gangs wield a heavy influence.

Fear of retaliation

Not too many individuals are willing to speak about the slayings openly or to the authorities for fear of retaliation. Both victims’ parents were unavailable for comment.

Two coeds who requested anonymity remembered Comilang’s ability to make friends laugh and his desire to be a boxer someday. “He didn’t do anything and didn’t deserve this,” said one of the young women. “They were just at the wrong place and at the wrong time.”

Both said they didn’t know Cular personally, but that both Cular and Comilang were in the same grade and would hang out together. One coed said she couldn’t talk about Cular and Comilang with her own family “because they didn’t know,” but she felt she was among “family with the FYC” in remembering the victims. She has been an FYC member since her seventh grade.

Friends and relatives set up this makeshift shrine where Comilang and Cular were slain

FYC counts among its members, students from Independence, Silver Creek, Mount Pleasant, Overfelt, Piedmont Hills, Milpitas, Evergreen Valley, Fremont (near Sunnyvale and Cupertino), Santa Clara and Wilcox high schools.

Executive Director Sarah Gonzalez said the FYC is meant “especially for at-risk youth and youth who are impacted by gangs. It’s a community outreach program that involves its members in alternative positive after-school programs.” This means, among other things, talent shows, dances and distributing food to the homeless in their area, with an emphasis on going back to one’s own cultural roots.

Support for at-risk youths

FYC members look out for each other and their community. It is reported that a past FYC member once expedited a young FYC member’s job application upon seeing FYC on his resume. Just this year, past FYC member Marlon Custodio came back from an API internship at the White House to encourage the current FYC members.

FYC seized the double murder case to spotlight their own concerns over the impending budget cut that would put the organization out of their Tuesday meetings at Welch Park and take away money for the after-school programs. They organized a group Tuesday to speak at the City Council’s agenda meeting in their downtown chambers and present their written petition.

They almost made it to the tail end of the calendared sessions. But the council worked through a load of agenda and the Mayor called for a recess at about 6:30 pm. When they returned, there were not enough council members to form a quorum. Undaunted, the FYC plans to distribute its petition to all 11 council members at individually scheduled appointments.

Gonzalez said FYC began receiving grants 15 years ago for as much as $150,000. In recent years, bad times and shifting priorities cut into the grants and FYC had years when they received anywhere from $18,000 to $44,000.

A plan for Mayor Chuck Reed’s Gang Prevention Task Force Team was initiated in 2008. Part of the team is the Community Crime Prevention Associates (CCPA), which gave the grant to organizations like FYC. This year CCPA Director Peter Ellis evaluated FYC and gave it “the highest rating among all the community’s service providers in their service performance index,” Gonzalez said. Despite this, “There may no longer be any money for 2014.”

Cuts impending

Asian Law Alliance Executive Director Richard Konda said the money was not being taken away from the FYC to be given to other organizations with bigger gang-related problems (like the Norteno-Sureno gangs rivalry). But because “there’s not much left of it to go around.”

Gonzalez said, “Still, there could be consequences (if the city does not do anything immediately about the influence of gangs and if the budget cut continues). The gangs may take advantage of the situation and impose their own agenda on the community.”

In the latest development, District 4 Council member Kansen Chu replied to Gonzalez with a message that the Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services will be augmenting FYC’s budget with $12,000, extend their contract until September 30 and a future spot on the inter-agency agenda for discussion.

“Which is not much,” said Gonzalez.

Angel Sangalang, who also coordinates with FYC said, “This is not just a problem for the Filipino community or just the API’s but a problem for the whole of San Jose. When our kids are out on the streets and somebody just guns them down in broad daylight for no reason at all, we all have a problem.”

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  • sanmiguelbrandy

    for sure the perpetrators were black!!

    • catmanjohn

      These black gangs who initiation rites depends on violence and killing should be exterminated like vermin. Fck rehab and jail sentences where they morph into future muslim terrorists. These scum are worse than the KKK.

      • kanoy

        WHAT MAKES YOU THINK ASIAN, LATINO AND WHITE ARE ANY DIFFERENT? >FILIPINO??????

        The two faces of Oxnard gang activity–death and disbelief–emerged with painful clarity in the trial of Arnel Salagubang, 20, a reputed member of a Filipino gang known as the Satanas.

        Salagubang is charged with first-degree murder, inflicting great bodily harm and use of a weapon in the death of Manuel (Deadeye) Rodriguez, a member of a Latino gang called the Lemonwood Chiques.

        An imaginary line along Bard Road has always separated Oxnard’s Latino and Filipino residents, said the victim’s grandmother, Stella Geraldo.

        But Bard Road has never been a gang turf border, because gangs do not exist in Oxnard, she said.

        “We’ve always called Oxnard ‘Chiques’ so why they call it a gang, I don’t know,” Geraldo said as she waited in the hallway for testimony to resume. “Those are his friends, they’re not gang members. . . . I’ve never seen him with a gang. He has never carried a weapon. He never carried a knife; he never carried a gun; he never came home with black-and-blue marks.”

        Salagubang “belongs on the other side of Bard Road. Manny belongs on this side, Lemonwood,” she said.

        Rodriguez’s mother, Martha Geraldo, sniffed back tears and said, “Manny had just started to change and settle down” when he was killed; he had rented an apartment for his girlfriend and their 14-month-old son.

        Just down the hallway, the defendant’s mother, Presentacion Salagubang, wept softly behind dark glasses.

        “I feel bad for Arnel’s mother. She’s crying,” Martha Geraldo said. “She’s losing him too. We buried Manny, but she’s not burying her son.”

        Salagubang’s mother declined to comment, but his father said, “Sometimes I would think we would be better off dead than in the position he’s in right now.”

        Felipe Salagubang said he first learned that his son was a gang member at the preliminary hearing for his murder trial in January. He had never noticed the burn scars that fellow Satanas had put onto his son’s hands during initiation, he said.

        “I still believe that my son didn’t do it,” Felipe Salagubang said. “He’s not the type of person that could do this type of crime. He’s never been involved in any type of crime. His demeanor overall is not violent.”

        Inside the courtroom, however, a Satanas member told a different story, describing how he provided the .22-caliber derringer that Salagubang used to kill Rodriguez.

        Jesse Cortinas testified that Salagubang shot Rodriguez once in the head after Rodriguez had cruised past Channel Islands High School shouting challenges and racist slurs at a group of Satanas.

      • catmanjohn

        You are right about that, Black, White, Asian, or Latinos, anyone who uses violence as an INITIATION rite should be treated with contempt and wiped out. The reality is that Blacks make up over 80% of prison populations. The backlash to their crimes, seen everyday, fuels support for the supremacists groups, the NRA, the Tea Party, etc. There is no excuse. If I were in the ghettos, I’d join the Army, Navy, or had the smarts, the Air Force. If one is going to deal with violence, might as well get paid, educated, and respected for it.

  • jsant21

    Obviously, both of you are not from SF Bay area and don’t know the gangs there. They’re mostly latino gangs.

    • tagalinis

      @jsant21:disqus @sanmiguelbrandy:disqus @catmanjohn:disqus pare-pareho kayong mali! ang pangalang matthew clifford ay hindi pangalan ng latino o kaya’y itim kndi puti. para mapatunayan ang hinala ko, ingoogle ko ang pangalan at tama ako, puti nga!

      • jsant21

        I said “MOSTLY.” Some Latino gangs have members of different race. Also, some latinos are of mixed-race.

      • kanoy

        YEA BUT THOSE ARE HOOD GANGS–NOT PART OF THE SYNDICATE—MERE LOCALS THAT BAND FOR PROTECTION RATHER THAN PROFIT–SURE THEY DEAL IN THE HOOD BUT SYNDICATE DOES WEIGHT

      • ernievictory

        your CAPITAL LETTERS are annoying like you ahole…

    • kanoy

      LATINO GANGS RULE SF BAY NOW? BLACKS OWN COMPTON–WHERE ARE LATINO GANGS IN SF BAY? HEIGHT ASGHBURY? HIPPIE HILL?
      PS I KNOW LATINO GANGS HAD A LOCK ON E LA BUT I THOUGHT THEY LEFT COMPTONS VARRIO YEARS AGO

      • ReneV

        varrio?

  • BIGButo

    Probably a drug deal gone bad I would think.

  • kunsabagay

    you leave Ph thinkin’ it would be safer somewhere else, only to realize that violence are almost everywhere…sad

    • kanoy

      YOU CAN RUN BUT YOU CAN;T HIDE FROM GOD AND HIS PLAN FOR YOU
      LIFE HAS BUT 1 CERTAINTY
      WE ALL WILL DIE
      ONLY GOD DECIDES WHEN AND HOW

      • bok

        Why do you have to write in capital letters? I don’t read capital letters. Its annoiying and shouting.

      • anu12345

        Can your god tell me when is my time? Or you are just making it up?

  • reddfrog

    Americans killing Filipinos! You guys should protest to Uncle Sam for racism since obviously Americans hate Filipinos.

    • kanoy

      OBVIOUSLY AMERICANS DON’T HATE FILIPINO AS MUCH AS FILIPINO HATE FILIPINO–AMPATUAN HATED FILIPINO WITH A PASSION-YET FILIPINO IN MAY ELECT AMPATUAN FAMILY TO OFFICE TSK THEN WE HAVE THE AHRC–

      PHILIPPINES– The police, once again, instead of thoroughly investigating each of these cases, justified the murders as being due to the victim’s criminal records.

      In addition to our previous appeals 2008, we have already mentioned that at least 21 persons, one of whom was a boy, have already been murdered on the pretext of vigilante killings since April of this year.

      We have previously mentioned that most of those murdered have been suspected of involvement in criminal activities, former detainees and gang members. However, some of those killed have had no involvement but the police authorities are continuously avoiding any responsibility to solve these cases, particularly of identifying and prosecuting those responsible.

      For instance, two of those killed as mentioned in this Case No. 5 below, were the wife and a brother-in-law of a deceased person. Even before he was murdered, his colleague, also suspected of having been involved in crime, was shot dead in police custody for reportedly attempting to grab a police firearm in his attempt to escape from their custody but this was never thoroughly investigated.

      As the AHRC continues to document murders of this nature it becomes increasingly evident that they are aggravated by the failure of the police failure to thoroughly investigate and ensure the possibility of an effective prosecution. The police also fail to implement the laws regulating the control of firearms and the proper use of license plates of motorcycles. This failure allows the gunmen to arm themselves and use their motorcycles to kill their targets.

      The gunmen have been killing their targets in broad daylight, inside their own houses, in crowded public places and even shortly after coming out from a police detention center. Investigation into these cases, however, has not shown substantial progress so far. The perpetrators of these murders remain unidentified.

  • just_anotherperson

    The worse chastisement a just God can inflict upon the world is to let us have our own way, to allow the trees of our own contrary wills to bear their vicious fruit.

  • jseesus

    KILLING OF FLIPNOIDS MONKEYS AS A GANG INITIATION RITES IS SMACK OF RACISM.. THEY THINK FLIPNOIDS ARE DISPENSIBLE COMMODITY.

    • ApoNiLolo

      The “words” you attributed to the victims were racist itself!

    • latino_boom

      Idiot comment

    • Dayunyor Binay

      hope you’ll be the next target of those idiots as you are an idiot yourself…..

    • fache

      Look on your comment and think! If this is the way you talk and think, then you are one racist individual that belong in the gutter.



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