Monday, November 23, 2009

Farewell, Victor


This is my column today.

Renato Victor Ebarle Jr. was at the prime of his life; barely 27 years old and just starting to build his career in human resource management. At the time of his death, he was recruitment manager of the Hotel Peninsula Manila. To say that he still had the whole world ahead of him sounds like a cliché but those among us who actually knew him, those among us who were aware of the kind of passion he had for life and for his work, people like me who had the privilege of having been consulted by him on many professional matters, know this with a certain degree of certainty.

I was Victor’s professor in three major subjects when he was in college. In each one of them, he sat at the first row, which said a lot about the kind of person he was. Professors know this for a fact: Bullies don’t sit in front of the class where they cannot annoy anyone.

I was his thesis adviser and he and his team spent a whole academic school year trying to break new grounds on the question of how person-job fit in the recruitment and selection process affects certain attitudinal and performance outcomes. It was a thesis topic a little bit complicated for undergraduate students, but he and his team were out to prove they were capable of doing something bigger. He eventually went on to pursue a career related to his college thesis.

When the newscasts mentioned his name as the victim of that tragic incident that happened Wednesday evening last week, I refused to believe it was really he. I tried to convince myself it was someone else; must be another guy who just happened to have the same name, I told myself. Going into denial was the general reaction among people who knew him. No, it couldn’t be Victor was the same lament that got posted and reposted in Facebook, Friendster and other social networking sites. The denial was improbable, but so were the circumstances around his death.

Many people including the police and media kept referring to the tragedy as road rage as if doing so could explain why someone’s life was suddenly snuffed out by an assailant who—it seems pretty clear by now based on the psychological profile being drawn publicly about him—should not have been allowed to drive a vehicle in the first place. There is simply no way to deodorize the tragedy. Renato Victor Ebarle Jr. was murdered.

Ebarle Jr. really didn’t seem like someone who would be involved in something so senseless. I had close interactions with the guy for a number of years and never, not even once, did he mention or give any indication that he was the son and namesake of a high-ranking government official who worked just a few rooms away from the President of the Republic of the Philippines. In fact, many among us learned that his father worked as undersecretary at Malacañang only last week.

There’s this baseless and therefore grossly unfair insinuation that there was something more to what happened other than it being a tragic case of Ebarle Jr. being in the same place at the same time with someone else with a dark past. The facts as presented by those who witnessed what happened are pretty straightforward. There was a traffic altercation. Thereupon, Ebarle’s car was blocked by the assailant’s car (bearing diplomatic license plates), who then alighted from his car and pumped bullets into Ebarle Jr.’s chest and arms like he was a sitting duck at a shooting gallery.

The victim of that incident was Ebarle Jr. and there was no way he could have provoked his death. The tragedy was not a consequence of a proverbial pissing contest between two scions of highly influential people—one the son of a high-ranking government bureaucrat, the other an economist of the Asian Development Bank with diplomatic immunity and privileges. Many will see this as an attempt at defense by a former mentor, but I say this with conviction and with utmost objectivity: Ebarle was not a brat. He was not the typical offspring of ranking government bureaucrats who walked with a swagger, called attention to himself, flaunted his connections, and got involved in mischief. He was soft-spoken and almost painfully shy. Everyone who knew him personally will attest to this: Victor was a gentle soul and he looked like it, too. He never cussed, never ever figured in a brawl, never got drunk in public, and never bullied anyone.

There is this speculative drivel being passed around that the tragedy is being blown out of proportion and given way too much media attention because the victim’s father happens to be a government official with direct ties to the Office of the President. Like many others, I also felt uncomfortable with the pronouncements of certain Palace officials who hinted at using the full powers of the Presidential Management Office to get the assailant at all costs.

But on second thought, why shouldn’t the government or the Office of the President be concerned with the death of young people like Victor? We all should feel outraged and the fact that his father is a government official should be irrelevant. The circumstances that attended the tragedy are more than enough to be outraged.

In a country where tens of thousands die every day, many for reasons that are also just as inconceivable, there is the temptation to dismiss the death of one more young person to statistics. We really shouldn’t allow ourselves to become numb and desensitized to senseless tragedy, particularly those that could have been avoided with just a little more responsible oversight—paternal or otherwise.

The truth is that there are just too many people who drive around as if they own our streets. There are just too many people who drive around in cars with diplomatic plates, or with special plates assigned for certain government or elected officials, who expect everyone else to pull over and kowtow to them as if they were monarchs. What is even infuriating is that very often, these cars are driven by relatives—wives, children, mistresses, friends—who expect, nay, demand, that whatever imagined perks and privileges due to the registered owners or assignees of the cars are also afforded to them as if rank, functions and official business were also transferable.

The sad thing is that it seems we’re supposed to accept that road rage is a phenomenon that happens spontaneously; something that cannot be avoided. I can already see the line of defense forthcoming: That road rage happens to the best and the worst of us, that it is a medical condition, that it is involuntary. I will not discount the possibility that all these are contributory factors to road rage, just as traffic congestion, extreme heat, or the sight of a half naked model peddling underwear on a billboard are potential antecedents of road rage. Actually, road rage is a complicated thing but all empirical evidence point to one thing—it can be stopped and managed.

Besides, I refuse to accept that Renato Victor Ebarle Jr. died simply because of road rage. It happened because there was another person on the road that night who either had unspeakable evil in his heart or simply should not have been allowed to drive a car, particularly one with diplomatic plates on it.

7 comments:

Mae said...

I am simply in awe that some people would say that this is all being blown out of proportion because Victor Ebarle happened to be the son of a government official. A life has been taken away, and regardless of whether he was the son of malacanang official or not, the person responsible for this senseless murder should be held responsible!! Would they rather that he get away AGAIN so that he can kill more innocent people in the future???

Isobel Cabanig said...

I never got a chance to get to know victor as well as you did. Although I'm very proud to say that we are a very (VERY) close family, The distance and the age difference somehow made it hard to connect... He was in fact the ring bearer in my parents' wedding, and a beloved nephew by my grandparents

Upon hearing the news, chills went down my spine as to I cannot comprehend the idea of someone killing someone just because he was "enraged". It reminded me of how much evil is still present in this world.. :(

The killer did not only take away Victor from our family, but he took him away from the world. He took away his opportunity of starting a family, the opportunity to nurture and care for another human being. Victor could have inspired so many people and could have essentially, changed the world in his own little ways-- but that chance was stripped away the moment the killer decided to stop in front of victor's car.

Part of our family died when Victor died. To say that our family is devastated is an understatement. No words could ever describe how, we as a family, all feel right now. We feel violated, hurt, betrayed, miffed, repulsed and angry with this senseless killing! Imagine how we feel upon watching video after video, receiving phone calls from relatives from the Philippines, reading news articles after news articles in regards to the killing- it hurts.

I personally don’t want to point fingers as to people should be deemed innocent until proven guilty… however, I feel that the killer should know what he took away from us, from the community, from the world.

Thank you for sharing victor to the world. Thank you for shedding light on what a wonderful person Victor was. How his passion, kindness, humility and drive would be missed. He was an amazing son, grandchild,cousin, nephew, boyfriend, friend, co-worker, student, community member-- he was a a respectable and remarkable PERSON.... Kind words like this and people like you remind us that Victor’s life was not wasted and that he touched so many people one way or another.....

Bong C. Austero said...

Mae, exactly my thoughts. If only Ivler was made to account for his previous acts, this would not have happened. If he is not made accountable for this tragedy, who will be next?

Bong C. Austero said...

Thank you, too, Isobel, for articulating what is in many people's hearts. We need to speak up and make sure Victor gets justice.

Anonymous said...

all we want is justice for victor. I know He is the man with his word. He is too good and very humble person... Thanks for sharing with the people in some lil ways...

carlo sj said...

Finally, justice could now be served.

Cinderella said...

i pray for justice. impunity is only for mr. pollard, ivler's step-dad, and you're right, it is not something transferable.

i do not know victor ebarle jr. personally. but based on what is written about him, i came to know little of him. he's a man with a good heart (konti nlng ang ganyan ngayon). rage doesnt give ivler or anyone the right to take away someone else's life.

and as for ivler's mom, i understand the love you have for your son, but that love is not reason enough for you to hide him. what if he was the one killed?! would it be acceptable for your part if the killer's mom hid his son because of love?