Friday, October 22, 2010

We must not forget

This was my column on the date indicated above.

A year ago tomorrow, 57 people —most of them journalists—were brutally killed in what has been referred to as the Maguindanao massacre. The Committee to Protect Journalists has referred to the massacre as the deadliest single event for journalists in history.

The anniversary of the gruesome event is being remembered this week and media has been churning out stories reminding people of what happened in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao province in Mindanao. It is important that we all take the trouble to remember the Maguindanao massacre and the people that were murdered.

We must never forget the brazen, thoughtless, and heartless way in which one family tried to assert its political supremacy even to the point of mass annihilation.

We must not forget because the magnitude of the crime remains incomprehensible—what was done was beyond words.

We must not forget that 37 journalists who were simply doing their jobs were senselessly killed apparently just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We must not forget that a number of the victims were women who were not even the direct political adversaries of the alleged perpetrators of the massacre.

We must not forget reports that said at least five of the women were brutally raped before they were killed, that most of the women were shot in their genital area (the wife of Esmael Mangudadatu’s genital was slashed four times!) and beheaded, that two of the women were pregnant at the time of the massacre.

We must not forget that at least five of the victims were not even directly connected to the event that triggered the massacre, which was the filing of the certificate of candidacy for governor of Mangudadatu; they were simply trailing the convoy of vehicles and were heading towards their own destinations. In short, they just had the misfortune of having crossed paths with people with evil in their hearts.

We must not forget that after the evil was done the perpetrators tried to cover up the whole dastardly deed by burying everyone and everything including the vehicles. They dug up practically a whole hill for the purpose with heavy equipment, a backhoe owned by the province of Maguindanao and emblazoned with the name of Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr.

We must not forget the Maguindanao massacre because there’s just no way to describe the horror, the shame, the brazenness of it all. It was just… unspeakably evil.

We must make an effort not to forget because we are a people with short-term memory and a penchant for forgiveness. Remember the Marcoses, the Estradas, the military adventurists are all back in the good graces of the powers-that-be.

***

I don’t want to take away focus from the efforts to remember the Maguindanao massacre, but we must also not forget that exactly one year ago Thursday last week, the life of a promising young man was also brutally and senselessly snuffed out.

On November 18, 2009, my former student Renato Victor Ebarle Jr. was shot dead along Santolan Avenue in Quezon City by someone riding a car bearing diplomatic plates. The car was later traced to belong to British national Stephen Pollard of the Asian Development Bank, stepfather of the Jason Ivler. All evidence points to Ivler as the man who pumped three bullets into Ebarle’s body.

We must not forget this senseless killing not just because the victim was someone who was at the prime of his life but because it is evident that it could have been averted if only the suspect was not allowed to roam scot-free (and drive a car with a diplomatic plate which gives the rider an added patina of invincibility) despite the fact that he already figured in another incident that resulted in the death of a high-ranking government official. In fact, the suspect was at that time a fugitive.

We must not forget the way in which the suspect led authorities on a merry chase for months and how his mother flaunted the fact that she was an accomplice to a crime by hiding him in her house.

We must not forget because the suspect’s family continues to be oblivious to other people’s pain and insists on its own twisted version of events. Clearly, some of not only require a heavy dose of reality check (perhaps even the professional services of a shrink) but also the moral courage to accept when someone we love has a serious emotional problem and finally do what is right.

We must not forget because the suspect and his family not only continue to evade responsibility –spewing heavy protestations and indulging in shameless theatrics, they remain unapologetic and in fact continue to spin tall tales and all kinds of shameless subterfuges to escape being made to pay for the crime. Recently, the suspect claimed to be in intense pain and wanted to be brought to a hospital—even insisting that he was an ICU case. He was dismissed from the hospital in 30 minutes since the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with him.

We must not forget because forensic findings indicated that the first two bullets pumped into dear Victor’s body were not fatal – they didn’t hit a major organ. If the suspect didn’t pump a third bullet, Victor would still be alive today. He would have walked out of a hospital in two weeks’ time. Unfortunately, the suspect’s rage couldn’t be contained by just two bullets—he had to pump a third bullet into Victor heart. This is incomprehensible for many of us who cannot even imagine firing a single bullet into someone’s body.

We must not forget because Victor’s death is a tragedy that many of us continue to carry with a very heavy heart. While the suspect continues to build a cult following among people who—quite frankly, also need to have their heads examined—sing paeans to the man and think he is god’s gift to womankind, those among us who loved Victor dearly continue to live our days in a daze wondering how something senseless could befall someone so gentle and so devoted.

We must not forget Renator Victor Ebarle and what Jason Ivler did to him and to us.

***

And on a personal note, I would like to remind all members of the People Management Association of the Philippines to vote in this year’s annual elections to be held on Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Makati.

Also, I would like to thank my friend Rina Jimenez David of the Philippine Daily Inquirer for writing a great piece about me in her column entitled “In praise of good men” and endorsing my bid for the Presidency of PMAP. Thank you, Rina! I appreciate the vote of confidence.

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