Blame yourself, Not the country, Chapter 1

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                            Punishment and Sacrifice

                     Chapter 1:     Tragedy

 

Behind his house were trees and intertwining foliage, and only the hissing sound of the wind noisily troubled his ears, while the disappearing sun was gradually hidden by the moving eastward clouds, a multiple shadow lurking, armed with fatal weapons ready to fire ugly, to a people who were praying for a dead man, a victim of torture, a punishment to a felony he never did whatsoever. Then a sudden burst of gunfire blazed that early evening, and those who were there, had never shouted for help because all of them were dead, an ashes returned to the creator. What was spared on that despicable moment was a nearby neighbour; whose brothers and a sister were victims of that deadly acts and executions, presumed by many as deeds of agent of the law.

 

That village is branded by the military, as the cradle of resistance and activism because most of the lands around, were own by the rich, an hacienda, whose owners can surely pay and agree to any amount of protections, and that most of the hired felons, who has the tag price to execute, are agents who are supposed to be protectors of the law. And that honesty or integrity is no longer a standard, but power, money, and deceitful law enforcers rule the village, and whosoever mouth is opened, will be shut off by burst of gunfire.

 

Genaro’s Family who were not with the prayer, were all alive, and in so doing, they branded him as a double blade, a traitor, posing as a saint because in every meeting he was there and he spoke about ideas foretelling about the possible genocide, that is; if they will not heed his advice. However, when the attack occurred, he was not there, because he was also preparing his house, for a barrio meeting the next day. He had never had any connection with the military and the police, and precisely, that is the very reason that he was also spared by the ire of the insurgents, but fortunately however in politics, he was also known to be a good leader of the Congressman of their district. His idealism is based only on life that can produce three meals a day.

 

Sooner three days after the siege, unknowingly a military jeep came over, and the three uniformed men alighted and accosted him in his house. His three little children all hid right away underneath their bed a reflex response or behaviour by the villagers, because the military has created histories of abduction in the municipality.

 

They were on the stairs and corteously the men said; “Good morning, how is life here Genaro? Do you have water and can we talk a bit also?”

He replied “Sir no problem, please come up.”  “I am Lt. Burnero, and also my support people, driver and assistant.” He introduced.  “Then, what can I do for you sir?”  “Don’t worry for other things, we will just let you know that you are the only person here, we have trust and we wanted you to be our eyes and ears here. Don’t worry about remunerations because any news or information we can have, you will earn money. We are giving you an ID, so that you will have access right away to our office, once you showed it to the main gate. In short, you are a part of us. “Any problem? If you refused we presumed you as enemy of the state, and it would not be good to you and your family. Am I clear?” 

 

He retorted; “Sir, could you give me a week to decide, because we have to finish first the novena prayer of our dead siblings. And I wanted also to know more about that. I think, now is not the right time. Please sir, understand me?”

 

The military left, presuming that everything was okay. In the village, rumour runs like wildfire that Genaro, is now truly a military asset. And possibly he could be the traitor in his family. Now that he is the only one alive, speculations were hatched that he masterminded the deceit resulting to the genocide of his family.

 

This did not elude to the ears of the insurgents, and in the fifth day, three young men, with torches, shouted in the outside in his home and said, “Ka Genaro, good evening. Would you please open us for a short talk?” then, he asked, “who are you? And why talk to us at this time of the night? Can you not wait for tomorrow please?” 

 

“No, no, we have something to do tomorrow. We need only to confirm things from you.” The guys replied.

 

News by mouth runs around the town, that in some barrios there were already mass arrests by the military, and many were presumed salvaged. Many were crying, because husbands and their eldest sons were brought to the main camp with no traces of their whereabouts. They heard news that the President announced a policy of full stage war against the enemy of the state. Some, who were very much afraid, packed their belongings and started their journey to the south just to find peace and safety. And those who does not know how to answer questions, was presumed guilty, and was shot without the benefit of a trial. Priests who were pro-people, were abducted even in front of their church people, and were brought to the middle of the sea, tied with ropes attached to block of cements and thrown alive and kicking.

 

With no question asked, Genaro welcome them. “Ok, come. Anything I can do for you? What about your supper? We have only camote or yams, and we have salted fish also”.

 

My wife in fear and panic prepared the foods. But the three were very polite.

 

“Don’t worry about anything, we are full, and besides, that is not our purpose.” They shook hands. Ok please sit down. Where are you from? It looks like you are not from this place?”

 

Then the three made some pause, and said; “We are from everywhere, and we are assigned here as a trouble shooter. We heard from some sources, that you are a military asset, and we want to confirm about this. Our news bureau had information that all of your neighbors were assassinated on a prayer of your nephew, who was killed by unknown assailants. We want this to be clear to you that our group has nothing to do on it. And for your information, it was a military operation, because your brothers were implicated by the military as members of our group, protecting the rights of the farmers”.

 

Genaro although composed, has inkling about that already, but he never told it to anybody. “I understand it, but I cannot fight them, nor accept their offer to be their eyes and ears here. I know they are culpable to that, because, when I checked the vicinity of the location, I found a military badge on the path. I just don’t want to live a chaotic life. I am not a trouble maker.”

Then, the bigger one said, “we are behind you and please don’t make any mistakes. We are now leaving, but soon we will be back here to make a follow up. Please pray.”

 

Few days later, he received a summon from the fiscal office, informing him about the incidence in the village, and he was presumed by the law enforcers as the nearest person that can enlighten some of the background feature of the crime. So, when it was July 3, although the weather was fully good, by reason that he was needed by the law, he was already prepared to go to the town. At the office, Fiscal Panchito was there and the Chief of Police, SPO4 John Lauguido. He was ushered by an ordinary officer to the so called War Room. The fiscal and the chief of Police were already seated. “Genaro, pick up one chair for you, and go closer to the table. Do you know why we call you?” “No, Sir! Maybe because of my family’s tragedy”. Okay tell us about the nature why you were not there when the tragedy happened?” He posed a while and started; “I was at home preparing our house for the next day meeting, because I am elected councillor of the barrio. But I was also preparing to go there later. When I was about to get out I heard a burst of gunfire and there were crying. I went over there when it was clear that is; the attackers were no longer there anymore.” I saw my brothers and their wives and children soaked with blood, and the place was really a mess”. The chief asked him, did you see the attacker?” I saw them and most of them were wearing military uniforms”. I answered concisely. “Are you sure positively that they were military? And what is the reason why the military will attack them if they are good citizens in the area?” the Chief asked a very pressing question. But, politely, he said, “they were members of a radical group asking their rights to tilt their own land. It was the Agrarian people who organized it”. “What do you think; is that a valid reason why they were attack? What about the communist rebels, were they not the culprit in this in your own evaluations? Whom do the people in your area suspected, the government, or the rebels?” “Well, I could not answer you on that question, because I don’t have a ready answer for that.” “This is my warning to you, that the government will never tolerate any movement in your area that will undermine the system. Your family was a victim, and was used by the rebel to advance to their cause. Bear in mind the government forces were not the one who did it. You can go now.”

 

Confused and bewildered, he was already walking back to his home barrio. It was almost twilight when he arrived but before he reached, he was amazed when a group of people who were walking closer to him were screaming; “Genaro, Genaro, Emong’s family were all shots in executions” shouts the crowd… Emong is his distant neighbor, living beside the hills with 3 children. He has to walk 2 kilometers for fishing. And that is one way of helping his family solved their daily needs. He clings to the fence, and nods in emptiness, moreover in his mind is the big question why? He went to Emong’s house and found a couple of shot marks on the bamboo walls, as if it is torn by wild animals. His children were almost maimed, holding an unfinished plate of rice, and the wife sprawled to the floor lifeless. And there are even signs that before it was shot, she was rape. But one thing puzzled him, he could not find the corpse of Emong, who he believed could be the first one to be shoot , but what if he was abducted?

When he confronted the crowd nobody answered well, all denied that they were not there and that the only heard a couple of shots. Some also were just very smart by parrying away from troubles. Then, he said, “if you will not cooperate, our situation here will always be the same, and our social problem will not be solved. If there is someone to blame, then, it is us.” Feliciano, who was known as the village spokesperson, was also numbed and damn, because he feared for his life. And then, the whole Barrio has developed an embedded mistrust to their neighbours. Many believed that their place is now mixed with leftist and rightist of the society. And one has to be careful to one another.

 

Then, the Barrio Police or tanods as fondly called, were called by the District Philippine National Police, and were trained as paramilitary units, to fight against the roaming New People’s Army, who are accused by the military as the perpetrator of the killings in the area. After their training, they were given papers authenticating their positions as extensions of the military force.

 

True to the belief of the People, the new batch of paramilitary units started their missions, by having a house to house survey, asking the citizens about their belief and inclinations. And those who stayed ambiguous, and would not offer tributes to them, will be whisked by their village chief, for interrogations. Now, if the individual could not answer clearly their positions, they will be sent to the camp for further probe. In this process, many were unheard, and some were found on banks of the river lifeless. All killings which is unreasonable are blamed on the NPA, because they have their information bureau inculcating that the insurrections is actually terrorism. For the military, the killing is a form of propaganda to create terror in the area so that they will have something to tell to the people about their malfeasance. But for the NPA and the people in the area all misdeeds were perpetrated by paramilitary forces, which are immaturely trained to do the rightful jobs.

 

And what is the worst tragedy here is that the people of the village came to a conclusion that the respect, trust and integrity of the villagers are all gone. And before sundown, all are in homes praying, some are already in their blanket, with their heart on gallop, because their thinking is that the next day is too long to wait. And even the dawn crow of their roosters, will incite a sudden suspicions that somewhere in their vicinity there are people lurking, and bringing weapons, that in matter of one squeeze they all will be gone.

 

Even in the morning, a stranger who will come trading or promoting something, their conscience is full of questions, and that the fear of the whole village will be exacerbated, believing that somebody is spying, or planning to do a genocidal mission for the evening.

Some of the villager became Paranoids, because the embedded phobia graduated into schizophrenia, a disease of the mind, because the fear created violent imagination, and that illusions of executions became the resident in the mind of the villagers.

 

Genaro, talked to his family for immigrations, just to spare his children from this dilemma.

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