Emma (tula para kay Emma P. Jamorabon)

EMMA

(para kay Emma P. Jamorabon)

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

Sa mga mata niyang animo ay nangungusap

Walang katapat na kasiyahan ang mababanaag

At sa matinis niyang boses, ang kausap na nagagalit

Huhupa, sa damdami’y nag-uumapaw na pagngangalit.

 

Mapagmahal na kabiyak, inang walang katulad

Sa mga kaibigan ay mapagbigay, kahit siya’y kapos

At handang magsakripisyo sa abot ng makakaya niya

Kapalit na pagtitiis ay buong puso niyang hindi alintana.

 

Mga huling yugto ng kanyang buhay na nauupos

Inalay sa mapagmahal na Inang Mariang sinandalan

Kaya kahit sa pagkaratay, hirap man siya sa paghinga

Katiwasayan ay maaaninag sa mala-birhen niyang mukha. 

 

Sa kanyang maaliwalas na pamamaalam sa mundo

Ipinahiwatig niyang sa Diyos tayo ay dapat magtiwala

Dahil sa buhay nati’y Siya lang ang nakakaalam ng lahat

Lalo na ang mitsa nito’t sinding may taning ….

Kung hanggang kaylan lamang sapat.

 

(Alay ng nagmamahal na pamilya, mga kaibigan at naging estudyante, lalo na ang NDTC Boys’ High School Batch ’70.)

 

 

Faded Photographs

Faded Photographs

By Apolinario Villalobos

(Photos from the family library of Ed Collado)

 

A picture can paint a thousand words, so goes the line of the son, “If”. And, faded photographs can bring memories that for the present are testimonies of how successful people struggled in the past. Faces exude aura of innocence…with their eyes that eagerly stared at the camera, unwary of what the future held for them.

 

Ed Collado’s mother was among the pioneer teachers of Tacurong Pilot Elementary School while his father was the District Supervisor who painstakingly visited schools in the barrios connected to the town of Tacurong by foot trails winding through rice, corn, and sugar cane fields. Other teachers I could recall during their time were, Mr. and Mrs. Jordan, Mr. and Mrs. Gatumbato, Mrs. Domider, Mrs. Paradero, Mrs. Sucaldito, Mrs. Ramos, Mrs. Lechonsito, Mrs. Del Campo, Mr. Barber, Ms. Davala, Ms. Paclibar, Ms. Ines, Ms. Paragas, Mrs. Lucentales, Mr. Palencia, while the Principal was Mr. Ben Nicolo. According to Ed, her mother took the pains in keeping photos taken during her time in Tacurong Pilot School.

 

Children of prominent families went to the school in slippers and shoes with socks, while the rest were barefooted. Free snacks consisted of gruel made from yellow corn grits. Those who failed to bring cups or bowls ate their share using pad paper folded origami style in the shape of a cap.  If there were extra bags brought by the Peace Corp Volunteers, the grits were distributed among the pupils to be brought home. Aside from yellow corn, those that were regularly donated to the school was bulgur wheat, oat meal, and powdered milk.

 

When I was in Grade Four, Ikea Seki comet appeared which became visible at dawn for almost a week. I could vividly recall the event as the appearance happened during our Boy Scout camping on the track and field of the school. During the time, we almost lost a good friend, Baltazar Subando when he fell from the “monkey bridge” built for the contest among the troops. Among the schoolmates I could recall were, Febe and Lilieth Ancheta, Betty Cu, Rodina Ballena, Ninfa Loot, Gloria Sangke, Catalino Ines, Nonito Bacus, Jaime Bides, Angel Collado, Apolonio de la Peἧa, Cornelio Alegre, Jaime Mariἧas, Elsie Dajay, Homero Palatolon, Hernanie Baclaan, Domingo Cargo, Eleanor Fajardo, the late Chrito Lacanaria, Rey Mijares, Julius Lechonsito, Jimmy Uy, Dani Pendatun, the late Reynaldo Mosqueda…(more names to be added as recalled).

 

In High School, we became Notre Damians who wore khaki pants with green stripe on the side.  On very special occasions, the Dominican Sisters of the Girls’ Department allowed joint activities with the Boys’ Department during which the musical talents of the students from both departments were exhibited. Ed Collado, Ted Lapuz, and Virgilio Guillermo provided music to the dancing girls, such as Rodina Ballena, Ninfa Loot, and others.

 

Debating Club was among the most popular organizations in the Boys’ campus aside from the Choreographers’ Club. The members of the Debating Club such Jovino Morte, Cirilo Baldonado, Andres Jordan Jr., Rommel Angel, Nonie Amar, Antonio Hojilla, Eduardo Palomado, Rodolfo Gallega, Virgilio Guillermo, Ed Collado, Felizardo Lazado, Leo Villalobos, Jose Lim III, a certain Cabico, were coached by Mr. Gabertan. The Choreographers’ Club on the other hand had Mrs. Ching Romero and former Ms. Leonor Palabricas as advisers, with the members such as, Dominador Barnachea, Homero Palatolon, Cirilo Baldonado, Ruel Lucentales, Domingo Cargo, Hernanie Baclaan, Eddie Travilla, a certain Nanales, and Ed Collado. The Choreographers’ Club had one successful fund-raising show, the “Rainbow of Rhythmn”.

 

Today, those caught in the historic frame of time are successful in their chosen fields. Some are entrepreneurs, overseas professionals, military officers, engineers, nurses, and educators.

 

 

Kabungsuan Yadao Makilala…fallen but not forgotten

KABUNGSUAN YADAO MAKILALA

…fallen but not forgotten

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

After leaving Tacurong without even attending our college graduation due to the urgent call of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity from Philippine Airlines, I also left behind my friends and family without entertaining the idea of when I would be with them again.

 

Many years later, every time I went home, I developed the habit of just staying for several hours in our town crammed with unannounced quick visits to relatives and friends. In the list, Bong and his elder sister, Talama (Kingan) who was my classmate and barkada were always included. I was happy to learn about his settling down and small business. And, I thought, that was it….that he would just be some sort of a businessman, but I was wrong.

 

We met again after more than ten years, but that time, it was at Ayala Avenue during a rush hour as it was a little past five in the afternoon. He excitedly told me about our friends and his forthcoming job. Much as I would like us to have a better place for our conversation, he insisted that we visit Ephraim Collado, his barkada, who was temporarily staying at a nearby place in Makati. After that visit, we exchanged contact numbers. And, when I called him up months later, I found the number to be that of DILG’s but surprised when told that he was in Bilibid. I got panicky because I thought he was detained, until the lady who answered the phone told me that he was “on duty”. The next time I called, I finally talked to him but he was in a hurry so he gave me his address in Muntinlupa. Our quickie phone conversation made me realize that he was with the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) of the DILG. I failed to visit him due to my hectic schedule.

 

It was Talama who told me more about his job as a warden at Bilibid when I visited her at her office in the Land Transportation Office (LTO) in Tacurong. The next time I learned about the job of Bong was when I read about the news on his exposition of a certain scandal in Bilibid. It was a one-of-a-kind revelation because Bilibid was never thought to be immersed in any scandal as it is a correctional institution, hence, “clean” and free from corruption.

 

I had an opportunity to talk to him through his cellphone while he was already staying in undisclosed places for security reason. What I could not forget was when he told me, “sayang, Pol (the Makilalas call me Pol)….damo pa tani ako sang isiling pero tagilid na ako….bahala na sila sa statements ko…” (…I am disappointed, Pol…I could have revealed more…but I am now in an awkward position….it is up to them on what to do with my statements…) I advised him to pack his things and leave his thankless job, and help his wife back home to develop their business. I also told him to call me anytime, as I was just around and ready to help, but he did not. I contented myself in monitoring the progress of the investigation until the heat of excitement cooled off.

 

One day I got a surprise call from him during which he told me that he was under a protective custody and was about to change his number, so I told him to call me soonest as he got a new one. I told him not to text me as I wanted to hear his voice, to be sure that he was still be alive…I was serious when I told him that. Several years later, I was told that he was back to our place, but I failed to check if he had with him any security escort.

 

When I visited again our hometown, I dropped by his home in New Isabela and glad that I did because I found out that their bedridden mother with whom I was close, was under his care. He had no “security”, so I asked what happened to the “protective custody”, to which he just gave me assurance that he was safe. We had a lengthy talk in their small gazebo over cups of coffee and before I left he showed me his collection of decorative and medicinal plants, so I kidded him to go into herbal medicine business instead of going back to BuCor. He and his wife urged me to always drop by every time I was in town, and they gave me as a foremost reason, their mother who was with them. That was several years ago before Duterte was elected as president.

 

Late afternoon of February 4 2017, Bogz Jamorabon texted me about Bong’s assassination as he got wind of it from a TV news broadcast. I was shocked…first, because I did not expect him to go back to BuCor, and second, because even if he did, I assumed he was safe, with president Duterte as the new president. That evening, I realized that those who wanted to finish him off must have known that he still got plenty of anomalous information about the Bilibid that could eventually pin down de Lima who was then, the Secretary of Justice. I could not sleep that evening as our last phone conversation before he went into protective custody kept creeping into my mind.

 

With the passing of Bong, I am resolved not to be overcome with hate, but rather, pity to those who want to silence him forever. I pity them because for a pittance, they allowed themselves to be used in hindering what could have been the flow of good intention from a guy who just wanted to help his fellowmen.

 

But, for Bong…he may have fallen, but his ideals will never be forgotten. I am proud of him and so are his friends and family, our school, Notre Dame, for having been part of his growing up with great values oozing out of his person. Unfortunately, his unwavering trust in the new administration pushed him off the cliff…

makilala-1

 

 

 

Nimfa Gromio Castillo: Nag-night Class noong High School Hanggang Abutin ang Pangarap na Maging Titser

Nimfa Gromio Castillo: Nag-night Class noong High School

Hanggang Abutin ang Pangarap na Maging Titser

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

Kalimitan, kapag sinabing “night school student”, inaasahan nang nagtatrabaho siya sa araw. At, yan ang nangyari kay Nimfa G. Castillo na dahil sa pagtiyagang maipagpatuloy ang pag-aaral ay nakaraos din hanggang makarating ng kolehiyo at makatapos ng Bachelor of Elementary Education at nag-specialize sa Filipino. Ipinakita ni Nimfa na pwedeng pagsabayin ang pagtrabaho at pag-aaral. Mapalad siya at ang Notre Dame of Tacurong Boys High School ay nagbukas ng ganitong pagkakataon para sa mga may pangarap sa buhay.

 

Maganda ang pinili niyang kurso dahil malawak ang nasasaklaw nito, bukod sa pagtuturo sa mga bata. Noon kasing lumipat siya sa Cotabato City ay nabigyan siya ng pagkakataong maging tagapagsalita ng ahensiyang may kinalaman sa “4Ps” ng gobyerno. Isa siyang tagapagpaliwanag ng programa at dahil sa ginawa niya ay marami siyang nakausap na mga nanay na umasa sa programa upang kahit papaano ay madagdagan ang badyet nila sa gastusin ng isang anak man lang, sa eskwela. Ang iba sa kanila ay nagtitiyaga sa ugali ng mga asawang iresponsable, na ang iba ay “nag-aalaga” sa kanila ng walang humpay na pagbugbog. Ang mga kuwento nila ang lalong nagbigay ng inspirasyon kay Nimfa upang paigtingin ang paghubog sa mga batang tinuturuan niya.

 

Nagkurus ang landas namin sa facebook nang pumasok ang request niya para sa koneksyon namin na tinanggap ko naman agad. Subalit hanggang doon na lang kung hindi ko na-check ang kanyang facebook kaya nalaman kong teacher pala siya. Tuwang-tuwa naman ako dahil kabilang ang mga titser sa mga kinabibiliban ko.

 

Sa kanilang school ay nagko-coach siya ng elocution sa mga batang may potential na pinapadala nila sa mga paligsahan. At, para sa mga materyal na magagamit naman ay palagi din siyang kumukunsulta kay Ding Lazado na dati niyang teacher sa Notre Dame. Nakapagpanalo na si Nimfa ng pambato ng school nila na tinuruan, gamit ang isang isinulat ni Ding Lazado.

 

Angkan ng mga madasalin ang kinabibilangan ni Nimfa na nakatira sa New Isabela, isang barangay ng Tacurong at nagtuturo sa isang private prep school.  Kamag-anak din niya si Amor Taganas na  assistant ng kura paruko ng San Pedro Calungsod parish. Pareho silang tahimik lang kung magtrabaho, kimi, at mapagpakumbaba.

 

Kung paghubog ng ugali ng bata ang pag-uusapan, dapat ang titser na maghuhubog ay kakikitaan ng mga ugaling kailangan ng bata upang maging makabuluhang mamamayan ng bansa habang lumalaki siya….at yan ang pinapakita ni Nimfa. Pareho kami ng pananaw na dapat ang sistema ng edukasyon ay maibalik sa dati….kung saan, nagagamit uli ang mga libro at ang layunin ng mga ito ay upang makatulong sa mga bata, hindi magpakuba o magpahirap dahil sa dami ng binibitbit tuwing papasok sa eskwela.

 

Retro: Tacurong at a Glance during the 50’s up to the early 70’s

Retro: Tacurong at a Glance

During the 50’s up to the early 70’s

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

While Tacurong was gaining momentum towards progress as a town many years back, I remember what we enjoyed as simple luxuries when I was a kid.

 

Easily recalled was the Polar ice drop sold by the Valencia family. Hundreds of the cooling popsicles were loaded on the first tripper bus, Cotabato Bus Company (CBC) that left Cotabato City at dawn. After a grueling dusty travel over unpaved and potholed highway for four hours or more, the boxes filled with sticks of ice drop secured in plastic bags and protected by layers of newspapers and crushed ice and salt would finally arrive at the terminal where the patriarch of the Valencias was on hand to receive them. While some of the boxes went straight to their home where they were made more secure with packs of crushed ice, the rest went to the north entrance of the market where the ice drops were sold by the Valencia children, Remy and Fernando, while the youngest, Bobot, was spared the task as he was very young, then.

 

During the early 70’s an honest-to-goodness home-based ice drop business was opened by the Panes family, in front of the Notre Dame. Students would flock to their store during break time while those who preferred to sit the break period out, spent their time at the Sara’s Store where soft drinks, bread and biscuits were sold.

 

If we wanted to enjoy our snacks comfortably, we went to “Angelita’s Halu-Halo “where the best chiffon cake and halu-halo were served. The halu-halo’s fame has spread even to neighboring towns. The cool delicacy was served in a big bowl or tall glass with fruits in season, boiled banana, yam jam and leche flan. The joint was operated by the couple, Angelita and Pacio Palmes, helped by their children, Marites and Rene, as well as, relatives.

 

A few meters away, fronting the bus terminal was the Dainty Refreshment specializing in cakes, pastries with coffee and soft drinks as “downers”. There were days when the establishment served meals. It was owned and personally operated by Flor de la Rosa during her days off, as she worked as Secretary of Mayor Jose Escribano during on weekdays.

 

Inside the market, beside the stalls that sold tobacco and betel nut was the “Laspe’s La Paz Batchoy”. The owner brought with him his love for this Ilonggo delicacy when he joined a group of migrants from La Paz, Iloilo, to seek their fortune in Tacurong. I enjoyed gawking at the owner cut strips of meat with a sharp set of scissors. One of his daughters was my classmate in elementary, Dioleta, a sprinter who always won in track and field during athletic meets.

 

For oriental foods, we would go to the two Chinese restaurants, one beside the Ideal Theater, and the other between Nonoy and Prince theaters. They served, of course, as there were no other choices, the best chop suey and Chinese noodles (pancit) either sautéed or with broth – with plenty of cabbage, chayote and spring onion, as the carrot was considered a luxury, hence, scarce. The two restaurants had lodging rooms on their second floor that catered to salesmen who frequented our town.

 

And, of course, for the grilled chicken, locals flocked to the “Mauring’s Chicken Barbecue” owned by the Pernatos. As with other family-operated establishments, members of the family pitched in. The culinary tradition has been handed to two children who are now operating their respective barbecue restaurant using the ingredients that their parents used in the marinade.

 

The entertainment was provided by four “cinemas” – Real Theater in front of the north gate of the Market, Prince Theater fronting the sourtheast corner of the plaza, the Ideal Theater on the east side of Alunan Highway, and Nonoy Theather, fronting the Ulangkaya building. The cinemas provided wooden tick-infested seats. As they were not sound-proof, the dialog of the actors could be heard out in the street. We were amused then, by the moans of actors when erotic films were shown. Those with “added sexy scenes” were advertised with hand-written, “Plus-Boom” (plus bomba), as the erotic films were then called, “bomba films”.

 

An ice plant provided our town and the surrounding areas with the very important commodity as it was also used by fish vendors. The downtown outlet of blocks of ice was owned by the Sanque family. The Mariἧas family got their ice from the Sanque outlet for the ice cream that they prepared to be sold around the town, in which one of the sons, Jaime also helped. Later on, another ice cream maker opened his home-based “factory” which was peddled by a high school classmate, Rogelio Gallega.

 

The office supplies and a handful of books were sold by the Goodwill Bookstore. First class fabrics were sold in a market stall by the Sandigs, and motorcycles were the exclusive goods of the Paragas family. Even with a small town such as our place, there was already an agent for insurance policy – Felipe Lapuz who was the local manager of Philam Life.

 

Later, better hotels were opened, such as the one operated by the couple, Menandro and Prax Lapuz, located near the town plaza; and, Edgie Hotel owned by Eddie Lopez that occupied the east end of the commercial building where Ideal Theater was also located. The entrance of the hotel was right beside the Uy store, owned by the father of my classmate in elementary, Jimmy Uy who later married Elsie Dajay, another classmate.

 

There were no beerhouses then. Those who would like to get tipsy, went to the carinderia of the Gialogos inside the market where the stalls of the dried fish were also located. The Gialogos sold the freshest/sweetish and the best “bahal” (day-old) coconut sap wine (tuba), served on “Bols” jars. Finger foods were grilled tilapia, mudfish, gurami, and catfish. Some days, the elder Gialogo would cook “dinuguan” (pork innards cooked in ginger and pig’s blood). The son, Ernesto who was also a classmate, continued the carinderia tradition, minus the tuba, with his restaurant in front of the Notre Dame campus.

 

Much later, as Mayor Escribano loved music, he opened the Bayanihan Club near where the market/public toilet was located. The “unit 1” of the The Fireband provided the entertainment, with singers Helen, Lito and sometimes, Femy Alcon and Grace Perales, consistent winners in the “amateur” singing contest. The “unit 2” of the Fireband during the time, played at a popular night club in Pasay City….that was how the two bands became self-liquidating, as the players who doubled as town firemen had no fixed wage. The band got “caught” by the sweeping camera during the filming of a Fernando Poe, Jr. film….I forgot the title of the film

 

As a further manifestation of his love for the good life, the mayor opened the first “resort” in the middle of the town – inside the plaza, complete with an elevated swimming pool to the delight of a Spanish immigrant, Mr. Fernandez as he was fond of swimming and had the prowess for board diving. The facility also provided the mayor with a comfortable office as it was shaded by plenty of trees. What was nice about the mayor was that, he allowed the drying of rice and corn grains on the basketball court and the circular skating rink of the town plaza.

 

The medical services were provided during the time by the Baroquillo and Ventura clinics, later joined by the Tamondong Hospital. The biggest stores were those of the Suana’s, Lee Kay Kee, Paciente’s and Rapacon’s. Dental Services were provided by Dr. Casipe and Dra. Tabuga. Later on, an optical clinic was opened by Dra. Pareἧas, beside which the first boutique, Noeleen’s, was also opened by Nenita Astillero-Bernardo.

 

Today, the City of Tacurong is making big leaps as big establishments compete with each other in filling up commercial voids that used to be swampy patches of land.

The Blissful Family of Luis and Paciencia Garcia of Tacurong City

The Blissful Family of Luis and Paciencia Garcia

of Tacurong City

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

The couple, Luis and Paciencia Garcia (Tatay Luis and Nanay Pacing) opened the first bakery in our town during the 1950s. It had a big wood-fired oven fed by big chunks of wood, usually, “enyam” or “bignay” and acacia which grew in abundance throughout the extent of the town. I would play on stacked logs in front of the bakery in the afternoon before finally making it home from the dried fish stall of my parents in the market. Practically, every able-bodied member of the family took part in its operation, especially, in manning the counter and the cash box. The Garcias were close to our parents and sometimes our mother would linger awhile in front of the bakery on her way to the market, to chat with both Nanay Pacing and Tatay Luis. In my desire to earn at an early age, I peddled their pan de sal around the town at dawn before I went to school, using a box of Darigold, a popular brand of milk during the time. I was in Grade Three at the time.

 

During the regular Sunday singing contest held at the town plaza, courtesy of the late mayor, Jose Escribano, paper bags of bread from the bakery were among the prizes. The judges were so strict that at the hint of an off-key, the contestant was disqualified at the sound of a bell. A Levita girl with her golden voice was the consistent winner. The couple also used to donate cookies for the yearly “Flores” celebration held every May. The cookies were served as snacks to the kids who participated in catechetical sessions during which Marian songs and prayers were taught. At the height of evacuation to our town of families displaced from the surrounding areas during the 70’s, they gave the local office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) specially-discounted price for the bread that the agency purchased.

 

Tatay Luis had the opportunity to delve into the local politics with successful attempts, but he did not pursue this particular calling, as it got stinky, the height of which was the assassination of the town judge inside the church while he was attending the Sunday Mass. Free from the political clutch, Tatay Luis and Nanay Pacing devoted their time instead, to religious and civic activities of the town, especially, during fiestas.

 

All members of the Garcia family are achievers, successful in their chosen career and enjoying the fruit of their labor, except for one whose advocacy brought her to her untimely demise. She was Marlene (Esperat), the youngest in the brood, and who worked for the government, particularly, as the Action Officer of the resident Ombudsman of the Department of Agriculture, but left it posthaste, when she discovered unbecoming activities. She later found a niche in the field of journalism, both broadcast and print. In her paramount desire to help her country, she later exposed the anomalies that she stumbled upon at the cost her life. She was murdered, obviously, by a hired killer right inside her home. It took more than 5 years before the Ombudsman finally filed a solid case against the suspects, the then, Agriculture Secretary Luis “Chito” Lorenzo, Undersecretary Joselyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante and three others.

 

Practically, the Garcia siblings were popular campus personalities at the Notre Dame Boys and Girls Departments, what with their strong personality characterized by inherent leadership quality that made them shine in scholastic and extra- curricular activities. The family was known for their closeness that brought them together almost every year during a reunion, in which cousins were also in attendance. Other special occasions were also reasons for them to be together. That was how the good-natured though strict patriarch and the jolly matriarch brought up the family. The eldest of the brood, ultra-active, Valmie, with her crown of thick curly hair, was always the life of any occasion as she let out her antics and biting, though, funny remarks.

 

I was fortunate to meet Bong (Larry) and Pangkek at Dagat-dagatan, Malabon many years back when I visited another town mate, Judith Bides-Ramiscal who excitedly told me that they were neighbors. After having told of their address I immediately surprised them with my visit. My path crossed with that of Valmie’s during the 50th foundation anniversary of our school, the Notre Dame of Tacurong. At the closing ceremony of the reunion highlighted by a community dancing on the school grounds, she was among the alumni who gleefully bumped shoulders to the beat of the festive music, still the spritely gal that she was during her high school days.  We were practically exchanging shouts of greeting above the din of the ear-splitting non-stop disco sound. And, the next time we again met after many years, was via the internet – the facebook. That social medium also got me  touched base with her younger brother, Bong.

 

The Garcias have definitely impressed the mark of their own legacy on the hefty foundation of the City of Tacurong while she was going through the challenges from simple politics gone stinky and threats of cultural unrest. And for that, Valmie and her siblings have their courageous and generous father, Luis, as well as, jovial mother, Paciencia, to thank!

 

 

Marlene Garcia-Esperat and the Plight of other “Whistle Blowers”

Marlene Garcia-Esperat

and the Plight of Other “Whistle Blowers”

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

When I saw the photo of the late Marlene Garcia-Esperat who was murdered because she exposed the anomalies at the Department of Agriculture, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of devastation and palpitated with anger. She was so young and unfortunately, her ideals cut short her dreams. She exposed the anomalies at the Department of Agriculture which was then under Secretary Luis “Chito” Lorenzo whose cohorts were his Underscretary Joselyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante and three more personalities, involving the purchase of millions of pesos worth of fertilizer.

 

Marlene made the exposế when she left the Office of the Ombudsman where she was the Action Office of the resident Ombudsman of the Department of Agriculture.  Not long after, she was silenced by a hired gunman right inside her home on the fateful 24th day of March, 2005, as she was obviously, unprotected. She should have been moving around with a security because of her exposếs, but she was not. At the time of her death, she was living with her family in the City of Tacurong, her birthplace. The proud parents are Luis and Paciencia Garcia.

 

The “whistle blowers” risk their career and security of their family after making the painful decision to spill out the proverbial beans of anomalies that they accidentally discover. Some of them make the crucial decision on their own volition while others had to be coaxed into cooperation, and even intimidated by eager prosecutors. Promises of security and financial assistance are made by the government, but are unfortunately, short-lived as the “agreement” had to be “renewed”.

 

Sandra Cam who stands out among the “whistle blowers” organized them for the convenience of the NGOs which are helping them. Also, to make them cohesive every time they make demands in one voice. Unfortunately, the last time that this group was heard was when Cam surfaced during the celebrated hearings of de Lima at the Senate….perhaps, only because, de Lima is her mortal enemy. The big question is where are the rest of them? Have they finally recanted their statements in exchange for big sums or unfortunately, silenced forever?

 

The “whistle blowers” are actually witnesses, who got tagged with such reference because they are supposed to have blown the whistle to alert the government about certain anomalies. But, for how long can they blow the whistle with the kind of government that we have? The expense for their protection is dependent on the budget of the concerned agencies, but the approval of which is also dependent on the whims of the Senate. Worse, the approval of the protection sometimes is granted long after witnesses has put their security in jeopardy when they divulged information at the hearing venue.

 

How many more Marlene Garcia-Esperats will make a sacrifice to make the government realize the loop-holes of its “witness protection program”? How could the Duterte administration use this program to enhance his drive against illegal drugs if prospective witnesses have lost their trust in such program? What is their chance of still standing alive and kicking after his six-year term? …AND, WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT’S DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE DOING ABOUT IT?

marlene-esperat