CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 October 2018

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Cost of trauma delayed

HONG KONG (SE): A gunfight resulting in three brutal deaths took place in the Barangay Mansangaban Playground of Bais City, Negros Occidental, on 25 April 1993, in full view of around 100 people, including the children and families of the dead and the daughter of a barangay captain, who was later to be found guilty of the multiple murder.
 
Nancy Ambos was 20-years-old on that fateful day. Later in life she came to Hong Kong as a migrant worker, but 15 years after she witnessed those gruesome murders, she heard that her father was near death with cancer and the memories came flooding back, resulting in insomnia, headaches and sweaty awakenings from crazy nightmares.
 
Her memory is clear. It was a pleasant afternoon, perfect for the volleyball practice session she was taking part in. “I was wearing sports shoes, a blue T-shirt with a pink flower on the front and blue denim jeans,” she recalled, “but some were playing in bare feet.”
 
Ambos related that there was something strange about the way their coach, Romeo Boquiran, was called away. He looked agitated before leaving suddenly, stopping only to pick up his gun, which Ambos remembers was a big gun, an automatic.
 
“He was wearing a stripped T-shirt, with brown and white hoops. I looked down at the playground,” Ambos remembered. “Our coach had arrived, joining his brother, Genelito; our cousins, Flora Mae Cardinas, Lucy and Ellen Magalso, along with several dozen other people were there.”
 
“It was 4.30pm. I checked the time as I had to take over the running of the practice,” Ambos related. “We were doing ball-handling skills, but hardly got started again when I heard a noise like a huge intake of breath, then people screaming. I stopped the practice and looked. The people were scattering quickly.”
 
Ambos said she left the court and began to run, but then a gunshot split the raucous shouts and she saw her cousin, Rodolfo Boquiran, drop to the ground.
 
“When I arrived, he was already on his knees and his legs were slipping apart and the trunk of his body was sagging, his head swaying groggily. He was holding his five-year-old son, Randy, in his arms. I was about 20 metres away from him when he began to flop to the ground. He was shot by Franklin Voilita.”
 
She said she did not see who shot him, but his son did and his testimony was accepted.
She then recognised Jessie Castillo (wearing a T-shirt and a dark jacket) and Franklin Boquiran (mixed coloured T-shirt and a dark jacket).
 
Then there were four or five shots. Jessie Castillo was hit and began to swivel. Ambos demonstrated how his body went through a half pirouette, as his shoulders turned and he began to sink backwards.
 
“I remember his eyes were wide open and mouth closed. He dropped to the ground on his back,” she said.
 
Ambos was a barangay official and went to check the body. She said that Castillo was a member of a security unit and had a big gun, but it was still in its sling.
 
“I went to the first one hit, he was still alive. I talked with him. I knelt on one knee and spoke with him. His voice was clear. But shooting was still going on,” she said.
 
“I could see the three bodies in my eye line. One, Franklin Violeta, was already bleeding, then the brothers both fired more bullets into his body. He had been hit in the backside by a bullet from the M16 that Romeo Boquiran was holding and the bullet travelled up his body into his neck, leaving his head swinging from a bit of skin at the back, like a single hinged trapdoor.
 
“His wife, Marivel Ambos, tried to stop the bleeding by pushing her hands down the trunk where the head had been mostly severed. She was screaming and some six months pregnant.”
 
While the wild shooting was going on, Ambos saw her father approaching from a sari sari store about 50 metres away on a slight rise.
 
“He was about 30 metres away when I saw him. He was wearing a red jacket. The uniform of the Civilian Voluntary Organisation. My father was the organiser. He was walking quickly,” Ambos said, as she described the blood spurting from a wound in Rodolfo Boquira’s stomach as being like the fountain children’s storybooks use in depicting a whale exhaling air from its blowhole.
 
“My father asked me to accompany him to the hospital, as he was still alive,” she went on. The injured man was on a stretcher. He was saying, “It is so painful, so painful.”
 
His face would turn red, then yellow, then black. He kept changing colour, making an “EEEEr” noise.
 
He said, “I want to pee.” But his bag had already burst, so his pee was just running inside the body. He died on the way to the hospital.
 
Her father was charged with murder. “I wanted to give evidence for him,” she said. “But he forbad it, saying these people are military, they will kill you. He was found guilty and sentenced, but he had friends in powerful places and a couple of days later he just walked out of prison and headed for the hills.”
 
Her father spent the next 15 years in isolated exile, but then news came that he was dying and the dreams began during Ambos’ tormented nights.
 
It was only with the news that he had seen a priest and she had told her story that things began to improve.
 
“I want to have a record of what I saw,” she said. “I want to be able to tell the children of the deceased what happened to their fathers when the time is ripe. I have had an insight into what they may go through.”
 
This is the trauma of one person, but The Philippines is currently executing people at random, in their homes, in the street, shooting parents before the eyes of their children and children before the eyes of their parents without any consideration of the cost of the trauma that will terrorise those forced to watch for decades to come.
 
It is a thoughtless and immoral campaign being waged by the government without any thought for the welfare of the people forced to look on or the cost that will come to society in the future.
 
As Bishop Virgilio David said at a Mass with surviving relatives and witnesses to murders, “It really hurts to be a victim, it hurts more to continue to be a victim, but what is worst is if we lose all hope in humanity and let hatred take over us.”
 
Bishop David continued, “We need to breathe deep and exhale that anger because violence breeds hatred in the hearts of those affected by violence.”
 
It is the people who pay for the crass thoughtlessness of those in power and the people who suffer to keep them in power.

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