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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Chapter 12 - Brown Shirt Unleashed

Chapter 12

Brown Shirt Unleashed
     Jojo, his sacristan,  has not been back in the convent since yesterday giving Fr. Driarco insecurity. Leaving Abel, Jojo’s sacristan in the convent, the young priest explored whatever happened.
            “Where has he been?” All he could remember was a permission granted  for a swimming in a river with Roger his classmate nearby. He too did not returned home. Nang Sisa and Nong Celso, Roger’s parents came over and talked the predicament to  the priest but to no avail. They could not trace their whereabouts. They probably went together hunting and might have lost their way back home. But how could they given their familiarity of the forest.  They would soon be back, a concerned parishioner said to appease their travails and woes. One, two, three and four days passed and there were no indications  either of the two let alone their shadows coming back escalating Fr. Driarco’s suspicion of evil might have started renew its round of extinction killing innocent people possibly without a trace.
. . . . . . . . . .

           Checking for himself the bottom line, he took the challenge following Jojo’s route at San Isidro mighty river.
           “If after swimming they proceeded hunting then at least a word was left to him to that effect. But there was none learning too Jojo’s character. Suddenly, the thought that Jojo’s declaration to act as vital witness of Mang Clioneo brutal murder should the case would be revived crossed his mind.”
           “That could be it,” he said scampering for needed direction towards where the innocent ill-fated sacristans might have been washed away or thrown.
           “Possible, remembering how Mayor Torres and his men were throwing those sinister look  last Sunday’s first mass in the chapel. Was his gaze portent of doom that same day seen on his face suggesting harassment hatched against innocent church workers in the parish? Not far-fetched idea considering the unpredictability of the Mayor.”
           “So I erred in my suspicion to them. It’s Jojo actually what they were after not me,” the thought lingering now in his mind.
           With Jojo out, at least the probability of the murder coming out in the open is far remote and thus on his way getting the Catholic priest out from the equation; thus, preserving his political gameplan.
 . . . . . . . . . . .

           The wind was furious creating murmuring sound at San Isidro river. This as onrushing water upstream crashes against rocks downstream creating hard impact water spilling out splashing into the air.  Fr. Driarco alighted from an assembled renegade jeep by his lonesome self to check whatever mystery there is hounding his parish.
           “If he was drowned to death he should be somewhere now tossed to and fro by big waves floating in the sea as the river passes by  through tributary before emptying its way out to the sea. But so far, no single fisherman informed him of such incident in the convent,” he mused but apprehensive.
           “He must be somewhere ,” he uttered surveying the panoramic view of the river, dubbed as one of the cleanest in the Region revealed lately from  result of Provincial Evaluation Team.
 From afar in the middle of the river was a solid bamboo post protruding invited his curiosity. It’s no ordinary post. Tied to its tip was a white handkerchief as if beckoning him to come and take hold of it. Swimming across the channel midway the river he struggled fighting the strong current towards the post.
           “Jojo must  just be somewhere within the perimeter of the river,” he said breathing and having seen his green Taxco sandals lying on the ground. Getting hold of the post, he all the way reached the white handkerchief. And lo and alas the cryptic words ‘You’re next!’ sending goosebumps meets  his eyes. Taking the cue, he swam deeper below the base of the  post. And lo, the dead body of Jojo dangling from a wire his neck tied to the post; and two huge rocks tied to his two feet his chest bearing two gunshots wounding essential and vital  organs fatally ending his dear life.  Another heinous crime against an ordinary church worker in Esperanza.
. . . . . . . . . . . .

           “Run!” Roger recanted later how Jojo advised him to leave him from their abductors to save himself.
           “They wore bonnets, medium built armed with two pistols with silencer.” That’s the way they  killed innocent  Jojo crying for help, Fr. Driarco learned later. What a metaphor and an application to his homily last Sunday.
           “It’s all what he could managed during that incident,” Roger  revealed leaving Jojo unperturbed alone with their abductors he could not entirely identify as darkness started engulfing them that night.
           Mayor Torres’ men hit him on the arm but it did not dampen his resolve seeking cover saving his life even blood was profusely gushing out freely from his arm.
           “He collapsed into my arms arriving here,” The parents Lando and Sisa told the young priest.
Asked whether he would go down back to serve him in the convent, Roger was speechless. Fr. Driarco didn’t mind not forcing the issue but he is welcome all the time. Maybe not for now given the tension the incident creates. But Roger revealed his take.
           “The Mayor and his men are still there. They are after my neck  too having failed once. I know they would be coming back. That’s I’m sure.”
           “ But some other time maybe. I’ll just let you know when I’m ready.”
           “ You’d be the first person to know anyway ‘cause if you don’t mind I’d like you taking over Jojo’s place in the convent. Besides I know I would be relatively safer there,” Roger declared bothering Fr. Driarco.
            “Welcome and be my guest,” he answered wryly nonetheless.
           “How could it be safer when Jojo was dead in most weird manner yet,” the young priest thought apparently more bothered ever  more than before.
. . . . . . . . . . .

           Days, weeks, month passed nothing happened on the case of Jojo. The longer the days passed, the longer and deafening the silence. But not to Driarco in the convent. The longer the days passed the harder his suffering. Each night seems to be almost sleepless and longest night for the young Catholic priest. It’s been many years since his father’s unsolved murder happened. Now Jojo was added on the list. Roger was almost. The list goes on ad infinitum. Their sordid fate keep playing on his mind requesting familiar plea seeking justice.
           Meanwhile, unsolved cold blooded murder has saturated practically all over Marble county. Mostly of those liquidated were leaders of the community. This was not surprising as non-government organizations have been established everywhere to protect the environment incidentally blessed with natural resources – eco tourism industry notably in Sibuyan Romblon, one of its kind in Asia given the prestine waters springing from the bosom of mother earth; there’s also Mt. Guitinguiting, the favorite trek of mountain climbers; cleanest, orderly and safest Sibale beach. Of course, there is marble industry, a feast for every visitors coming to the province.
           It’s weird but dead bodies are dumped just as everywhere from the cliff, along the road and just anywhere else each bearing a hole on their heads!
           To aggravate the situation, Danny who had been very critical in the municipal council forum did not complete his second term in office. The death threat he received from his implacable assailing the Mayor was served albeit not completed. Good he survived from an assassination attempt so he could still tell the world how ruthless their town Mayor is. But not when in unsolicited incident happened in cockfight arena.
            “If by giving my life for the people is the demand of those who were around him, so be it,” Fr. Driarco now remembered Dante revealing it. This third event finally got him however.
            True enough, Danny got what he wanted. The issue revolved around the brutal killing of Nong Cervantes felled inside a cockpit arena by one of Mayor Torres’ policeman. The incident was very fast that before he could demand the payment from the policeman having won the cockfight, his body was  felled down from a gunshot right on his forehead. People around were running berserk for cover during the incident.  Danny at that time was there. Nobody dared to act as witness. He did only to get hit too from the same assailant which caused later his untimely death..
           “I was there and saw the ruthless policeman pumping the bullet on the old man’s forehead dropping to the ground dead,” he remembered  a bystander retelling the gory murder of his younger brother.
           And indeed it proved his last work acting witness the incident in court, ending also his own life. Since then, no one challenged the Mayor and or his men in court for fear that their bodies could only become additional fertilizers of the mother earth.
           “If they could do it to a public servant how much more to a lowly blameless mere common tao,” Fr. Driarco would hear people griping. Unknown though to all people in the municipality. The cold blooded murder of Danny in a cockpit arena was a valid excuse for the Mayor through his police gun man wiping out any pretenders to the throne.
. . . . . . . . . . .

           Victoria’s death was another sorry incident  giving bigger blow to Fr. Driarco and his family. This time the suspects were the most likely – the National Peoples’ Army or the NPA belonging to other side of  political spectrum. She was a resident nurse at Roxas, Oriental Mindoro and all the while was planning to stay for good. Her’s was definitely a work of love having decided to just serve instead the local settlers abandoning her original desire of going abroad. In truth though, the lovestruck she got from an engineer changed everything her mind. Twist of event however unable her to see her only daughter grows up when she was killed in an ambush wrongly staged by the NPAs. It was indeed very costly mistake committed by the rebels.
           Story has it that Victoria was in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro that time getting the December bonus and buying Christmas items for her officemates and family at Roxas City. While in the terminal, their ambulance took her for a ride she readily consented to be with other employees going home. That day the provincial commanders had their important conference there. Monitored by the reds and mistakenly thought to have  rode that ambulance back to their base in Roxas, Oriental Mindoro, they staged an ambush along the way somewhere. Unfortunately, the second group of rebels on alert did not received the radio message of the first group intending to give clearance for the ill-fated ambulance to pass through And there in a junction many kilometers before the destination, hail of bullets rained the vehicle killing first the driver and the rest. Among those killed instantly was Victoria.
           “Sorry po mam’” the rebels even asked an apology realizing their mistake later to one survivor.
           “You assholes! Why do you have to implicate us ordinary tax paying civilians in your war against the military,” said Victoria’s co-passenger writhing in pain blood dropping to the ground from her shoulder.
           “The rebels did acknowledged their mistakes even offered financial help to me. But I was not still dispose talking that time. It was Christmas,”  Rigor, Victoria’s husband  said bitterly.
           Victoria was gone leaving Donna  under his care behind, a double whammy indeed to the young widowed husband.
. . . . . . . . . .

           Looking on his wall clock, it was now daybreak exactly one o’clock in the morning. Surprisingly, Abel, one of his trusted sacristan called his name downstairs saying that two visitors are on emergency wanting very badly his services  officiating holy unction of a dying patient, an invitation any priest would always offer.  Soon Baldo and Bobo opened fire against what seem to be figure of the young Catholic priest as he went out from his study room to the balcony. The bullets were swift felling down the priest’s body. Alas to their surprise however it was  Driarco’s dummy all they got.
           “Good grief boys. You’re finally hooked,” uttered Fr. Driarco hitting both once on their chest. ‘Golden rule’ was the last words the two assassins heard from the priest before they passed out.
Save for the muted sounds emitted by his .38 Magnum pistol with silencer nothing was ever heard inside the convent.
           Esperanza for the first time has become restless jolted by the death of Mayor’s men. But it was hard  solving the case there being no willing  witnesses to give material evidence. How would a hearing be credible when the incident happened in the convent that ungodly hour yet! Who could have done it presenting the surrounding material evidence and circumstances. With the loss of  ruthless Mayor’s men, hostility is farther on the rise  the score now closer to even but the momentum obviously shifted to the Catholic priest. The Mayor is now reeling how to handle the pressure.
. . . . . . . . . .

           Saying the mass the following morning, Fr. Driarco noticed the absence of the Mayor. Roger, a replacement of Abel who was not heard of since last night  served as head sacristan.
           “ Something wrong must have happened to the special parishioner,” he thought.
           At San Isidro river, a fisherman inadvertently fished out two more bodies frozen their eyes almost gorged out dangling from their sockets. Must have been feasted by catfish as their bodies were  beyond recognition as if left-over by crocodiles. They were the remains of Bobo and Baldo. 
Hearing the bad news that morning, made the Honorable Mayor sick and disoriented realizing that his men were dead one after the other.  
           “Who could have done this? The priest? No. He was right in the convent all night long and was still in the church saying the mass the following morning,” he learned. The war of nerve is on.
Romero, the fisherman who fished out the dead bodies from his fishing net, was the early visitor of the Mayor that morning handing over a small cartoon wrapped in a plastic bag. Opening it revealed a dead skinned American frog with jumbo bold Pentel pen message written ‘You’re next!’
. . . . . . . . . . .

           Driarco making use of time tried squeezing his creative juice writing a poem.

O how fast the days were
seems like vanishing comet
flying in the thin air
Where have all the birds gone?
Why all their nests fell into the ground.
When all restlessness cease?
among my people He said ‘little ones’
Look what happened to this once sleepy town
You shattered it  into bits and pieces
causing severe pain to each one.
Where have all our people’s moneys gone
Must our people bear the brunt
When do we allow lasting peace reign?
While there’s still time or we ourselves gone.
Dry your teary eyes Esperanza
Sun in the horizon will  still  shine
Momentarily take care of abandoned children
Use school if need be as temporary dwelling.
How many more lives should we offer?
To this senseless war of one nation, color and race
How many more father and mother would in pain anguished?
Friends answered them. Isn’t  it  you too is my brother’s keeper.

           It was a good break from harrowing experience lately he had in town. The poem was couched in simple language.
           “I’m sure even layman would understand it,” he kept repeating himself  reviewing the cadence and music of his Obra.
            “Never mind the lines, the message you’re driving across  is important and what counts.”
. . . . . . . . . .

           Meanwhile, three separate knock on his door caught him by surprise.
           “Good day father. Three policemen are around bringing warrant of arrest issued by Judge Silva of RTC. They will tender it for your arrest,” Roger uttered.
           “Killing whom?,” Fr. Driarco explored.
           “What the nerve this guy has after putting him in fix the other night!” the young Catholic priest said  to himself.
           “Clearly revealing his true identity then. But what the role he is playing as it seems he is playing his own game!”  he thought.
           “Abel! He was found dead today his body dumped  in a roadside with a single shot inflicted on his head  . . . . .”
            Must have been murdered last night.” The Chief of Police said.
           The benefits of doubt swings this time to Fr. Driarco. The poor priest was simply  speechless!
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