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Inquirer Opinion

Inquirer Opinion

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Published by Maymosa Jinang

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Published by: Maymosa Jinang on Oct 02, 2010
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10/02/2010

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INQUIRER OPINION - COLUMNS 
For the fallen
 Patricia EvangelistaPhilippine Daily Inquirer December 06, 2009THERE are two lechonsito girls, sugar andhoney. Their mother Cecile has not been homefor two years, caring for children in Qatar. Her husband Eduardo stayed in Tacurong,licensing officer 3 for the Tacurong Citygovernment. The overseas work wasnecessary to pay for the tuition of the twocollege girls. Honey studied in Manila, Sugar in Iloilo.Both girls had not seen their mother for twoyears. Sugar had not seen her father for one.On Nov. 23, two weeks after Cecile camehome for Honey’s graduation, the couplestepped into a service car, a red Toyota Viosdriven by a Tacurong City Hall employeenamed Wilhelm Palabrica. Eduardo, 53, hadsuffered a mild stroke days before, and Cecilehad made arrangements to bring her husbandto Cotabato City for a CT scan. With themwere Mercy Palabrica, Wilhelm’s cousin, andDaryll de los Reyes. Both were also city hallemployees.On the road to Shariff Aguak, the red Vioswith its cargo of five was stopped along with aconvoy of vehicles from Buluan,Maguindanao.All five bodies have been found.Sugar is petite, with straight black hair falling just beneath her shoulders. Honey keeps her hair in a ponytail, and holds her sister’s hand.
 
They are quiet girls, soft-spoken.The family wants justice, wants lawimplemented by a government without fear or favor. They want every murderer found, to thelast man. Those men were animals.The girls wish they could hug their parents, but the bodies are too battered to hold.* * * Noel Decena was 25 when he died.He stopped classes after high school. Theycouldn’t afford tuition. His father is a truck driver, whose eyes were growing weak. Noeltook himself off from his hometown inMidsayap, North Cotabato to General SantosCity to hunt for a job. He found it in a smallweekly newspaper called Periodico Ini, published by a man named Freddie Solinap,who took Noel under his wing. Noel had potential, Freddie said, learning quickly and atonce. Freddie always thought Noel would go back to school, and encouraged the boy.His brother Joseph graduated from highschool this year. Joseph—Love-love, as thefamily calls him—had reconciled himself togiving up college. Noel took him aside, and promised him an education. Love-love wouldgo to school; Noel would make sure. Everytime Noel came home, there would be a T-shirt for Love-love. Noel had a girl, Jinky, a pretty brown-skinnedgirl with a quiet smile. They were together two years, broke up, and got together again.Jinky hated Noel’s drinking; it was why theyfought. He stopped for her. Noel told Love-love that he would be home onthe 24th for Midsayap’s Foundation Day. Theday before, he received a message from his
 
 big brother. “I-ampo ko diri kay naa na mi dirisa Ampatuan. Kritikal amo sitwasyon diri.”Please pray for us, we’re already here inAmpatuan. Our situation here is critical.Freddie did not know Noel had gone toAmpatuan. He thought Noel was in SultanKudarat, dealing with the paper’s circulation.Freddie was in a bus on his way back fromGeneral Santos when he received a messagefrom a colleague, asking if he knew Bart’sstatus. Bart was Ernesto “Bart” Maravilla, of Bombo Radyo in Koronadal City. Freddieasked what had happened to Bart. Hiscolleague laughed at him, asked him what sortof media man he was that he didn’t know whatwas happening. Freddie messaged his editor inchief for a situationer, and received no reply.He finally responded to his colleague that hewas in Davao attending a seminar. It was, heexplains with a shrug, his way of removinghimself from the embarrassing position of  being an ignorant media man.It was only when he arrived at his office thathis secretary gave him the news. Media menand Mangudadatu women had been heldhostage on the road to Shariff Aguak. Five of the men belonged to him, including his editor in chief. Noel Decena was one of the five.It was at night when the massacre wasconfirmed. It was Freddie who went fromfuneral parlor to funeral parlor, hunting for  Noel’s body. The others had family; Noel’swas far away. He did not believe Noel wasdead. Love-love sent messages to Freddie,asking if the stories were true, if his brother was dead.Freddie answered Love-love the nextmorning.Jinky heard about Noel from her mother.

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