The prisoners in MPD Precinct 5 are temporarily detained in a two-storey wooden house beside the unfinished concrete building which will later accommodate them. The house is dingy and its faded green paint is peeling off in ugly spots; it looks like a dirty PC uniform thrust into a corner of the precinct compound.
‘Yun hong nakatingin dito at nakangiti, an old woman in widow’s weeds points to someone behind the chicken wire screen which separates the detention cell from the tiny waiting room. Yun hong aking anak.
The prisoners move about the detention cell, stirring the grass straw on the floor. the old woman’s son presses close to the screen, his fingers hooked about the wire.
O, kayo naman, ano ‘yon?
W e would like to see Mr. Alfonso Sabelano.
The clerk sits up a bit straighter. Clearing his throat, he shuffles the papers in front of him and finally answers. You better ask the sergeant over there. Sarge!
We would like to see Mr. Alfonso Sabelano, Sergeant.
The Sergeant clears his throat. Ahem, are you relatives?
No, we are friends of his.
Well, ahem, he was taken out.
Uh, ahem, I don’t know. Ah, I know! He went to point out Ruben, the actual gunman.
There is a note of triumph and a sneer in his last words. We keep silent, not knowing what to make of the information.
Ahem, you know, Rubben, that USTC rat! He was the guy who pulled the trigger. Ahem, a double murderer. He killed Dasmarinas and Macalde.
Ano ba kayo, KM right?
No, but we would not mind being KM.
Uh, ahem, so!
That’s all right, another man cuts in. He does not have the bleary blood-shot eyes of the sergeant but has a similar paunch. (Why do all officers of the law have big stomachs?)
That’s all right, he says again. The KM is a legal organization.
Exactly. That’s why we can’t understand why the Monkees killed Dasmarinas-unless being legal is no longer sufficient protection from official murder.
The Monkees! says the Sarge. The President says there are no Monkees.
But Senator Aquino says there are, right here in the city.
Between Aguino and the President I would rather believe the President says the other officer.
But the Senator has evidence.
But the Senator is not the President.
Anyway, cuts in the Sarge. Hindi Monkees ang pumatay kay Dasmarinas at Macalde. Mga KM ang pumatay sa kanila.
But Dasmarinas was one of the most effective KM speakers! Why would other KM members kill him?
He was accused of being a CIA agent.
We look at each other and burst out laughing.
Double murder is not a funny thing, you know, the other officer says.
Exactly, sir. And these actions of the State against militant youth nationalists have cast serious doubts on the existence of democracy in our country.
KM ang pumatay sa kanila! The Sarge is losing his temper.
Granted, the other officer says, granted that it was not one of you who killed them, why would the government want to kill them? Dasmarinas was no big leader of the KM. Sure, he was an effective speaker, but he was a small guy in the organization. If the government were really after the KM we would go after the bigwigs!
But sir, you already have no less than the national chairman of the KM, Nilo Tayag.
Aba, ahem, that’s a different matter.
In what way different, sir?
‘Yang si Nilo Tayag ay subversive. He wants to overthrow the government.
What makes you say that, sir?
Aba, ahem, he goes around the country agitating the people at rallies and teach-ins.
Agitating for what?
Such people have lost faith in peaceful reform. They want a bloody war to change the system.
Sir, what will happen to Alfonso?
The maximum penalty for murder is death. At best he will get a life sentence.
Why death or life imprisonment? Does the State not believe that murderers can be gradually and peacefully reformed, so that they can once more be of service to society?
Ahem, aba, malalim na pilosopiya na ‘ata iyan. Pilosopo ka ba?
The other officer shakes his head sadly. Murder stains the soul irrevocably. A man who has once killed will kill again. Such a man will always be a danger to society.
But Sir, the State has so many murders in its hands already. The Lapiang Malaya massacre, the Jabidah Massacre, the massacre of students on January 30, the murder of Sta. Brigiga, the daily killing of peasants in Central Luzon. Murder, to borrow your words has stained its soul irrevocably. It will always be a danger to society. It is beyond gradual and peaceful reform, to borrow your logic, and must therefore be either done away with - the maximum penalty - or otherwise incapacitated for life.
Therefore to want to do away with this murderous State is only just and right, and not at all subversive. Isn’t that so, sir?
Sabi na sa iyong pilosopo iyan, e. Basta hindi niyo maaaring makita si Sabelano. Kahit naman nandiyan siya’y incomunicado, walang maaaring kausapin kundi mga malapit na kamag-anak.
We turn away to go.
Just a minute. What have girls like you got to do with criminals like Sabelano?
Alfonso is not a criminal unless proven guilty, sir.
You are students? Where do you study?
Ano? Sa mga eskwelang Katoliko ba’y may mga aktibista rin?
There is nothing, or there should be nothing, in a Catholic school which prevents its students from being concerned about country and fellow men.
Hindi kayo KM?
We are members of MAKIBAKA.
Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan, sir. We just wanted to see Alfonso.
Well, you have to see the CO here to get a permit to see him
Who is the CO?
Major Lazaro! the sergeant says with that familiar note of triumph.
Where is Major Lazaro?
He is not here.
Where is he?
On Mondays he acts as the personal security officer of the Mayor. You may see him here any day except Monday.
Mayor Villegas, sir?
Where is Alfonso now?
I told you. He has gone to point out where Ruben is hiding. It takes a rat, ha ha, to catch another rat. Ha ha.
Will he testify against Ruben?
If the court accepts him as state witness, he will testify against Ruben.
But he will also be punished, if he testifies against Ruben?
No, he will go free.
Because he would be on the side of the government. That would wipe out his guilt.
But he would still be a rat in your eyes, sir?
Pilosopo kang talaga ano?
You would have turned him into a more acceptable rat, sir, a government rat?
Come on, let’s go, I’m hungry. Let’s go.
Outside the precinct a light rain is falling. We pass a small group of workers at the new precinct building, squatting around their lunch of rice and dried fish.
Akin kayo, mga miss.
Salamat ho. Nakikita niyo ba si Boy diyan?
‘Yung KM? Oo, ngunit paminsan-minsan lamang. Sa itaas siya itinatago.
Kumusta ho siya?
Dati mataba, pero ngayo’y payat na. Mahigpit ang gwardya sa kanya.
Maari ho niyo kayang ibigay itong magasing Pilipino sa kanya? Basahin na rin ninyo.
Sige. Pag natiyempuhan namin.
Walang anuman. Naawa na rin kami sa kanya. Parating nakayuko tuwing dadaan.
I was so afraid they’d arrest us, you know, the way you spoke.
Wasn’t I pompous?
We all laugh.
Yeah, I felt like giggling at your big words.
That Sarge reminds me of the police officer at the PCC raid. You know the story?
Well, during the PCC raid, the students whom the police found inside the building were all lined up against the wall and questioned. One student, scared to death, said, hindi po ako komunista! Anti-communit pa nga ako sir e. The sergeant slapped him and said, Ah, kahit na anong klaseng komunista ka pa, lahat ng mga iyan ay pare-parehong masama!
Big words. Democracy. Freedom. Commitment, Society. But behind them only these little things: that day by day institutionalized violence robs a man of his dignity, turns him into another instrument of violence against yet other victims; that day by day men are taught or forced to survive by doing violence to other men; that day by day men manage to live in spurious peace by constantly denying that they are not free, that no man can be free unless all other men are free.
- Aug. 27, l970