BY ALEX P. VIDAL
I have a confession to make. I was instrumental in the torture of a man we shall call Angelito, a member of society’s hoi polloi, and innocent victim of a wrong accusation and police brutality to boot.
Angelito’s human rights and dignity as a person had been grossly violated — all because of me, my error both as a victim and false witness in a simple act of misdemeanor committed inside a dark place: moviehouse!
The incident happened at around past 4 o’clock in the aftenoon on July 14, 1995 inside the balcony section of Cinema Theater (now a merchandise store selling “Made in China” products) located at the Plazoleta Gay in Iloilo City.
I did not enter the moviehouse to sleep on purpose as I did in the past–although I would have wanted to if opportunity presented itself. As we all moviegoers normally do upon stepping inside, I paused and waited for visibility to change from total darkness.
In about three to five minutes, heads of patrons sitting on the more expensive lodge section in the lower portion from where I was standing were now visible aside from four red “Exit” lights on both sides of the walls.
Then I heared a slight giggling and shrieking coming from more than two people. I glanced at the source of noise and saw somebody who looked like future metro police Supt. Vicente Neptuno together with two young ladies. “Neptuno”, who is a good man, was not giggling and shrieking, the two ladies did–one of them gyrating like doing a slow motion hula hoop.
Anyway, why they were giggling and shrieking–and gyrating- when it was not a comedy film was none of my business. As I walked on the left side to find a seat, I suddenly felt being sandwiched by two bodies on both sides of my shoulders.
When the man on my left side moved away backwards, I checked my pocket on the left side of my shirt (I don’t carry a wallet on my pants until now). My Staedtler pen was missing! I gave a chase to the man in white t-shirt. Outside, I saw the fleeing person enter the men’s room. I followed suit and saw at least three of the many men inside with white t-shirts relieving simultaneously in different urinals.
I hollered at the first one who made eye-to-eye contact with me: “Give me my Staedtler pen back!” Sensing a potential fisticuff, others not included in the provocatory agitation made a mad scramble to the door and called the security guard who called the cop manning the traffic on corners J.M. Basa-Iznart-Ledesma Streets.
“What Staedtler pen?” the man in white t-shirt retorted, his voice loaded with lugubrious intonation, his eyes transfixed in astonishment. “Just return it; you just snatched it from my pocket,” I pressed angrily while blocking the door. The security guard’s timely arrival prevented the aggrieved man in white t-shirt from planting an uppercut and right hook on my face.
The guard turned us over to the cop who brought us to the Plazoleta Gay obelisk. Curious bystanders and usiseros bursted into laughter when the suspect made a sign of the cross, held both hands in a praying position pleading to release him “hay inosente takon; wara takon gani kakita kang stidlir nga re-a. Ano ra man?” (Please, I am innoncent. I don’t even have any idea what is a Steadler pen or what does it look like).
Unconvinced, the cop brought us to the city police station (Police Precinct 1) on board a tricycle. In front of police investigators on duty, he knelt down and pleaded he was innocent. I saw a punch from an impatient prober landing on his breadbasket. As he grimaced in pain, he turned to me and pleaded once more he was not the Real McCoy.
Punishment is supposed to be a penalty levied by society on individuals for our misdeeds. The purpose of punishment is supposed to be retribution for the wrong done–tit for tat, an eye for an eye, or a suitable fine or prison term for an offense.
According to the view, justice is done when the criminal suffers a pain–in body, purse, or freedom–equal to the wrong he did. Any other function punishment may serve, for the individual or society, is, in view, irrelevant.
According to another view, punishment should reform the criminal and deter others from similar acts. But was he really a criminal? Police asked me to go back the next morning “for further investigation.”
I couldn’t sleep the whole night. At past 9 o’clock in the morning the following day, I returned to tell police to let him go. He spent the night behind bars. When he was brought back to the investigation room, a horrible scene greeted me: his white t-shirt had been soaked with blood, his lips busted and his eyes cut to ribbons. He was weak and speechless. He had no more shoes. He missed dinner. Did he miss breakfast too?
A fat cop saw a blue tattoo mole under his foot and blared, “Ano ni ang alom mo sa tiil? En pe eh (NPA) ka no?” (What is this tattoo under your foot all about? You are an NPA (leftist rebel), aren’t you?” When the fat cop hit him with a chair for refusing to answer, I turned my back and ran away fast and boarded the Jaro Liko route jeep. Fellow passengers saw me in tears.
It’s been a long time since it happened but my conscience has been bothering me every now and then. Wherever you are now, and if you happen to read this article, please forgive me, Angelito!