WHAT I am about to narrate to you will infuriate you just as it infuriated me when I saw the story unfold over the 10:00 pm Saturday, September 23, 2006 newscast of ANC’s The World Tonight.
I have been in media for close to 40 years now, having started in radio in 1967 at age 17 when I was just entering college. I thought that I have just about seen or heard everything that could be considered shocking on the broadcast news—including having watched the live coverage on CNN of the second aircraft that crashed into the World Trade Center during the historic 9/11 attack.
The shooting incident and murder I saw that Saturday made my blood pressure rise for the utter senselessness of the foul deed and the feeling that the incident is not an isolated case of madness and the arrogance of power but is an act that reflects the sick society we live in. I was so disgusted and incensed after I saw the shooting incident that I lost no time communicating with Zyan Ambrosio, the ABS-CBN reporter who covered the story earlier that day.
Patrick Banda was just a 12-year old boy whose mother admitted to Zyan that he suffered from epilepsy. Per Zyan’s report, whenever Patrick took his medication for epilepsy, he became hyperactive and this led him to do extraordinary acts like climbing atop the Napocor Transmission Tower in Barangay Gaya Gaya in San Jose, Del Monte, Bulacan.
At around 5:00 pm that day, Patrick went up the Napocor tower again—the fifth time that he did that. Of course, he always generated a crowd who knew that the height of the tower, easily over 50 feet, was more than enough to kill any man. The people below, including Patrick’s mother, were all frantically trying to persuade him to go down from the transmission tower but to no avail.
Napocor officials in the area became concerned about Patrick’s safety because in an hour or so darkness is expected to set in and that would increase the risk of his falling from the tower. All the risk and concern centered on Patrick’s safety. Zyan told me that his being up there in the tower posed no danger to others in the community and he can’t do anything up there to even disrupt electrical power.
Among the people gathered below the tower was Barangay Kagawad (Barrio Official) Francisco Gerona. Gerona told Zyan that Patrick was a “salot” (jinx), “pasaway” (incorrigible) and a “perwisyo” (pest) to their community. Zyan didn’t realize that Gerona’s strong feeling against Patrick was to lead to the tragic end of the 12-year old boy’s life.
Gerona disappeared from Zyan’s view and minutes later three shots rang out. According to Zyan’s report, people saw Gerona shoot Patrick Banda three times from behind a parked truck with a cal. 22 rifle, causing Patrick to fall from the tower and die.
Patrick’s fall was all caught on videotape. He was hanging desperately from a horizontal bar when he went limp, apparently from the shot, and plunged to the ground—slamming his body first on one of the iron bars. The scene was gruesome and brutal.
The sight of 12-year old Patrick losing his life under such circumstances drew simultaneous emotions of pity and rage from anyone who sees it. That was how I felt. There was absolutely no reason or justification for the murder. Not even Raul Gonzalez in his worst form and most outrageous behavior will offer a justification for that!
When Gerona was apprehended and was about to board a police vehicle, Zyan asked him on camera: “O, nagsisisi ka ba sa ginawa mo (O, are you sorry for what you did)?”
Gerona replied: “Hindi, perwisyo siya sa amin (No, he is a pest to us).”
Off camera, Gerona told Zyan that the deed was his alone and that his companions had nothing to do with it. When Zyan told me this, I wondered if Gerona said it in order to claim full credit for the act, feeling perhaps that what he did was a great service to the community, or was he trying to save his companions from complicity.
Seeing all that, you can’t help but ask yourself if this is how low we have sunk in our society. Any sensible human being realizes that for whatever inconvenience Patrick’s antics caused the community, there can be no justification for shooting and killing the 12-year old boy.
You may want to assign him to stand for half a day in a corner or kneel on a bed of salt for an hour or even lock him up for a day or two in a juvenile compound just to ensure that he realizes how irresponsible he was to climb atop that transmission tower. But there is absolutely no justification to shoot him—three times at that—for risking his life and disturbing the community.
In a first world society, if you shoot a monkey or a cat atop a transmission tower you’ll certainly face charges. Here we have a barrio official who shot dead a 12-year old boy whose actuations posed a danger only to his own safety and undue stress perhaps to his kin and friends who worried about him.
What particularly made my blood boil after I saw it all on television was the thought that this happens in a society like ours not because it was an act of a drunk or a mad man—if the culprit will use liquor or insanity to justify his crime—but because we have allowed our society to develop this attitude towards human life.
Life has become a cheap commodity in our country. Here you can be a reckless driver and kill anyone—if he is not from a wealthy clan—without fear of going to jail so long as you pay the settlement price. Everything in Philippine society has been given a price tag and very cheap prices at that.
This murder is also a reflection of the national policy that turns a blind eye to summary executions of ordinary criminals by the police and the murder of those who are labeled as communists by the military, regardless if they are not part of the armed rebel group, the New People’s Army (NPA).
If the police and the military can play judge, jury and executioner—Gerona may have thought that he too as Barangay Kagawad, likewise tasked to maintain peace and order in the community, is entitled to do the same.
It is an infuriating story. It is a very sad commentary of what we have allowed our society to become. We are all diminished by this senseless killing of a 12-year old boy.
You may email William M. Esposo at: email@example.com