Sapat-sapaton and halasoon
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines described him as a “poster boy of immunity.”
His name is Major Sesenando Magbalot Jr. of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division. A “brute” and a “goon” who, the NUJP said, assaulted Arnel Eclarinal in Pili, Camarines Sur.
The Ilonggo term for “brute” is more descriptive – sapat-sapaton or behaving like an animal.
The only fault of Eclarinal, who is news producer of GMA TV7 in Naga, was to request soldiers of the 9th ID who were jogging in the village of Caroyroyan to allow traffic to pass through.
The NUJP report added that the soldiers were “hogging” the road – perhaps no pun intended on the “hog” – and it was the misfortune of Eclarinal and his cousin who were riding on a motorcycle to pass through the hogged avenue.
Eclarinal did not identify himself as a journalist and when he requested the soldiers, one of them reportedly cursed him and said that the “motorists should wait until the soldiers had finished exercising.”
Magbalot the Brute then punched Eclarinal in the back when the journalist asked the soldier not to curse him.
His boxing skills not yet fully displayed, Magbalot floored Eclarinal in the second round when he punched the journalist on the jaw and floored him. He did this while they were on their way to a nearby barangay hall where they were supposed to have the matter settled upon the request of Eclarinal’s cousin.
Eclarinal already had the incident recorded with the local police and has sought medical help after his blood pressure rose and for the apparent beating that he got from Magbalot.
While the military has yet to issue an official statement on the incident, this has once again demonstrated how some members of the military behave.
This is the second case that involved a major.
The first one was in the abduction of activist Jonas Burgos where Major Harry Baliaga was identified as one the abductors.
Burgos remains missing.
The alleged beating of Eclarinal took place only several days before the United Nations expressed concern over the rise in the attacks on schools, hospitals and their personnel by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
There is no debate that Magbalot violated the rights of a Filipino citizen.
Why the incident took place is a no-brainer. It is because once upon a time, not so long ago, a woman with a mole sat in the Palace across the river Pasig and was not the least bothered when stealing, cheating, murder, torture and rape was going on around her.
Had Eclarinal been spared the boxing action by Magbalot if he identified himself as a journalist? We may not know. If a plain civilian were involved, had the beating been worse? Again, we may not know.
But this only underscores the fact that even a major sometimes forgets the oath that he has taken and that is to defend the country from enemies foreign and domestic. And these enemies include those within the military establishment itself who abuse the people whom they are supposed to protect.
Perhaps the meaning of country might be lost on Magbalot.
Or he could have been carried away by Pacquiao’s performance.
The word means easily tricked in Ilonggo.
That could well be the case with transport leaders, not followers, who do not understand that Band Aids cannot heal gaping wounds.
With the never-ending increase in petroleum products, drivers and operators are holding a transport strike in the province May 16 to 17 next week.
The United Negros Drivers and Operators Center (UNDOC) will lead the holiday that will be supported by local businessmen and some local officials.
They will be calling for the scrapping of the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Law, the removal of the value added tax on petroleum products and government action on the substantial price difference in pump prices in the province.
Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon is not supporting the strike and has called the shutting down of some businesses on the day of the protests as counter-productive while Bacolod Vice Mayor Jude Thaddeus Sayson, Councilor Dindo Ramos and several local legislators are backing it.
The Federation of Bacolod City Drivers Associations (FEBACDA), on the other hand, is not joining the strike. While it has joined strikes in the past, FEBACDA president Elizabeth Katalbas said it is now begging off from the action.
FEBACDA is an affiliate of the 1-Utak partylist whose first nominee and then congressman-in-waiting was former general and then energy secretary Angelo Reyes.
Reyes committed suicide after he was dragged into the corruption scandal in the AFP.
Katalbas said they have not received any “directive” from 1-Utak to support the strike. She added that the partylist is also planning to meet with executives of oil firms and officials of the energy department in to plan programs that would “benefit” the drivers.
Among these programs are scholarship grants, the possible putting up of a gasoline station that will grant incentives to drivers. FEBACDA will also work with government in hastening the release of smart cards that will enable drivers to avail of the P1,050 a month fuel subsidy.
The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) came out strongly against FEBACDA, calling it as “anti-driver and anti-people” and accused it of blindly following 1-Utak’s no-strike policy.
That FEBACDA and 1-Utak is part of the smoke and mirrors approach of government and big oil companies is firmly established and leaves no room for debate.
These transport leaders, however, continue to obscure the real issue. To shun political action and favor so-called programs that will not in any way change the scheme of things is a disservice to their members.
They are like labor leaders who want “industrial peace” by tricking workers into accepting scraps thrown by big businesses from the dining table.
“Pamulot sinsilyo sa dalan” – picking up coins from the road – is how a jeepney driver’s job is called in the dialect.
And they will continue to be that way because of leaders like Katalbas and partylist groups like 1-Utak.